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Yanks to go after Unit, Benson, and Sheets


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Star-Ledger Staff

NEW YORK -- With Jose Contreras struggling and Jon Lieber still not back from his groin injury, the Yankees are looking around at outside options for starting pitchers.


One Yankees player who used to play in the National League said team officials have been asking him and others about Pittsburgh right-hander Kris Benson, whose $6.1 million salary the Pirates would like to shed. The Yankees don't usually start doing background checks on players until they believe they have a chance to acquire them, so that indicates that trade talks with the Pirates could be moving along.


Benson has a reputation as a difficult clubhouse personality, but the former No. 1 draft pick's talent is undeniable and he appears to be healthy for the first time in a while. If Yankees owner George Steinbrenner is upset about the team's 8-10 start, he could order that his front office do a deal for the best pitcher available right now.


The biggest name the Yankees will ask about is Arizona left-hander Randy Johnson, who has two years and $33 million left on his deal. But Arizona would ask for a lot for Johnson, and the Yankees don't have much to deal. Also, Johnson would have to approve any trade, and so far he hasn't been approached about doing so.


The Yankees also are keeping an eye on Milwaukee right-hander Ben Sheets, who makes $2.425 million this year and could be available if the Brewers decide to cut more costs. The Yankees had some talks with the Brewers before and during spring training about acquiring either Craig Counsell or Junior Spivey for second base, so a larger package deal could be possible there.

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