The Philadelphia Phillies and the Chicago Cubs probably will close a deal within the next 24 hours that would send reliever Mitch Williams and a minor-league player to the Phillies for pitchers Chuck McElroy and Bob Scanlan, a source told The Associated Press yesterday.
The deal awaited only the approval of Chicago general manager Jim Frey, according to the source.
"All it will take is for Jim to say yes or no, sometime tonight," the source said.
According to the source, two Chicago scouts who talked with Phillies general manager Lee Thomas at the team's camp Saturday have recommended Frey accept the trade.
The Phillies and Cubs have been talking about Williams since February, but were unable to agree on what players Chicago would receive.
The Cubs originally wanted such promising young talent as pitchers Jason Grimsley and Andy Ashby and outfielder Tony Longmire.
Chicago scout Hugh Alexander has met with Thomas in an effort to complete a trade almost every day for the last three weeks.
Alexander and Cubs advance scout Eddie Lyon reached the agreement with Thomas yesterday, the source said.
The source said Williams would like to be moved because of his demotion from No. 1 stopper to No. 3 behind Dave Smith and Paul Assenmacher.
McElroy, a left-hander, appeared in 16 games with the Phillies last season. Scanlan has no major-league experience.
Meanwhile, the Phillies announced that Terry Mulholland, who went seven innings yesterday, giving up five runs on 11 hits with three walks, will start Opening Day.
* PIRATES: Pittsburgh won't rush into trading All-Star outfielder Bobby Bonilla and may keep him all season rather than deal for lesser-quality talent, general manager Larry Doughty said.
A day after team president Carl Barger said contract negotiations with Bonilla were at an impasse and a trade was possible, Doughty said it would be a mistake for a pennant contender like the Pirates to deal in haste.
Bonilla rejected the Pirates' four-year, $16 million contract offer last week and asked for a five-year deal at "market value," apparently Darryl Strawberry's $20.25 million, five-year package with the Los Angeles Dodgers.
The Pirates refused Friday to sweeten their deal, with Barger saying, "We've given as much as we can give."
* DODGERS: First baseman Eddie Murray, who leads the team with 13 RBI, sat out yesterday with stiffness in his lower back. "It's not believed to be serious," trainer Charlie Strasser said.
* METS: The club is considering releasing outfielder Terry Puhl, a 34-year-old free agent. The decision could come "very soon," an organizational source told the New York Daily News.
Puhl, a 34-year-old free agent, has become expendable since Mackey Sasser lost his No. 1 catching spot. Sasser can now serve as lefthanded pinch-hitting specialist instead of Puhl, and with more power.
Releasing Puhl would allow the Mets to keep Mark Carreon and Darren Reed, both right-handed hitting outfielders.
* SPRING STATISTICS: John Olerud, expected to fill the Toronto Blue Jays' void at first base created by the trade of Fred McGriff to the San Diego Padres, is hitting .174. . . . Seattle Mariners third baseman Edgar Martinez, who made 27 errors last year, doesn't have an error this spring.