Yankees look to fill in rotation

Updated: December 4, 2003, 1:20 AM ET
Associated Press

NEW YORK -- The Yankees and the Montreal Expos spent much of Wednesday discussing a proposed trade that would send pitcher Javier Vazquez to New York for first baseman Nick Johnson and outfielder Juan Rivera.

The trade could be agreed to later this week, a pair of baseball officials familiar with the talks said on the condition of anonymity. The deal would be made on a tentative basis, giving the Yankees a window to work out a contract extension with Vazquez, who is eligible for free agency after next season.

Vazquez, a 27-year-old right-hander, would fill one of the holes in the Yankees' starting rotation. He went 13-12 with a 3.24 ERA for the Expos last season, and is three years younger than Bartolo Colon, who is a free agent and would be an alternative.

New York's rotation, the backbone of its run to four World Series titles and six AL pennants since 1995, is uncertain right now. Roger Clemens retired, and Andy Pettitte and David Wells filed for free agency. In addition, Wells had back surgery Tuesday.

Johnson, 25, played first base for much of last season because of Jason Giambi's knee injury, and started the season as the regular designated hitter. While he is regarded as a top hitter -- he batted .284 with 14 homers, 47 RBIs and a .422 on-base percentage -- he has been injury prone throughout his career.

Rivera, 25, hit .266 with seven homers and 26 RBIs in 173 at-bats and has a strong throwing arm.

Montreal, which is owned by the other 29 teams, is faced with payrolls limits and Vazquez, eligible for salary arbitration, will likely get a raise from the $4,775,000 he made last season after losing his hearing.

Johnson is eligible for salary arbitration for the first time while Rivera is not yet eligible.

Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press