Trade rumors turned into reality Friday with Todd Stottlemyre, Royce Clayton and Todd Zeile going to the Texas Rangers and Juan Guzman, Carlos Perez and Ellis Burks also switching teams.
But as the nonwaiver trading deadline of midnight EDT approached, all of baseball was still waiting and watching for one big deal: Would the Seattle Mariners move Randy Johnson?
The New York Yankees, Cleveland, Los Angeles and Atlanta were said to be pursuing the 1995 AL Cy Young winner.
Texas, meanwhile, turned down a chance to get four-time Cy Young winner Roger Clemens after Toronto insisted on obtaining outfielder Rusty Greer.
By 9:30 p.m. EDT, there had been eight trades involving 28 players, including 16 major leaguers. Mark Grudzielanek, Willie Blair and Tony Phillips were among those on the move.
And there was speculation more deals would follow, with the names of Randy Myers, Roberto Hernandez, Denny Neagle and Robin Ventura mentioned most prominently.
The Rangers, who began the day one game behind Anaheim in the AL West, got busy early. They acquired Stottlemyre and Clayton from St. Louis for pitcher Darren Oliver and third baseman Fernando Tatis, and got Zeile from Florida for a pair of minor leaguers.
St. Louis, which last year got Mark McGwire only hours before the trading deadline, gave up two players eligible for free agency at the end of the season.
Stottlemyre, 33, was 9-9 this season with a 3.51 ERA. Clayton, 28, was hitting just .234 with four homers and 29 RBIs at shortstop.
"There's no doubt our direction with what we've done today is to win our division and go beyond," Texas general manager Doug Melvin said.
Oliver, 27, was 6-7 with a 6.53 ERA in 19 starts for Texas. Tatis, 23, is hitting .270 with three homers and 32 RBIs.
Zeile was traded for the second time this season, having gone from Los Angeles to Florida in May as part of the deal involving Mike Piazza. Zeile, 32, is hitting .276 with 13 homers and 66 RBIs.
The deal cut the Marlins' payroll to $14.2 million -- it was $53 million when they won last year's World Series. Florida got third base prospect Jose Santo and pitcher Daniel DeYoung for Zeile.
The Los Angeles Dodgers, already in the middle of several big deals this season, bolstered themselves for a wild-card run by getting Perez, Grudzielanek and a prospect from Montreal for second baseman Wilton Guerrero and three minor leaguers.
The Expos got pitcher Ted Lilly, outfielder Peter Bergeron and first baseman Jonathan Tucker in addition to Guerrero. The Dodgers also got minor league outfielder Hiram Bocachica.
"They went for the prospects," Dodgers general manager Tommy Lasorda said. "We went for the guys who can help us right now."
Perez was 7-10 with a 3.75 ERA in 23 starts. Grudzielanek, 28, who tied the major league record for doubles by a shortstop with 54 last season, was batting .276 with eight homers and 41 RBIs.
Baltimore, eight games behind Boston in the AL wild-card chase, acquired Guzman from Toronto for pitcher Nerio Rodriguez and minor league outfielder Shannon Carter.
Guzman, 31, was 6-12 with a 4.41 ERA. He pitched eight strong innings Thursday night in a 1-0 win over Texas, then said he expected to be traded at any moment.
"I'm happy, I'm going to see my buddy Robbie (Roberto Alomar) there," he said.
The San Francisco Giants, bidding for the NL wild-card spot, traded Darryl Hamilton, minor league pitcher James Stoops and a player to be named to Colorado for Burks in a swap of 33-year-old outfielders.
The deal was announced in the seventh inning of Friday's game between the Rockies and Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field.
"I heard about it in the dugout. Guys were all around me congratulating me," Burks said.
Burks was batting .286 with 16 homers and 54 RBIs. Hamilton was batting .294 with one homer and 26 RBIs.
In a swap of slumping players, the New York Mets traded outfielder Bernard Gilkey to Arizona for Willie Blair, who leads the majors in losses.
As part of the deal, New York also sent minor league pitcher Nelson Figueroa and cash to the Diamondbacks. The Mets also will receive catcher Jorge Fabregas and a player to be named.
Gilkey, 31, was hitting .227 in 82 games. He sustained a stress fracture in his left elbow early this year and was on the disabled list from April 26 to May 11.
"He never got it going again after his elbow injury," Mets general manager Steve Phillips said.
Gilkey is in the second year of a $20.4 million, four-year contract. Blair, 32, signed an $11.5 million, three-year contract with Arizona last winter after going 16-8 with a 4.17 ERA for Detroit in 1997.
Blair was just 4-15 with a 5.34 ERA in 23 starts for the expansion Diamondbacks.
The Mets, looking for a leadoff man, later got Tony Phillips from Toronto for minor league pitcher Leoncio Ramirez Estrella.
In a minor deal, the Boston Red Sox traded pitcher Joe Hudson to the Milwaukee Brewers for infielder Eddy Diaz.
Boston made the move one day after getting Mike Stanley from Toronto for two pitching prospects.
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