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Sunday, July 30
Updated: August 1, 1:46 AM ET
Cubs give up Downs to acquire White

Associated Press

CHICAGO -- Rondell White's talent made him attractive to a host of teams. His history of injuries turned many of them off. Just not the Chicago Cubs.

Mon., July 31
What's mystifying about the Rondell White trade is why the Expos had spent the last week asking for much bigger names from the Yankees, Mariners and Red Sox -- then turned around and dealt him for Scott Downs.

One NL executive I spoke with said: "There's nothing wrong with Scott Downs, but is he the kind of guy you trade Rondell White for? Not to me. I don't understand that one." Concerns about White's health had narrowed the market, clearly worrying the Yankees, Mariners and Brewers (who would have been part of a three-way deal with the Yankees).

But the Red Sox were still offering Wilton Veras and Paxton Crawford. And the Braves still had some interest. So from Montreal's standpoint, this is a puzzler. Details of White's contract haven't been announced. But it's believed it gives him the right to become a free agent after the 2001 season if he decides he doesn't like Chicago. If the Cubs can keep him, an outfield of Sammy Sosa, Corey Patterson and a healthy White would rank with anybody's. But questions remain as to how long Sosa will be a Cub, as well.

The Henry Rodriguez trade was simply a move to create a vacancy in left field for White. Neither Gload nor Noyce is regarded as an upper-tier prospect.

The Cubs, playing well and looking to the future at the same time, acquired White on Monday from the Montreal Expos for left-hander Scott Downs.

About an hour after announcing the deal for White, the Cubs announced they had traded veteran left fielder Henry Rodriguez to the Florida Marlins for a pair of minor league prospects.

Andy MacPhail, who recently took over for Ed Lynch as general manager, has been busy as the Cubs have made a late run in the NL Central. Earlier, he traded Glenallen Hill to the Yankees and Ismael Valdes to the Dodgers, getting four prospects in those two deals.

Now, he's got an established player, albeit a banged-up one.

White, a career .293 hitter, has been on the disabled list since July 8 with a strained right hamstring that forced him to miss a month last season. He's also had problems with his left knee.

The Cubs are hoping the grass at Wrigley Field will do for White's career what it once did for another player who made the Montreal-to-Chicago move -- Andre Dawson.

"Our doctors went over it rather judiciously and carefully. You can't ignore the fact there are probably and potentially some long-term concerns," MacPhail said Monday.

"There are always risks. If you are afraid of risks, you should be in a different business," MacPhail added. "I think the opportunity was unique for us to get somebody that we hoped would be a building block for future success."

The New York Yankees, Seattle, Atlanta and Milwaukee had been interested in White, but may have backed off because of the injuries.

In 1998 his season was ended in July when he fractured his right finger, trying to catch a line drive. In 1996, he missed 68 games because of a lacerated spleen and kidney contusion after diving for a ball at Coors Field.

"I anticipated Rondell would go to a contending team. But I can understand the reservations a contending team might have with a player currently on the DL," MacPhail said.

MacPhail said he was able to convince White the Cubs were moving in the right direction.

"My plan is to try and improve the team and I don't want to do the short-term band-aid approach. That's why a 28-year-old left fielder made sense to us," MacPhail said.

White was given a new contract, with a $4 million salary for next year and player options beyond that.

"We want to have balance, where it's not just all short expirations. His contract could expire at the end of 2001 or at the end of 2004. Each side has protections."

White is expected to join the Cubs on Tuesday. When he'll play isn't certain.

"I wanted to go to a team that wins and the Cubs have been playing great baseball lately," White said Monday. "I'm ready to help them out. I'm looking forward to playing with Sammy (Sosa). My hamstring might be a couple of days away. My knee is OK."

White was hitting .307 with 11 homers and 54 RBI before going on the DL. Last year, he hit a personal-best .312 and played in a career-high 138 games.

"We're trying to put together a club that is going to finish the season well and also bring in Rondell thinking for the future, too," Cubs manager Don Baylor said. "We're not selling off and not getting something else in return."

Downs, 24, was 4-3 with a 5.17 ERA in 18 starts. A third-round selection of the Cubs in 1997, he was traded to the Twins after the 1998 season and then reacquired in May 1999. Baylor said the young pitcher was in tears when told of the trade.

Cubs deal H-Rod
MIAMI -- The Florida Marlins, eager to build on their surprising success this season, acquired outfielder Henry Rodriguez from the Cubs for two minor league prospects.

The move was unusual for a cost-conscious team not in playoff contention, but the Marlins want to win back fans by winning more games, and they think Rodriguez can help. He'll fill in for left fielder Cliff Floyd, who underwent knee surgery Saturday and is expected to be sidelined 4-to-6 weeks.

Rodriguez, who has a $4.5 million salary, will likely be with the Marlins for only the rest of this year, general manager Dave Dombrowski said. Floyd is expected back in left field in 2001.

The Marlins hold a $5.2 million club option on Rodriguez for 2001 with a $600,000 buyout. He's due about $1.5 million for the balance of this season, and the Cubs gave the Marlins about $1.1 million, according to one lawyer familiar with the deal who spoke on the condition he not be identified.

Chicago acquired outfielder-first baseman Ross Gload and left-hander David Noyce, neither among the top prospects in Florida's talent-rich minor-league system.

Rodriguez is the most prominent player obtained by the Marlins since they acquired catcher Mike Piazza for a brief stint in May 1998 during the dismantling of the 1997 World Series champions. Florida's preference was to swap veterans for prospects.

"A page has been turned," manager John Boles said. "This is certainly a 180 as far as what's been happening the past couple of years."

Dombrowski said owner John Henry, eager to improve attendance and win support for a new ballpark, approved the deal.

"Hopefully it can keep a positive feeling going," Dombrowski said.

The Marlins, who had the National League's worst record each of the past two seasons, began this week third in the East at 51-53. Boles was pleased to acquire Rodriguez, and he was also happy none of the Marlins' young players were dealt away before Monday's trade deadline.

"We're going forward," Boles said. "I hope the fans will say, `These guys are serious about winning."'

Rodriguez, 32, should help Florida win. In three seasons with the Cubs, he had 75 home runs and 223 RBI. This year he's batting .251 with 18 homers and 51 RBI.

Like Floyd, Rodriguez is a left-handed power hitter, and he'll bat third in the lineup. Rodriguez will report Wednesday to Florida, his fourth team, and he'll be in the lineup that night against Houston, Boles said.

Rodriguez said he was surprised to be traded, especially to a non-contender, and he had hoped to stay in Chicago.

"When you spend a couple of years with a team, it's always hard to leave," he said.

But while discussing the deal with reporters, he noted that he has a brother and cousin living in Fort Lauderdale, and that he'll be closer to his native Dominican Republic.

By the end of the conversation, he sounded more upbeat.

"You know what?" he said. "I'm very happy right now."

The Cubs assigned Gload to Triple-A Iowa and Noyce to Class A Daytona.

Gload, 24, was batting .284 with 16 homers and 65 RBI for Double-A Portland. Noyce, 23, was 6-5 with a 3.87 ERA in 18 games for Single-A Brevard County.

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