CHICAGO — Late Orioles game: Last night's game between the Orioles and Minnesota Twins at the Metrodome, which went into extra innings, ended too late to be included in this edition. A complete report can be found in later editions or on the Internet at http://www.sunspot.net.
CHICAGO - Former Orioles slugger Rafael Palmeiro still may be on the Chicago Cubs' radar screen, even though the former Cub doesn't appear interested in returning to Chicago.
The non-waiver trading deadline passed yesterday afternoon with the Cubs making no moves, but their surprising pursuit of the Texas first baseman suggests they still are trying to improve the offense.
The Cubs are interested in obtaining the left-handed-hitting Palmeiro to platoon him at first with Eric Karros. But the Texas veteran told his club he wasn't ready to waive his no-trade clause yet to re-join the Cubs.
"I didn't think it was in my best interests," Palmeiro said before yesterday's game against Boston in Arlington, Texas. "And I don't think it was a deal that would (positively) impact our club."
Palmeiro added he would keep his options open, a painful reminder of the Cubs' long-running soap opera of 2001, when they spent nearly three weeks trying to get Tampa Bay first baseman Fred McGriff to waive his no-trade clause. After the Cubs thought they had a deal in place for McGriff, the veteran made the Cubs sweat until finally agreeing to a deal just before the deadline. They wound up falling out of the race, finishing 88-74 and in third place.
Palmeiro now would have to pass waivers for the Cubs to be able to claim him and then consummate a deal with the Rangers, who are currently in a salary-dumping mode. Whether the Cubs still will be interested in another week or so remains to be seen.
Though no actual players or cash compensation was agreed upon, Texas general manager John Hart told Texas reporters he had the parameters of a deal with the Cubs and expected to get a good player in return.
If the Cubs were to land Palmeiro, rookie Hee Seop Choi would be sent to Triple-A Iowa until the rosters increase on Sept. 1. Palmeiro, who turns 39 in September, has about $2.8 million remaining on his $9 million salary. He entered Thursday's game hitting .242 with 24 home runs and 70 RBIs, showing he still has the power no one dreamed he would have when he started out as a Cubs rookie in 1986.
Cubs general manager Jim Hendry would not discuss specific players yesterday.
"Some of the things we thought might be available today weren't," he said. "I wouldn't say we're terribly close (to a deal). We'll still be looking on a daily basis."
Sources said the Cubs spoke to Cincinnati about third baseman Aaron Boone, who wound up being traded to the New York Yankees. The Cubs had been in pursuit of Boone since before the season began, but just-fired Reds GM Jim Bowden continually told them he wasn't available.
By the time Boone did become available, after Bowden and his father, ex-Reds manager Bob Boone, were fired Monday. The Cubs already had acquired a third baseman in Pittsburgh's Aramis Ramirez, and their interest in Boone would have been as a second baseman in case Mark Grudzielanek doesn't return in 2004.
While the Cubs made inquiries about Pittsburgh's Matt Stairs and Milwaukee's John Vander Wal to beef up their bench, neither was put on the market at the trade deadline. They also entertained offers for struggling reliever Antonio Alfonseca, but found no deal to their liking.
The Cubs don't plan on eating the remainder of Alfonseca's salary, which comes to around $1.3 million, feeling he still has some value in spite of his recent problems.
The Chicago Tribune is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.