Around the Horn: the NL West

The San Diego Padres countered the San Francisco Giants move for a top flight catcher and Curt Schilling appears on the move from Arizona tomorrow. Los Angeles is searching for a payroll and Colorado is eyeing a 2003 Padre.

Arizona Diamondbacks:

The Diamondbacks have temporarily moved third baseman Chad Tracy to the outfield and first base in the Dominican Winter League.

Tracy, 23, was named the organization's player of the year after batting .324 with 10 home runs, 80 runs batted in and 91 runs for Triple-A Tucson. But the left-handed-hitting Tracy faced a roadblock because Shea Hillenbrand is set to play third next season. Tracy was batting .275 with three home runs and six runs batted in in 51 at-bats for Azucareros.

"And at some point, he'll probably play right field before it's all over," general manager Joe Garagiola Jr. said. "This is an opportunity for him to maximize his opportunities next spring and be a credible defender at a number of positions. It can only be a good thing for him and for us."

The organization remained hopeful that Luis Terrero, one of its top outfield prospects, will rebound from surgery in time for the start of spring training. Terrero was scheduled to undergo surgery in St. Louis to repair a vein that had led to a blood clot in his left arm and forced him to be hospitalized last week in Fort Lauderdale. Terrero suffered the blood clot in his left (non-throwing) arm while playing for Azucareros in the Dominican Winter League.

According to reports submitted to Garagiola, blood-thinning medication reduced the swelling, but Terrero might need the thinning of a vein and possibly have shaved a rib that was causing discomfort when rubbed against the vein.

Terrero, a native of the Dominican Republic, batted .287 with 83 runs and 23 stolen bases for Tucson last season and stands a reasonable chance to make the major league roster in 2004 as a backup.

Curt Schilling could be dealt to the Boston Red Sox in the coming days. It all hinges upon a contract extension.

"I'm not going to comment on that stuff," said Schilling on the talks with Boston.

Schilling pitched for Terry Francona in Philadelphia from 1997 to 2000 and endorsed him for the Diamondbacks' managerial position when it went to Bob Brenly.

"I know from conversations with other teams that if there are certain players available, they are going to be drafted." -- General Manager Joe Garagiola, assessing the difficulty of protecting the most valuable talent for the Rule 5 draft on Dec. 15.

Colorado Rockies:

The Rockies are looking hard at Rod Beck, comeback player of the year playing for the Padres. He was 20 of 20 in save opportunities last season. The team would use Beck as its closer and that is appealing to Beck. It remains to be seen whether he can be swayed to a team where he has the chance to be a full time closer, but the team may be further away from contention.

Speculation in Seattle is the Mariners could release former Rockies third baseman Jeff Cirillo. If that happens, any team that picked him up would only have to pay him the major league minimum $300,000, which would make an interesting gamble for the Rockies if Cirillo would want to come back to Colorado.

OF Brad Hawpe rebounded from a slow start in the Arizona Fall League and finished with a .276 average, eight doubles, four home runs and 18 RBI. Hawpe finished up going 23-for-64 after managing only four hits his first 34 at-bats with the Mesa Solar Sox.

2B. Ronnie Belliard was released. The move wasn't a surprise. The Rockies didn't care to go to arbitration with Belliard.

INF Mark Bellhorn agreed to a one-year, $490,000 non-guaranteed contract. Bellhorn, 29, hit 27 home runs for the Chicago Cubs in 2002 but hit only two home runs this year -- both with the Cubs before he was traded to the Rockies for shortstop Jose Hernandez. Bellhorn hit .236 with four RBI in 48 games with the Rockies. Bellhorn does provide flexibility. He's a switch hitter and can play all four infield positions.

With second base wide open, Mark Bellhorn and shortstop prospect Clint Barmes are the only candidates on the 40-man roster. Eric Young, the Rockies' original second baseman, has contacted the team about returning. The Rockies also will look at players who are not tendered contracts by the Dec. 20 deadline.

"Chris isn't looking to go to the highest bidder. He's never been about that. We want something fair and equitable, though." -- Agent Andy Lipman on the possibility of client Chris Stynes re-signing with the Rockies.

Los Angeles Dodgers:

The Dodgers won a World Series with Franklin Stubbs as their first baseman, but they'd prefer a little star power at the position this time. First base has been a black hole in recent seasons. Eric Karros was shoved off after several unproductive seasons. His replacement last season, Fred McGriff, was no better. So first base is considered a major priority this winter as GM Dan Evans seeks to energize the worst offense in the major leagues.

RF Shawn Green once again has volunteered to move to first base, but that scenario is unlikely. Green hasn't looked good in brief trials at the position in spring training.

Milwaukee's Richie Sexson is their best bet. Though his numbers figure to tail off at Dodger Stadium and his strikeouts are high (151 last season), he would provide protection for Green in the middle of the order. Sexson also drew 98 walks last year, which would fit well with the Dodgers' plans to improve the team's on-base percentage. The Dodgers had a .303 OBP last year, better than only the Detroit Tigers.

LHP Odalis Perez is being dangled as the centerpiece of a trade for Sexson, but he likely will make $5 million in arbitration. With the Brewers' payroll slashed to $30 million, the Dodgers might be forced to take on all of Sexson's $8.6 million plus absorb some of Perez's salary.

The Dodgers are unwilling to deal pitching prospects Edwin Jackson or Greg Miller and would have to be overwhelmed to consider trading setup man Guillermo Mota.

But if they are in a position to take on salary in a deal for Sexson, that would give the Dodgers a clear advantage over the Diamondbacks, who are also looking to trim payroll.

Korean first baseman Seung-Yeop Lee visited Dodger Stadium last week and met with club officials. Lee hit 56 home runs for the Samsung Lions of the Korean Baseball Organization last season, breaking the Asian home run record previously held by Sadaharu Oh and two others.

"We're very aware of his abilities." -- GM Dan Evans, on Seibu Lions shortstop Kazuo Matsui.

San Francisco Giants: AJ Pierzynski replaces Benito Santiago as the Giants' starting catcher. Because he's eligible for salary arbitration, he's due a big raise from the $365,000 he made in 2003.

New Giants catcher A.J. Pierzynski, days after being traded from Minnesota, flew to San Francisco to be interviewed. Not by the media. By a federal grand jury.

After he testified before a grand jury, Pierzynski wouldn't comment on the hearings. But he did say he was happy with the trade.

"It's great to be a Giant," he said. "Getting to play here, outdoors every game, away from the Metrodome -- that place was getting old -- it's great. I knew I was going to be gone (from the Twins), I just didn't know where. I'm happy to be here. It's a great city."

"We have been flirting around with this for too long," Bonds said, referring to a World Series. "We have a beautiful stadium that's sold out on a regular basis. I think the fans deserve it, I think the city deserves it, and I'm tired of looking at a '54 World Series and not one in the 2000s. I want to be in a Giants uniform when they win a World Series."

Bonds hinted he'd restructure his contract to help the Giants sign a big-time player. He's already deferring $5 million annually.

Barry Bonds is breaking away from the players' association on the licensee front and plans to negotiate his own deals.

"I felt I've been misrepresented throughout my career as a bad guy, a bad person," he said.

Bonds is approaching 700 homers and could benefit greatly by selling merchandise related to the feet.

"Only two people were called great in this world: Muhammad Ali, who was 'The Greatest,' and Gretzky, who was 'The Great One.' Nobody else is great, except for Michael Jordan." -- NL MVP Barry Bonds when reminded that Wayne Gretzky won nine MVP awards, three more than Bonds.

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