CHICAGO -- Pessimistic about their chances of re-signing All-Star right fielder Ruben Sierra, the Texas Rangers have put themselves in position to trade him before the season ends.
Two major-league officials said yesterday the Rangers have indicated a willingness to trade Sierra, who has one home run and seven RBI since the All-Star break and can become a free agent after the season. Another official confirmed the Rangers earlier this month obtained the waivers needed to trade Sierra.
Any player traded after July 31 must first clear major-league waivers. As a procedural matter, teams generally obtain waivers on most players to be prepared for potential trades. Star players, however, rarely appear on the waiver wire.
Sierra can become a free agent after this season. His representatives and the Rangers have held no substantive contract talks since he won a $5 million salary for this season in a February arbitration hearing. General manager Tom Grieve said the probability of keeping Sierra are "about 50-50."
"Anytime you have a player who can become a free agent and your chances of signing him are less than 50-50, you have to look at your alternatives," Grieve said. "I'd say our chances are about 50-50, maybe a little less.
"I can't see anything happening. For us to do a deal, the return would have to be significantly better than the draft choices we would get."
Sierra is expected to be a Type A free agent. If the Rangers lose Sierra to a team that finishes with one of the 13 best records in baseball, the Rangers would receive that team's first-round pick in the June amateur draft. A team that finished among the bottom 13 would give the Rangers a second-round pick for signing Sierra. In each scenario, the Rangers also would receive a "sandwich" pick between the first and second rounds.
The Sierra-Rangers relationship has come apart rapidly this month. Sierra, earning $29,069.77 per day, missed the opening two games of what was a significant series against Oakland in the first week of August to be with his ill mother in Puerto Rico. Manager Toby Harrah did not return Sierra to the starting lineup the day he returned.
A contender that wants Sierra would have to make a deal by
Aug. 31 to have him eligible for post-season play. The Rangers sent third baseman Steve Buechele to playoff-bound Pittsburgh on Aug. 30 last year.
Sierra, who hit .298 while averaging 23 homers and 110 RBIs annually in 1989-91, is batting .276 with 12 homers and 62 RBIs. He ranks fifth on the team in homers and third in RBIs.