Crosstown traffic slowing down pursuit of Abreu

With the four-day All Star break over, it’s time for the rumor season to begin, and today’s New York Post did not disappoint. In the back-cover story, Joel Sherman writes that the Yanks will have to compete the Mets for the services of Bobby Abreu.

Here’s what Sherman had to say:

Until now, the Yanks were expected to be the lone New York club pursuing Abreu. However, two sources confirmed to The Post that the Mets recently contacted Phillies GM Pat Gillick to say that if Abreu, closer Tom Gordon or starter Jon Lieber are made available before the July 31 non-waiver deadline, to count the Mets in.

That revelation complicates life for the Yanks. The Mets simply have come to believe top starters such as Dontrelle Willis, Barry Zito and Jason Schmidt will not be available. One Mets official described the pitching market as “No. 4 and No. 5 starters who you will have to pray can really help you.” The Mets have been closely linked with one such starter, Washington’s Livan Hernandez, who is due $7 million next year and has the NL’s second-worst ERA (5.94).

So if they cannot upgrade their rotation, the Mets are considering improving the offense as a way to alleviate pressure on their staff, notably young starters Mike Pelfrey and John Maine. Abreu, for example, would add even more speed, patience and power to a lineup that generated the NL’s most first-half runs…But can Minaya get Abreu?

Sherman goes on to the note that the Phillies would be very reluctant to trade Abreu to a division rival. He says that the Yanks, with injuries to Sheffield and Matsui, need Abreu more. He would be a huge upgrade over the Aaron Guiel/Bernie Williams platoon set to debut tonight.

For the Yanks, the concern is Phillies GM Pat Gillick’s asking price. In two weeks, when Gillick decides the Phillies are done, and it’s time to sell, Gillick will ask for the top prospects in return for his All Star player. But the Phillies are in no position to bargain as Abreu is owed a lot of money over the next few years.

I can envision a scenario where the Yankees offer to pick up Abreu’s tab in exchange for fringe players. With the Mets in the picture, though, the price for Abreu just might get steeper. While WasWatching.com’s Steve Lombardi appears somewhat skeptical of Abreu, having watched him in Philadelphia, I believe Abreu would succeed in New York and thrive with a supportive crowd.

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