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Tuesday, December 3, 2002
Updated: December 4, 8:54 AM ET
Hundley headed back to L.A. in three-player deal

ESPN.com news services

LOS ANGELES -- The Los Angeles Dodgers will send first baseman Eric Karros and second baseman Mark Grudzielanek to the Chicago Cubs for catcher Todd Hundley.

Monday, Dec. 2
This deal is another of those 21st-century classics whereby teams swap high-priced headaches. Not because they think changes of scenery will help, but rather because new headaches don't hurt as much as old ones.

There are some presumed benefits, of course.

The Dodgers have a solid prospect at second base named Joe Thurston, and trading Grudzielanek clears a path for Thurston, who will get a real good shot at earning the everyday job next spring. Also, trading Grudzielanek and Karros saves the Dodgers a few million dollars in 2003, and they can use that payroll flexibility to fill one or more holes.

The Cubs also have a solid prospect at second base (Bobby Hill) and they have a solid prospect at first base (Hee Seop Choi), which makes one wonder why they're bringing aboard an over-the-hill second baseman (Grudzielanek) and an over-the-hill first baseman (Karros). The answer, presumably, is that 1) they're not completely sold on Hill and Choi, and 2) new manager Dusty Baker prefers players in their 30s to players in their 20s. On a happier note, though, Grudzielanek's and Karros' contracts both expire at the conclusion of the 2003 season, which will give the Cubs some payroll flexibility of their own.

The Cubs, retooling their roster under new manager Dusty Baker, and Dodgers were given 72 hours to finalize the deal. To make it happen, Hundley and Grudzielanek must agree to have their contracts restructured.

''We're working on it,'' said agent Sam Levinson, who represents Hundley and Grudzielanek.

As part of the deal, the Dodgers would send cash to the Cubs.

Grudzielanek and Karros have a combined $15.5 million remaining on their contracts for the coming season while Hundley is owed $15.5 million over two years, allowing the Dodgers free up some money for the future.

That money could go to either Cliff Floyd or Jeff Kent. ESPN's Peter Gammons reported that the Dodgers are interested in Floyd, a free agent who played for manager Jim Tracy in 1992. Floyd finished last season with the Boston Red Sox.

Kent, a former National League MVP, is a free agent after playing last season in San Francisco.

If the Dodgers don't get Kent, they could use their best Triple-A player at second -- Joe Thurston, who hit .334 for Las Vegas.

Karros is owed $8 million next year and his contract includes a 2004 club option for $9 million with a $1 million buyout. If he reaches 500 plate appearances next season, his 2004 salary would be guaranteed.

Hundley will get $6 million next year and $6.5 million in 2004. He'll get an extra $500,000 for 2004 if he makes 100 starts next season.

Grudzielanek has a $5.5 million salary for next season. There's a club option for $6 million in 2004 with a $500,000 buyout.

''Eric Karros is one of those rare players who has had an opportunity to play for one and one team only for 15 years. It was and still is his desire to spend his entire career with the Dodgers,'' said his attorney, Jeff Moorad. ''But Eric, as any veteran in the industry knows, appreciates the fact that trades are part of the landscape. If this trade in fact occurs, he will rise above his disappointment in leaving Los Angeles and I'm sure become a productive part of the Chicago Cubs.''

Neither team wanted to talk about the pending deal.

''At this time, it would be inappropriate to get into any specifics,'' Cubs president Andy MacPhail said.

Said Los Angeles spokesman John Olguin: ''At this point, there is nothing to announce from the Dodgers' end.''

Both Hundley and Karros are coming off disappointing seasons.

Karros, 35, hit a career-low 13 home runs while batting .271 with 73 RBI.

The Cubs have high hopes for 23-year-old first baseman Hee Seop Choi, who made his major league debut last season and hit .180 with two home runs in 50 at-bats.

Hundley, 33, hit .211 with 16 home runs and 35 RBI. In his two seasons with the Cubs, the former All-Star has hit only 28 homers with 66 RBI.

Since the World Series ended, the Cubs have traded for a pair of catchers, Damian Miller from Arizona and Paul Bako from Milwaukee.

Hundley played for the Dodgers in 1999 and 2000, and would back up Paul Lo Duca if he returned to Los Angeles.

Grudzielanek, 32, hit .271 with nine home runs and 50 RBI for the Dodgers. With the Cubs, he could be backup to young Bobby Hill, who showed signs of promise as a rookie last season.

Baker was to talk to Grudzielanek later Tuesday about his potential role on the Cubs.

Earlier in the day, the Cubs and free agent reliever Mike Remlinger finalized a $10.65 million, three-year deal. He was 7-3 with a 1.99 ERA last year for Atlanta and made the All-Star team.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.