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"Deal in the works?"


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Deal in the works?


Palm Beach Post Staff Writer

Tuesday, July 19, 2005


PHOENIX ? Marlins pitcher A.J. Burnett said Monday he expects to be traded before his scheduled start tonight.


Sources close to the talks indicate a deal, likely with Baltimore, is nearing completion, although a three-way trade between the Marlins, Orioles and Pirates surfaced late Monday.


In the three-way deal, the Marlins would acquire pitcher Mark Redman from Pittsburgh, along with Orioles pitchers Hayden Penn and Jorge Julio and outfielder Admin Bigbie. In return, the Marlins would send Burnett to Baltimore and Mike Lowell to Pittsburgh.


Burnett was asked Monday if he thought he'd be a member of the Marlins tonight.


"Do I think? No,'' he said. "But I'll be ready if I am.''


Any deal with the Orioles will include Lowell, whose price tag has scared away several teams. Lowell is in the first year of a three-year deal worth $25.5 million, and the Marlins likely will be responsible for some of the money. The Marlins, according to league sources, spoke with Toronto and the White Sox about a Burnett/Lowell package, but neither team was willing to take Lowell.


The Orioles on Monday not only were figuring out how much of Lowell's contract they can absorb, but also their chances of signing Burnett long term. Burnett will be a free agent after the season.


Lowell said he was told, "the talks are for real,'' by has agent, Seth Levinson.


Marlins manager Jack McKeon is laughing off an ESPN report that he could be fired, although one Marlins player said Monday that the team senses McKeon's job is in jeopardy.


"I've been through it so many times it doesn't bother me any more at all,'' McKeon said before Monday's game with Arizona. The Marlins entered the game having lost six of seven games. "I go out and do the best I can, if they don't want you, then fine with me.''


Marlins General Manager Admin Beinfest joined the team in Arizona late Monday. Owner Jeffrey Loria was with the team during the weekend but did not travel to Arizona.


At least one Orioles player was told to be prepared to pack, according to one source. In a straight-up deal with Baltimore, the Marlins would receive Penn, who recently was returned to Class AA; relievers Julio and Steve Kline and Bigbie.


In the three-way deal, Pirates would send first baseman Daryle Ward to Baltimore, and the Orioles also would acquire Marlins Class-AAA outfielder Eric Reed. The Marlins would be responsible for a large portion of Lowell's contract, which has $21 million remaining through 2007.


The Red Sox have offered a package that would include starting pitcher Bronson Arroyo but have fallen behind Baltimore. Boston, according to one source, proposed a three-way deal with San Diego that was turned down by the Marlins.


"I know it's moving forward,'' a source close to the talks said about a trade. "I can't imagine they believe Burnett would perform like they expect him to (tonight).''


The Burnett talks were on the players' minds Monday, especially Burnett's. He was asked if all the reports were a distraction.


"It is,'' he said. "There's a possibility you could have two teams you could be focusing on in one day. You still have to do things to take your mind off of it. I don't answer my phone (except for his wife, agent and mom and dad). My phone has been ringing and ringing.''


Burnett has pitched like he's been distracted of late. In his past three starts he has allowed 15 runs in 15 1/3 innings. His is 5-6 with a 3.64 ERA this season.


Lowell and Burnett both were in the clubhouse. Lowell related a story from 2003 in which he was told a trade with the Cubs was a done deal.


"I'm pretty much at peace with whatever happens,'' Lowell said.


Lowell told The Post on Sunday that he's not surprised he's the subject of trade rumors. "I'm not putting up numbers to the contract that I'm making,'' he said.


Lowell was hitting .227 with four home runs and 36 RBI entering Monday's game.


McKeon spoke with Loria during the series at Philadelphia, in which the Marlins lost three of four games, but his job security wasn't discussed.


If McKeon, 74, is fired, he'll take it in stride. After all, he has been fired by four other organizations, as a manger with the Royals, A's and Reds and as a general manager with the Padres.


"It's not a big concern,'' McKeon said. "We're held responsible, the managers and the coaches, trying to get these guys to play . . . and sometimes you can do it and sometimes you can't.''


Most players said Monday any uneasiness in the locker room is because of the team's recent losing ways rather than McKeon's future.


"I really don't have the time to worry about Jack's job,'' Lowell said. "He has to worry about his job, not security-wise, but X's and O's-wise.


"Every different scenario and rumor is going to come up when you're not playing up to expectations.''


Possible replacements for McKeon would include former Marlins manager Jim Leyland and former Red Sox manager Grady Little.

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