Contreras Rumored To Be On The Block

So far, the free-agent signing that began all of those "Evil Empire" comparisons has been nothing but a bust. But now it seems as though Cuban defector Jose Contreras might be on the move again, as several trade rumors swirl around the big right-handed starting pitcher.

According to the YES Network's Suzyn Waldman, there is "chatter" going around that Contreras may be traded to the Chicago White Sox, Waldman said during the Yankees' pre-game show on Saturday.  The deal that was rumored to be in the works would send minor leaguers OF Jeremy Reed and RHP Jon Rauch to New York in exchange for Contreras with the Yankees eating most of Contreras' contract.

Reed is considered one of Chicago's best prospects and is ranked number one overall by Baseball America.  The 23-year-old outfielder hit a combined .373 between single-A and double-A ball in 2003, with 11 home runs and 45 stolen bases.  He is a speedy centerfielder or rightfielder with excellent plate discipline and good speed.  This season, Reed is hitting .285 with four home runs and 11 steals.  He also has 25 strikeouts and 29 walks in 51 games so far.  Rauch is a 6'11" fireballer that has appeared in the majors for Chicago.  In 28.2 major-league innings, Rauch has a 6.59 ERA, 19 strikeouts and 14 walks.  The 26-year-old minor leaguer's numbers are more impressive. but he has command issues.

The other major trade rumor involves the Florida Marlins trading for Kansas City Royals OF Carlos Beltran and shipping him to the Yankees in exchange for Contreras.  Beltran is considered the most-prized player on the trading block, blending an awesome mix of power and speed, but he is a free agent after this season, which limits his trade value.  According to the Sporting News, the Yankees would pay the vast majority of Contreras' salary for the remaining two and a half seasons and the Marlins would use him out of the bullpen.

Neither of these trades appear to be particularly feasible.  Contreras entered the weekend with a 2-2 record and 7.11 ERA in eight starts and has already been sent down to the minors to work on his pitching twice during his brief career.  In his last start, Contreras didn't make it out of the first inning, allowing five runs - four unearned - against the Baltimore Orioles. 

The idea that the White Sox would send their top prospect and a very good arm in exchange for a player that has performed how Contreras has seems unlikely, as does the notion of Florida coughing up the prospects needed to acquire Beltran just to ship him off for a pitcher they would use in relief. 

On the other hand, the White Sox are searching desperately for a fifth starter to complete their rotation.  Four players have made starts in the fifth spot for Chicago, compiling an 0-7 record and Contreras, who could fit in nicely in a lower-profile situation, could propel the Sox to the playoffs, if effective.  The Marlins have been looking for bullpen help since Chad Fox was injured.  Of nine relievers, only Armando Benitez and Matt Perisho have ERAs under 3.97. 

The Yankees would love to rid themselves of Contreras and look elsewhere for a fifth starter.  Names up for grabs include Seattle's Freddy Garcia, Pittsburgh's Kris Benson, Arizona's Randy Johnson, Milwaukee's Ben Sheets and Montreal's Tony Armas.  Eating Contreras' contract wouldn't be a huge deal for New York, and if a deal can be done, look for it to be done sooner rather than later.

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