The market for sluggers is so crowded that several general managers predicted that Vaughn, a free agent with 95 home runs over the past two years, will get squeezed. Sure, 40-home-run hitters are more common in today's turbocharged game, but that doesn't fully explain why 11 of them have been traded in the 1990s. As many of these sluggers use Kevin Brown's $15 million-a-year contract as a benchmark, more teams are coming to the conclusion Texas did: It's not prudent to sink such a large percentage of your payroll into one player. Payrolls may be getting as saturated as the trade market. "We're headed there," says Astros general manager Gerry Hun-sicker. Offers his Atlanta counterpart, John Schuerholz, more soberly, "I said that 12 years ago."
Griffey Wants a Trade
Who's in the Junior League?
Agent Scott Boras has vowed to put Mariners shortstop Alex Rodriguez on the free-agent market next year, when A-Rod will be just 25. That's why Boras told Seattle president Chuck Armstrong and general manager Pat Gillick last week not to bother making any more contract offers. As for Mariners centerfielder Ken Griffey, who said last week that he wants to be traded to a contender that is based closer to his Orlando home and has a Florida spring training site, several baseball executives say the Braves are the best fit for both Griffey and Seattle. Atlanta's chances of cutting a deal with the Mariners would be enhanced if it would give up centerfielder Andruw Jones, 22, and lefthander Bruce Chen, 22. The Indians could also put together a good package without stripping their roster. But Atlanta and Cleveland, according to one general manager, are prudent organizations unlikely to make a rash move for a potential free agent, even one of Griffey's status, especially if Griffey is unwilling to commit to re-signing.
If Gillick can't get good value from the Braves or the Indians, he may have to turn to the middle-market Reds or Astros. Griffey grew up in Cincinnati, and his father is a coach for the Reds. However, among teams in the sweepstakes, the Reds have the least talent to trade.
The Astros, observers for now, could put together a knockout package from among outfielders Moises Alou, Derek Bell and Carl Everett; pitchers Jose Lima, Mike Hampton and Shane Reynolds; and second baseman Craig Biggio. Coincidentally, Houston G.M. Gerry Hunsicker was scheduled to meet this week with the agent for Biggio and first baseman Jeff Bagwell about their future salary demands. If the Astros estimate that they can't afford to keep both players, they could make a move for Griffey and deal Bags or Biggio.