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Yankees May Win Knoblauch Prize

The New York Yankees appear to be the leading contenders to obtain Minnesota All-Star second baseman Chuck Knoblauch.

Yankees owner George Steinbrenner was said to be very interested in trading for Knoblauch, one source said on the condition he not be identified.

Minnesota wants pitcher Eric Milton and outfielder Ricky Ledee included in a deal with New York.

Cleveland, which had been reported to be close to a deal for Knoblauch, indicated Tuesday that its interest had lessened.

The Indians, who were considering a deal that might include pitcher Chad Ogea, had discussed making a possible offer to free agent Andy Benes, who could take Ogea's place in the rotation.

But Benes' agent, Scott Boras, was said to be asking for a three- or four-year contract averaging $6 million-to-$7 million per year. The only other known offer for Benes was said to be from the New York Mets, a one-year deal for $3 million-to-$4 million.

Indians manager John Hart didn't sound like he'd be able to make the trade.

"I don't see this happening," he was quoted as saying in The Plain Dealer of Cleveland. "There are too many hurdles to clear."

Cleveland offered right-handers Steve Karsay and Ogea, outfielder Brian Giles and infielder Enrique Wilson, the (St. Paul) Pioneer Press reported Monday.

"Right now as we stand here, it is not likely," Indians manager Mike Hargrove said Tuesday during a team press tour of northeast Ohio.

To which Ogea responded, "Usually when they tell you that, the next day you're gone."

Twins general managaer Terry Ryan has said that if he makes a trade for Knoblauch, he'd like to do it before spring training. The Twins said Ryan was at a banquet Tuesday night and had made no indication a deal was imminent.

Atlanta had some interest in Knoblauch, several sources said in the past month, but Braves general manager John Schuerholz has said he would like to wait until late in spring training to make any moves. Starter John Smoltz underwent arthroscopic elbow surgery on Dec. 12 and isn't supposed to be back until mid-March at the earliest.

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