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POWER-HUNGRY METS TALK TO RANGERS ABOUT BID FOR GONZALEZ

The New York Mets, in need of a power hitter to replace injured Todd Hundley, have talked to the Texas Rangers about a multiplayer trade involving former AL MVP Juan Gonzalez.

Gonzalez, a 28-year-old outfielder, led the AL in home runs in 1992 and 1993. He won the MVP award in 1996 after hitting 47 homers, and hit 42 home runs with 131 RBIs this season despite being injured for the first month.

"I know Steve (general manager Phillips) has been talking to a lot of teams, but we can't comment on any specific names," said Mets spokesman Jay Horwitz.

Texas general manager Doug Melvin said he had talked to the Mets at the World Series, and confirmed the clubs had discussed Gonzalez. But Melvin was quoted Friday by the Fort Worth Star-Telegram as saying Gonzalez "has come up with a lot of clubs."

The Rangers would try to fill several needs by trading Gonzalez to the Mets. Texas would likely seek a starting pitcher, such as Bobby Jones or Jason Isringhausen, along with players at other positions.

Outfielder Bernard Gilkey and third baseman Edgardo Alfonzo might interest the Rangers. The Mets also have interest in all-purpose player Jim Leyritz, a catcher for the New York Yankees on their 1996 World Series championship team.

Hundley hit 41 home runs in 1996, and had 30 homers and 86 RBIs this year despite a bad elbow. The All-Star catcher is likely to miss most of 1998 after undergoing surgery.

Free agents get files in order

MIAMI -- As soon as the final out of the World Series is made tonight or Sunday, free agents can start filing.

Darryl Kile of the Houston Astros and Andy Benes of the St. Louis Cardinals are the best pitchers available, with Benes becoming eligible after declining to exercise his $3.8 million player option.

Bobby Witt, Wilson Alvarez and Randy Myers also are eligible to file.

However, the best pitcher on the market isn't a free agent. The Montreal Expos have said they will trade Pedro Martinez, the favorite to win the NL Cy Young Award, because they can't afford his salary. He had a base salary of $3.5 million this year and probably will get more than $6 million in salary arbitration after leading the NL in ERA (1.90) and finishing second to Curt Schilling in strikeouts with 305.

"We'll talk, but I don't think anything's going to happen soon," Cleveland Indians general manager John Hart said.

That's because teams must submit their expansion draft protected lists Nov. 10 or 11 (depending on whether the Series ends tonight or Sunday). With the Expos expecting to receive several prospects in a deal for Martinez, they would rather wait until after the draft to make a trade. That way, they use only one of their 15 slots to protect Martinez rather than use two to four to protect the players they receive.

Others on the free-agent market include Brady Anderson, Kenny Lofton, Andres Galarraga, Rod Beck, Orel Hershiser, Jay Bell, Cecil Fielder, Jose Canseco and Roberto Hernandez.

Gwynn's surgery termed a success

SAN DIEGO -- Eight-time National League batting champion Tony Gwynn of the San Diego Padres underwent arthroscopic surgery on his left knee.

The surgery was successful and Gwynn will begin therapy immediately, the Padres said. He is expected to be ready for the opening of spring training.

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