With the playoff picture all but settled, it's time for at least 22 teams to start looking at next year. That means talk of trades, where some big names are being discussed, and free agents, where some excellent players could become available.
Trade gossip is already flying freely, with the Yankees' Don Mattingly perhaps the biggest name being bandied about. The Cardinals have reportedly offered Ozzie Smith, Tony Pena and Greg Mathews for Dandy Don, while Toronto is rumored to have suggested a Mattingly-Dave Winfield for Fred McGriff-George Bell swap.The latter deal seems more likely, given George Steinbrenner's longtime longing for long-ball hitters.
Another Yankee, Jack Clark, is reportedly sought by several National League teams, including the Dodgers, which doesn't make a lot of sense since this is a stone-gloved guy who was born to be a designated hitter.
Montreal's Tim Wallach is attracting a lot of attention, even after dropping off dramatically from 26 HR, 123 RBI, .298 average in '87 to 12-68-.262 in '88. Apparently the Astros are ready to give up Billy Hatcher and Bob Knepper for Wallach, but the Braves and Dodgers are interested, too.
The Mets' interest in San Diego's good young catchers already has been well-chronicled, but apparently the Padres are also talking to Kansas City. San Diego needs right-handed power (Danny Tartabull?), and K.C. needs a catcher and relief help (Lance McCullers?).
The Angels, masters of disastrous deals, are interested in Philadelphia's Phil Bradley, via trade, and Lance Parrish, via free agency. You figure out why. It may not matter, anyway, because the Phils desperately want pitching. The Phils, trying to emulate those shrewd Angels, also want Tom Herr from the Twins.
The Cardinals, meanwhile, have their fingers crossed in hopes that Boston's Bruce Hurst and Seattle's Mike Moore will declare free agency.
Other names mentioned in trade rumors include the Chicago Cubs' Rick Sutcliffe and Jody Davis; Toronto's Dave Stieb; Cincinnati's Kal Daniels and Eric Davis; the White Sox's Harold Baines; Atlanta's Ozzie Virgil; Toronto's Ernie Whitt; San Diego's Keith Moreland; and every Philly.
If the judge grants free agency to players involved in the Collusion II case, which seems likely, it would make available Toronto's Jim Clancy and Ernie Whitt, Detroit's Doyle Alexander, California's Bob Boone, Boston's Rich Gedman, and Parrish.
Others who are eligible for free agency include Montreal's Tim Raines; L.A.'s Mike Marshall, Fernando Valenzuela and Steve Sax; San Diego's Eric Show; Atlanta's Rick Mahler; Minnesota's Bert Blyleven; Philadelphia's Steve Bedrosian; Pittsburgh's Dave LaPoint; Texas' Scott Fletcher; Toronto's Mike Flanagan; and Houston's Nolan Ryan.
The one overwhelming impression from the free-agent list is that there could be a lot of pitching help out there available to the highest bidder. You listening, George?
* * * LOCAL GUYS: Atlanta's Dale Murphy scored his 1,000th career run this week...Ex-BYU pitcher Rick Aguilera is among several Mets being mentioned in trade rumors...Provo's Vance Law of the Cubs stole one base this year - home...Jim Gott hasset a Pittsburgh Pirates' record for saves with 32, breaking Kent Tekulve's markof 31 set in 1978 and 1979. Provo's Gott, 6-6, has figured in 38 of the Pirates'81 victores this year.
* * * VAN SLYKE WATCH: Remember Pittsburgh's Andy Van Slyke, who early in the season seemed a strong contender to become the major leagues' first player with 20 doubles, 20 triples, 20 homers and 20 stolen bases in a season? It looks like he's not going to make it. He's well over in homers and steals, and he's only one shy in doubles, but he's hit only 15 triples with 11 games to play. It would take a lot of luck to reach 20 three-baggers now.
Incidentally, his 15 triples are still five more than the next closest National Leaguer.