The New York Yankees are willing to trade high-priced first baseman Cecil Fielder, a source said Wednesday, and the Angels are believed to have some interest in the slugger.
Angel General Manager Bill Bavasi, Yankee General Manager Bob Watson and several front-office officials from both teams met for about 20 minutes Wednesday afternoon during baseball's general managers meetings.
Specific names for potential deals were not exchanged, but Watson did ask the Angels if they would be interested in Fielder, who hit .252 with 39 homers and 117 runs batted in for Detroit and New York in 1996. Fielder also had several clutch hits and RBIs in the World Series.
Fielder's $7.2-million salary for 1997 would be a major roadblock for the Angels, but the Yankees, who are looking to free up salary from their $66-million payroll to pursue free-agent pitchers Roger Clemens or John Smoltz, would likely be willing to pay a chunk of Fielder's salary.
The Yankees' asking price for Fielder, 33, apparently isn't high--they are looking for prospects, a source said--but the Angel farm system isn't exactly stocked.
The Angels also would have to trade first baseman J.T. Snow to make room for Fielder, who has has been relegated to a designated hitter role in New York but has told friends he would like to return to first base full time.
"We'd have nowhere to put [Fielder] right now," Bavasi said.
The Angels lost a key power source with the recent trade of designated hitter Chili Davis to Kansas City for pitcher Mark Gubicza, but the deal did free up $2 million on the team's payroll.
Asked if there was any chance the Angels could trade for Fielder, Bavasi said, "Right now, no, but do I reserve the right to do something tomorrow? Yes."
Fielder, who has 289 homers and 879 RBIs and is the major league's leading home run hitter in the 1990s, spent 6 1/2 years of his 9 1/2-year major league career in Detroit, where 30-homer seasons--and last-place finishes--were the norm.
A July 31 trade to the Yankees gave him a shot at that elusive championship ring, and Fielder sparkled in the post-season, playing a key offensive role in the Yankees' division series victory over Texas, their victory over Baltimore in the American League Championship Series and their World Series victory over Atlanta.
But Fielder has apparently been deemed expendable, with Tim Raines and Darryl Strawberry available to play left field and designated hitter Bernie Williams in center and Paul O'Neill or fast-rising prospect Ruben Rivera in right.
"I'm not going to sit here and say we're planning to move him, but this is part of the exercise," Watson said of trade talks. "He's a quality player and there is some interest out there."