The Dale Murphy trade rumors heated up again Friday after the Atlanta Braves sent a scout to the San Diego Padres' Arizona training camp and General Manager Bobby Cox visited the New York Mets' complex in nearby Port St. Lucie.
"The rumors go on," Murphy said before the Braves' Friday morning practice. "Well. It keeps it interesting."The Padres and Mets have been the two teams most interested in acquiring Murphy, the two-time National League Most Valuable Player who hit only .226 last season.
The latest rumor had Murphy facing a 60-40 chance of being traded before the March 15 deadline he has set.
Cox spoke Friday morning with scout Wes Westrum, who was at the Padres' camp in Yuma, Ariz. Afterward, he was noncommit-tal.
"There's nothing unusual about Wes being there. He's our West Coast scout and that's part of his job," Cox said before driving 40 miles up the coast to the Mets' camp.
He would not discuss the trip, but the Mets have offered centerfielder Len Dykstra, third baseman Howard Johnson and pitcher Rick Aguilera for Murphy, a proposal which Cox has previously turned down.
Westrum will be looking at Padres' prospects, including highly rated rookie catcher Sandy Alomar Jr. He also is checking out some veterans, reportedly outfielders John Kruk and Carmelo Martinez, Shane Mack and Shawn Abner.
"There could be a potential trade in the making," Westrum said Thursday in Yuma. "We're interested in Sandy Alomar, the catcher, that's No. 1. What goes on from there ... that's why I'm here, to look at the prospects, and it could be a veteran, you know."
Murphy, who will be 33 in two weeks, hit 24 home runs last season with 77 runs batted in. In his 11-year career with the Braves, he owns a .275 lifetime average with 334 homers and 1,004 RBI.
The 22-year-old Alomar is the Padres' top minor league prospect, but San Diego has Benito Santiago, one of the better young catchers in the league, ahead of him.