Gary Sheffield wants a new home, and the Los Angeles Dodgers are trying to find him one. The Baltimore Orioles, meanwhile, are hoping to hang on to their top slugger.
With Sheffield demanding a new contract or a trade to the New York Yankees, Mets or Atlanta, the Dodgers are working to accommodate him.
Mets general manager Steve Phillips said Monday he turned down a proposal from Dodgers GM Kevin Malone for a deal that would've included either Mike Piazza or Edgardo Alfonzo.
"I can't fathom a deal where I would trade either of those two guys," Phillips said. "Nobody is untouchable, but they are as close to untouchable as you can get."
Sheffield is owed $9.5 million in each of the next two seasons and $11 million in 2003. His contract includes an $11 million team option for 2004.
Sheffield hit .325 with 43 home runs and 109 RBIs last season. He has said he does not intend to report to spring training this year at Vero Beach, Fla.
"It isn't about money, it's about the disrespect I've had to deal with since I came here," Sheffield told the Los Angeles Times. "Every year, I hear my name mentioned with some trade for some other star player.
"Why should I continue to perform the way I have for them if I'm going to be dangled out there like that all the time? Obviously, they don't appreciate me, so why not just send me some place where I will be appreciated?" he said.
Down the Florida coast in Fort Lauderdale, Albert Belle is taking his cuts in the batting cage at Baltimore's camp.
On Tuesday morning, the Orioles slugger faces an important physical.
There's a distinct possibility the outfielder's degenerative right hip could prevent him from passing the test.
"I feel like right now I can play. How many games, I couldn't tell you," Belle said. "It'll just be day by day. But I'm pretty much on course."
If Belle passes the physical, he would avoid a battle with the Orioles over settlement on the remaining $39 million on the five-year contract he signed before the 1999 season.
"I would be surprised if he failed it, but not extremely surprised," manager Mike Hargrove said. "With hips and any joint problem, you never know. We'll see what he's got. I don't think Albert wants anything less than a full shot at playing the field."
Belle missed 20 games last September with an inflamed bursa sac in his right hip. He finished with a .281 batting average and 103 RBIs, but his 23 homers ended a streak of eight straight seasons with at least 30.
The Chicago White Sox, meanwhile, are still waiting for the arrival of newly acquired David Wells.
The left-hander was excused for personal business when the rest of the pitchers and catchers reported last Friday. He was scheduled to arrive Tuesday, but agent Gregg Clifton told team officials that now his client is being delayed until Thursday.
"I'd like to meet him," White Sox manager Jerry Manuel said at Tucson, Ariz.
Manuel, however, isn't perturbed at all by Wells' tardiness. He's going to give the 20-game winner, acquired in a disputed January trade with Toronto, all the leeway he needs.
He's counting on Wells starting the April 2 opener at Cleveland.
"I might say go to Cleveland, get your room and we'll meet you when we get there," Manuel said.
Before Wells and the White Sox can get comfortable, the commissioner's office must rule on the recent trade that brought him to Chicago for Mike Sirotka.
Sirotka has shoulder problems and the Blue Jays are seeking additional compensation. Both teams must have their documentation in the dispute to the commissioner's office by Tuesday.
Is Manuel worried about the ruling?
"Not at all," he said. "I'm confident nothing will come of it."
In Sarasota, Fla., 29 major league teams gave permission to the Cincinnati Reds to sign outfielder Deion Sanders to a minor league contract.
Sanders, who was at Reds camp last week without a contract, was invited to spend the rest of spring training with the team.
The Reds signed Sanders to a minor league deal last month, giving the Washington Redskins cornerback a chance to play baseball again. But the commissioner's office blocked the deal because it was reached after a Dec. 7 deadline.
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