Chicago Cubs scouts have been looking at the Yankees' farm system recently, and Gene Michael, New York's top scout, has been at Cubs games. Later this week, Michael is to follow Detroit's Juan Gonzalez, another player the Yankees want.
Sosa, who feuded with Cubs manager Don Baylor last week before proclaiming peace, has made it clear to Chicago he wants a trade, three baseball sources said Monday, all on the condition they not be identified.
Sosa's agent, Tom Reich, said the slugger wants decisions to be made quickly, but he wouldn't elaborate.
"This is something that needs to be resolved with somebody, and the sooner the better," Reich said.
Yankees owner George Steinbrenner, looking to shore up weakness in left field and at designated hitter, would like to make a deal before the All-Star break, said one of the three sources, a Yankees official.
Steinbrenner and Reich are close, and any agreement would probably be accompanied by an extension to Sosa's contract, set to expire after the 2001 season, the source said.
While the Cubs and the All-Star outfielder are interested in a deal, neither side wants to make the first public move. Because he's a 10-year veteran who has been on his current team for more than five years, Sosa has the right to veto any trade.
"While it's not something that has a great deal of appeal for me, I've been around the game long enough not to preclude opportunities that might measurably improve the organization," Cubs president Andy MacPhail said.
MacPhail wouldn't identify which teams are interested.
"In addition to the usual suspects, you have some unusual suspects that have made it known that in the event something were to happen, they'd like to be considered," he said.
New York manager Joe Torre said before Monday night's game against Boston that his team is looking for more offense.
"I wouldn't be surprised if we do do something," Torre said. "I don't know if we'll get something done. There are a lot of conversations going on."
Several other teams have been in contact with the Cubs about Sosa, including the New York Mets.
"I'm going to get in on everything, find out what the price is," Mets general manager Steve Phillips said.
The Boston Red Sox are another possibility, one of the sources sid.
Red Sox outfielder Carl Everett said any team would like to have Sosa, who had 63 homers last year after hitting 66 in 1998.
"But is he a team player and can he make a team better?" Everett said. "I don't know. If he doesn't fit in with a team, he's not going to help."
The Cubs' options are: extend Sosa's contract, trade him or let him stay and take the chance he would become a free agent after the 2001 World Series. If there's a trade, the Cubs would like to get the most talent possible, but Sosa's value in a deal decreases as the end of his contract approaches.
While the Yankees also are interested in Gonzalez, it appears their No. 1 choice is Sosa.
Gonzalez is eligible for free agency this fall, and New York would make a deal only if he agrees to a contract extension.
Gonzalez is represented by Jim Bronner, who was unable to work out a multiyear contract with the Yankees last winter for closer Mariano Rivera. The pitcher is eligible for free agency after the 2001 season.
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