Faced with the loss of cleanup hitter Greg Vaughn to free agency, the Reds acquired OF Dante Bichette from the Rockies yesterday for OF Jeffrey Hammonds and right-handed reliever Stan Belinda.

The Rockies also sent the Reds $1.9 million to make up the difference in salaries.

Bichette, 35, hit 34 homers and drove in 133 runs last season. The Reds are counting on him to replace Vaughn, who hit 45 homers and drove in 118 runs but is unaffordable as a free agent.

Hammonds was a backup outfielder last season and Belinda was a middle reliever after coming back from a diagnosis of multiple sclerosis.

Bichette, one of the original Rockies, was the franchise's career leader in hits and runs.

"I gave them everything I could," Bichette said. "We part even and I still remain in their hearts and them in mine. It's emotional. I'll drop a few tears, I'm sure, because it was the bulk of my career and this is what I love to do."

CUBS HIRE BAYLOR: Don Baylor has been hired to manage the Cubs. While there was no announcement by the Cubs, his hiring was confirmed to the Associated Press by a senior major league team official who spoke on the condition he not be identified.

It also was reported by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, which reports in today's editions that Baylor has agreed to a four-year deal averaging $1.3 million and that the hiring will be announced today. Baylor was the hitting coach for the Braves last season after six years as manager of the Rockies . . .

Meantime, Jimmy Piersall says he was fired as a Cubs minor league instructor because of critical remarks he made about the team's management.

Piersall, 69, was fired Friday for "issues relating to his performance in player development," Cubs GM Ed Lynch said. "We've always viewed his public comments separately from that as an employee."

But Piersall says he thinks he was fired because of a remark he made on a radio program after Jim Riggleman was fired as manager of the Cubs.

Piersall said "two other guys" should have been fired instead of Riggleman--leaving little doubt he was talking about Lynch and Cubs President Andy MacPhail.

BREWERS' SEARCH: Padres first-base coach Davey Lopes is a leading contender to be the Brewers' new manager, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported.

Lopes has been invited Monday for a second interview with the Brewers, the newspaper said. The interview would include club president Wendy Selig-Prieb, who did not participate in the initial interview. The Brewers declined to comment on whether Lopes has been asked back.

CORMIER RETAINED: The Red Sox picked up a $2 million option on left-handed reliever Rheal Cormier. The Red Sox must decide by Monday whether to exercise a $3 million option on RHP Pat Rapp or give him a $250,000 buyout. A Red Sox spokesman said the team was waiting to hear whether LHP Kent Mercker would exercise his $1.75 million option to return for next season.