PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- The Toronto Blue Jays are scouting Bret Saberhagen and are one of only a handful of teams with the resources necessary to trade for the New York Mets' very available pitcher.
But while it sounds like a perfect fit, Toronto GM Pat Gillick said yesterday the Blue Jays' interest in Saberhagen is dwindling.
"There are some other things we're working on that are more palpable," Gillick said. "Nothing is imminent, but we're working on other things now."
Toronto is interested in acquiring a starting pitcher but is believed to be focusing its efforts on Houston's Greg Swindell.
The Blue Jays haven't soured on Saberhagen's ability and are wealthy enough to afford his three-year, $15.337-million contract. Yet, like the Indians last December, the Blue Jays are leery of deferred payments in Saberhagen's contract which begin in 2004 and run until 2028.
"His contract is one that's hard to swallow," Gillick said.
Another tough thing for Gillick to swallow is being resigned to trade one of their best prospects, first baseman Domingo Martinez, whom the Mets covet.
Martinez, 27, batted .273 with 24 home runs and 79 RBI last season, his fourth at Triple A. The Blue Jays feel Martinez is ready to play in the majors, but with John Olerud penciled in as Toronto's first baseman for a long while, Martinez will have to find work elsewhere.
"With Olerud and Paul Molitor we just don't have any room," Gillick said. "We don't want to switch him to the outfield because his best position is first base.
"It's unfortunate because the kid has a future. I just don't think he'll have a future with us."
However, Martinez wouldn't be included in a deal with Houston because the Astros already own a highly touted minor-league first baseman in Roberto Pentagine. Mets GM Joe McIlvaine gladly would take either player, but that scenario appears unlikely.
Pentagine, who hit .334 with 15 home runs and 90 RBI in Double A last season, sounds more reasonable, but Astros GM Bob Watson isn't exactly shopping him.
"He's a bona-fide prospect," Watson said. "Right now he's untouchable, but that could change."
Watson is interested in several Met pitchers, particularly Anthony Young and Pete Schourek, but probably not at the expense of Pentagine. A multi-player deal is possible because the Mets want Astros' center fielder Steve Finley, but Houston wants no part of Bobby Bonilla.
"We've had conversations about a number of players, but not Bobby Bonilla," Watson said. "We can't afford him."
But while the odds of the Mets trading Bonilla are remote, a Saberhagen deal could happen. One dark-horse team in the Saberhagen sweepstakes is the Expos. Montreal can afford Saberhagen's contract only if it deals one of its high-salaried players. Center fielder Marquis Grissom fits that category and would satisfy several needs for the Mets.