Ever since Manager Jack McKeon cooked up this crazy trade idea last December, his Padres have fallen all over themselves saying they would be a good team even without Atlanta slugger Dale Murphy.
Now they will be forced to prove it.
Atlanta General Manager Bobby Cox said Monday he has officially killed any chance of a deal that would send Murphy to the Padres after receiving his Padre report from scout Wes Westrum, who has spent the last week in the San Diego camp. Although Cox wouldn’t be specific, the report apparently said that the best three Padre trade prospects were catcher Sandy Alomar Jr., pitcher Greg Harris and outfielder John Kruk.
And Cox decided that wasn’t enough.
“I don’t think we’re going to have a deal there, it’s not what we’re looking for,” Cox said from the Braves’ West Palm Beach training camp. “We’d like to have Alomar, but the rest of the guys just don’t match up.”
Westrum’s report, according to Cox, just verified what he had publicly guessed a couple of weeks ago.
“It came out exactly as we thought,” Cox said. “That’s good, because it shows we do a good job scouting.”
The Padres might not agree. Westrum watched several Padre workouts, but was not seen at any of the three Padre A games last weekend, choosing instead to watch the two B games before returning from Yuma to his home in the Phoenix area.
“He didn’t see enough of us to even file a report,” one club source said.
Yet McKeon, who had warned reporters against blowing too many trumpets about Murphy in a Padre uniform, took the news in stride. It helped that his team won its fourth spring game in four tries Monday, defeating San Francisco, 2-1, with two seventh-inning runs on Jerald Clark’s RBI double and Marvell Wynne’s RBI triple. Rookie Clark has been the star of the spring so far, going six for 11 with four RBIs.
“The deal breaking down is something I thought might happen all along,” said McKeon, who learned of the news Monday while recovering from a postgame run. He took a couple of short breaths, shook his head and continued.
“Look, I never knew if they would really want to trade Murphy, I had just hoped,” he said. “It was always up to them, it was always their prerogative, and the longer it went on, the more I realized it might not happen.”
Now that it hasn’t happened, McKeon said, “I think we’ll be fine. I think it will be no great loss. You can just look on the field and tell that. We have been doing fine without him, and we will do fine without him.”
Tony Gwynn, who was telling people just last week, “My gut instinct tells me we’ll get Dale Murphy,” also took the news well.
“Nobody’s been really counting on it. I haven’t been counting on it. I’m looking at our club and seeing that we’d be just as good,” he said Monday. “If anything, it’s good that we get the news now, so we can relax some guys around here who thought they were going.”
Although he didn’t mention names, he was likely talking about outfielders Shawn Abner and Shane Mack, two big-league question marks. As if fearing exile from a contending team, Mack and Abner saw Westrum and suddenly played like The Un-Tradeables. For the first four A games and two B games of the spring, Mack has gone one for 13 while Shawn Abner has gone one for 10.
So the Padres are still left with an extra catcher and short one power hitter. So what do they do?
“Trader Jack has another angle working,” McKeon said. “I’ll wait for a few more days and go to work on it.”
It could involve the New York Mets, who formally dropped out of the Murphy chase Monday and are still looking for a place to move infielder Howard Johnson and outfielder Lenny Dykstra, a perfect combination for the Padres. Or it could be Seattle, whose representatives talked with McKeon Monday and could be willing to trade reliever Mike Schooler, third baseman Jim Presley and outfielder Mickey Brantley.
Team officials say the first stop for the Padre scouts, however, will be the camp of the New York Yankees. McKeon is still hoping to acquire third baseman Mike Pagliarulo.
Third baseman Randy Ready made two errors Monday--one muffed grounder, one dropped pop fly--to give the left side of the Padre infield eight errors in the last four games. . . . Tony Gwynn sat out Monday with a twisted left ankle after stumbling back into first base Sunday on a pickoff play. He said it felt good after being iced, and hopes to play against the Milwaukee Brewers today in Chandler, Ariz.