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Ongoing fire sale claims possible Cy

Pedro Martinez has reached that point in his career where he no longer can play for the Expos. He simply is too good.

So following the lead of Moises Alou, Larry Walker, John Wetteland, Marquis Grissom and others before them, expect Martinez to take his leave of Montreal within the month.

A favorite for the National League Cy Young Award, Martinez's stock is soaring and the cash-strapped Expos cannot afford to keep up. Rather than eventually losing him to free agency, Montreal will deal him for prospects.

The Yankees, Dodgers, Angels, Red Sox, Indians and Padres are among the suitors, although no team would turn down a shot at the 26-year-old right-hander who was 17-8 with a 1.90 ERA.

"We're one of about 29 (teams)," San Diego general manager Kevin Towers said. "A lot of people are interested. He's the best pitcher in baseball. We told them we wanted to be major players in the Martinez Sweepstakes."

The Expos are looking for a team that could give up several good prospects or younger players not eligible for arbitration for a couple more years.

Although Expos general manager Jim Beattie is not expected to make a move until after the Nov. 18 expansion draft, there is speculation that teams will offer better packages before the draft. By offering several prospects before Nov. 18, an organization would have fewer players to protect.

O'S NO: A cynic might suggest Orioles owner Peter Angelos is delaying a decision on the fate of manager Davey Johnson to make sure Johnson has no job in '98. That certainly will look like the case if Angelos waits until the Devil Rays, Blue Jays and White Sox hire managers before he fires Johnson.

MOST VOLATILE PLAYER: He waited until he returned home to the Dominican Republic, but Alou no longer could hold back his disappointment at not winning the World Series MVP award that went to Florida pitcher Livan Hernandez. "The Dominican people, God and the entire world know that I was the Most Valuable Player," Alou said. The Marlins leftfielder has a point. He hit .321 with three homers and a team-leading nine RBI. Hernandez was 2-0 but his 5.21 ERA was by far the highest of any Series MVP. Alou hit three-run homers in both of Hernandez's victories.

CONDITION UPGRADED: Recent surgery on his shoulder revealed Alex Fernandez suffered only a partial tear of his rotator cuff and not a full tear as originally diagnosed. A full tear is considered career-threatening, a partial tear is not. Still, do not expect to see Fernandez in 1998. Florida has an insurance policy that covers more than $5-million of his '98 salary. If he throws even one pitch, the policy is voided.

SHADES OF BUCKNER: Just in case Cleveland fans were not suffering enough, here's a cheery thought: The Indians are the fourth team to come within three outs of winning a World Series and have it slip away. The other three: the 1912 Giants, the 1985 Cardinals and the 1986 Red Sox.

LINGERING MEMORIES: Fallout from the Series could affect Cleveland's protected list for the expansion draft. The Indians might find it difficult to leave Chad Ogea unprotected after his post-season, which could leave Charles Nagy vulnerable. Jose Mesa also might bid farewell, much like Philadelphia's Mitch Williams after giving up Joe Carter's Series-winning homer in 1993. Mesa, who blew a ninth-inning lead in Game 7, was six of 12 in save opportunities when given a one-run lead to protect.

IN THE RED: Barry Larkin, the most popular player in Cincinnati since the Bench-Rose era, might request a trade if the team continues to trim costs. General manager Jim Bowden has been told to reduce the payroll from $34-million to $25-million.

The Reds have declined options on Hal Morris, Mike Morgan and Kent Mercker and released Pete Schourek. It's doubtful Deion Sanders will return since the Reds would have to exercise an option paying him $3.5-million.

"I took less money to stay in Cincinnati because I'm from here and I like it here," Larkin said. "That, though, also came with a promise that they'd stay competitive. If they tell me they think it'll be two or three years before we're competitive, I think they'll move me to another team."

TRADE RUMORS: The Rangers are shopping catcher Jim Leyritz and want a starting pitcher in return. The Mets have made one offer. Having lost Jose Cruz Jr. to Toronto during the pennant drive, the Mariners have interest in Colorado's Quinton McCracken as the replacement in leftfield. The always salary-conscious Reds would be happy to part ways with Reggie Sanders and Boston is one possibility.

STUFF THOSE STATS: The goofy player ratings used to determine free-agent compensation were released last week and New York's Bernie Williams was listed as the AL's top outfielder. Yes, that means he was ahead of Ken Griffey Jr. and Albert Belle.

The ratings take into account a variety of statistics without apparent discrimination. Plate appearances, for instance, are given the same weight as home runs and RBI. None of this matters to agent Scott Boras, who is seeking an annual salary around $10-million. The Yankees are thinking in the $7-million range.

"I always go after the best," Yankees owner George Steinbrenner said, "but I'm not a lunatic."

If Boras holds by his demands, the Yankees might trade Williams and go after free agent Brady Anderson.

_ Information from other news organizations was used in this report.

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