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Pirates

Suppan trade seems imminent

| Wednesday, July 30, 2003

The Pirates are close to trading pitcher Jeff Suppan, and a deal could be done as soon as today.

The bidding appears to be down to three teams: the Philadelphia Phillies, San Francisco Giants and Boston Red Sox.

The Pirates contacted the Phillies yesterday to let them know Suppan and outfielder Brian Giles are available. The Phillies are interested in Suppan, but no formal offer was exchanged.

"We've had discussions with the Phillies," Pirates general manager Dave Littlefield said Tuesday. "But at this time of year, you're almost talking with every team, every day -- or a couple times a day, in some instances."

The trading deadline is 4 p.m. tomorrow. After that, players must clear waivers before teams can complete deals.

"There is quite a bit of interest in Jeff," Littlefield said. "It's natural, with his status as a veteran, someone who's really been a workhorse, that teams in the upper division, if you will, would be interested in someone like that."

Suppan is 10-7 with a 3.57 ERA. On Monday, he tossed his third complete game of the season, a 3-0 victory against the Cardinals. Scouts from the Giants and Red Sox were at the game.

"St. Louis should kidnap him in the Marriott (across the street from Busch Stadium) because they need him more than anyone," an American League scout said.

The fact that the Cardinals and Pirates are division rivals would not deter Littlefield from making a trade.

"We've got to look at where the best deal is, moreso than who we're trading a guy to," Littlefield said.

The Cardinals went into last night's action three games behind the first-place Houston Astros in the NL Central. St. Louis is interested in Suppan but also has inquired about Kelvim Escobar of the Toronto Blue Jays.

Suppan, Escobar and Baltimore's Sidney Ponson are considered the top three pitchers available. The Atlanta Braves are believed to be actively seeking either Ponson or Escobar.

The Braves have all but wrapped up the NL East and the Giants have a healthy lead in the NL West.

The Phillies have lost six of their past 10 games, including four in a row heading into yesterday. Their lead in the NL wild card race was whittled to one game over the surging Florida Marlins.

Philadelphia is not afraid to spend to get what it wants -- as evidenced by the $85 million contract it gave free agent Jim Thome in the offseason. However, the Phillies would not have to break the bank for Suppan.

The right-hander signed with the Pirates for $500,000, although incentive clauses will push his total earnings closer to $1.3 million. His contract calls for $4 million next season with a buyout option of $500,000.

The Pirates would like to get a pitching prospect for Suppan. Right-hander Ryan Madson, who is 11-5 at Class AAA Scranton, is one possibility. But a more likely option is Class AA righty Keith Bucktrot and a position player such as infielder Anderson Machado.

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