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Friday, December 29, 2006

Yanks, D-Backs close to Unit deal- NY Daily News

It would be best for the Yankees and pitcher Randy Johnson to split ties before the start of the new season. Hopefully, a deal can get struck between Arizona and New York.



The Diamondbacks have been the most aggressive suitors for Randy Johnson and sources close to the negotiations said yesterday that the Yankees and Arizona could complete a trade to send Johnson back to the desert before next week.

The Diamondbacks, who view Johnson as a gate attraction, want to talk to the Big Unit about a contract extension, a source said. That would give Arizona a chance to reap the attendance and buzz benefits of Johnson going for his 300th victory - he will enter next season with 280 wins.

The Yankees, meanwhile, have their eyes on a package of Arizona pitching prospects. The Diamondbacks are loaded with young talent and if the Yankees send Johnson home to Arizona - Johnson's home is in the Phoenix suburb of Paradise Valley - they'd like to get at least two of the following three pitchers: Dustin Nippert, Micah Owings and Ross Ohlendorf.

Nippert, 25, is a 6-8 righthander who was 13-8 with a 4.87 ERA in Triple-A last season and lost both his major league starts. Owings, a 6-5 righty, was 6-2 at Double-A and 10-0 at Triple-A. Ohlendorf, a 6-4 righty, spent most of last season in Double-A, going 10-8 with a 3.29 ERA. Ohlendorf had 125 strikeouts and only 29 walks in 177-2/3 innings.

The Padres, believed to be offering reliever Scott Linebrink, also have been involved, but the Yankees apparently prefer the players they might be able to pry from the Diamondbacks. While talks are ongoing, the Yankees have not brought a deal to Johnson and his agents to approve - Johnson has a full no-trade clause in his contract.

Johnson, who is coming off back surgery, did not request a trade, but the Yankees began discussions with other clubs after GM Brian Cashman called Johnson to offer condolences after Johnson's older brother died recently. During the call, Johnson told the GM it was important to be close to his family.

The Yankees don't feel that trading Johnson is a necessity, but they're willing to listen, and several baseball officials have said privately recently that the Yankees are working diligently to consummate a deal.

While the Yankees have been pursuing pitchers in their talks with the D-Backs, Padres and other West Coast teams, it's believed they have made progress in their plans for the spare parts they need at first base and utility infielder. A source said the Yankees are zeroing in on Doug Mientkiewicz to play first while Jason Giambi is the designated hitter, even though Mientkiewicz is a lefthanded batter.

Also, the source said, Mark Loretta may be the Yankees' first choice to be a utility infielder. Loretta had hoped to find a job as a regular second baseman, but hasn't.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Barry Zito is headed to the San Francisco Giants

By David

According to reports Barry Zito is expected to sign with the San Francisco Giants. Many teams including the Rangers, Mets, Mariners and Yankees were in the running for the long time Oakland Athletic, but he has decided to remain in the Bay Area.

The two time all star will sign a seven year, $126 million dollar contract. This is going to be the largest deal ever given to a pitcher in baseball history and Zito can make up to $144 million if his option for 2014 is picked up by the Giants.

This is a major acquisition for the Giants and general manger Brian Sabean who have been pretty quiet on the Zito front up until now. The deal makes sense for the left hander because he already lives in San Francisco and he was offered $42 million more by his Giants, than he was by the Texas Rangers.

With Zito headed to the Giants the NL West becomes very ambigious. Even with a new manager and ace pitcher,the Giants still find themselves
a step behind of the competition in the tough NL West.The Rockies and Diamondbacks are two teams who have installed a great foundation for the future, but are still several years away from being serious contenders.
Still, the Padres and Dodgers remain the front runners for the division crown.

Finally, the biggest pitcher on the market has signed and the baseball off season can begin to slow down with no major players left on the market.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

How is Mark Loretta still a free agent?

By David

I struggle to understand how second basemen Mark Loretta is still avaliable on the market. The 12 year veteran is a career .299 hitter and a person who would make a great fit with many teams as their starting second basemen.

The Northwestern graduate played with the Red Sox' last season and was selected to his second all star game in the last three seasons. With a .987 career fielding percentage Loretta is excellent with the glove, but more importantly he's a great guy to have in the clubhouse.

Loretta comes off as having a great demenor and he would be an excellent match for a team who has a young second basemen that needs mentoring. Still, based on his play on the field he deserves to start.

He might not have the power of a Chase Utley, but he should not be demoted to a utility role.The Yankees were looking at Loretta for a utility position and at the current time they seem like the front runner for his services.

The Texas Rangers were also eyeing Loretta as a utility player. If signed, they hope that he can fill the void left by Mark DeRosa's departure. Loretta played a few games at first base for the Red Sox' last season and has also played at shortstop in his career. The only negative for him is that he has never played the outfield.

The former Silver Slugger award winner lead all American League second basemen with 181 hits last season and he proved his durability as he played in 155 games.

Whereever Loretta ends up next season, he will be a productive and consistent hitter.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Baseball salary average up 9 percent to nearly $2.7 million

The inflation of baseball salaries is mind puzzling to me, but this years off season has shown us that salaries will only continue to increase.

By RONALD BLUM, AP Baseball Writer
December 20, 2006

NEW YORK (AP) -- Baseball salaries were booming even before the free-agent escalation that began more than a month ago.

The average salary shot up 9 percent this year to $2,699,292, according to final figures released Wednesday by the Major League Baseball Players Association. The increase was the highest since a 12.8 percent rise in 2001 and makes it likely the $3 million mark will be broken next year or in 2008.

"The increase in the average salary is a reflection of the growth in overall industry revenues, and that while the sport still has significant economic challenges, the increased average is a reflection of the level of the talent on the field," said Bob DuPuy, baseball's chief operating officer.

Baseball salaries are soaring, with Alfonso Soriano ($136 million), Vernon Wells ($126 million) and Carlos Lee ($100 million) agreeing to nine-figure deals since the end of the season, boosting baseball's total of $100 million contracts to 11.

Still, no one has approached Alex Rodriguez's record $252 million, 10-year contract, agreed to after the 2000 season.

The New York Yankees had the highest average salary for the eighth consecutive season, but their average dropped to $6.95 million from a record $7.39 million the previous year.

Houston was second at $4.28 million, up from ninth place in 2005. Boston was third at $3.99 million, down from $4.17 million the previous season, followed by the New York Mets ($3.86 million), the Chicago White Sox ($3.81 million) and the World Series champion St. Louis Cardinals ($3.78 million).

The AL champion Detroit Tigers were ninth at $3.06 million, up from 15th.

Florida's average of $594,722 was the lowest in the major leagues since 1999, when Kansas City was at $534,460, the Marlins at $561,111 and Montreal at $572,290.

Among the teams with the 10 highest averages, only San Francisco ($3.8 million) had a losing record (76-85). Among clubs with the 12 lowest averages, the only one with a winning record was Toronto (87-75).

Third basemen had the highest average among positions ($5.87 million), followed by first basemen ($5.78 million), designated hitters ($5.59 million), outfielders ($4.88 million), starting pitchers ($4.87 million), shortstops ($4.06 million), second basemen ($2.79 million) and relievers ($1.43 million).

Figures were based on Aug. 31 rosters and disabled lists and do not account for money owed to released players or payments teams make or receive to cover parts of salaries of players who have been traded.

The commissioner's office has not computed its final figure, which usually differs from that of the union because of calculation methods.

Yankees hit with $26 million luxury tax, raising total to nearly $98 million

Unfortunately, money does not buy World Championships and the Yankees have learnt that the hard way over the past six seasons.

By RONALD BLUM, AP Baseball Writer
December 23, 2006

NEW YORK (AP) -- World Series titles don't come to Yankee Stadium these days, just tax bills.

The Yankees were slapped with a $26 million luxury tax by the commissioner's office Friday, raising New York's total to $97.75 million over the last four years.

Boston, which missed the playoffs, was the only other team over the tax threshold and will pay $497,549.

New York hasn't won the World Series since 2000, and was knocked out in the first round of the playoffs for the second straight year. The Yankees paid tax in all four seasons of the just-expired collective-bargaining agreement: $11.8 million in 2003, $26 million in 2004 and $34 million for last year.

While the Yankees' spending on players may have decreased because of the tax, the team says any dip was slight.

"I would say it has an effect," Yankees president Randy Levine said. "But at the end of the day, it's always been George Steinbrenner's philosophy to win. If a difference-maker is attainable, the Boss goes and gets him."

At the center of labor negotiations in 2002, the luxury tax was paid by only three teams over the four seasons, with the Red Sox owing $7.8 million and the Anaheim/Los Angeles Angels $927,057.

Payments are due at the commissioner's office by Jan. 31. Commissioner Bud Selig concluded the tax achieved the result management wanted.

"I think it did. I really think, frankly, everything that we did pretty well came out to its projection," he said.

New York's bill decreased this year because its payroll, as calculated for the tax, declined from $212.9 million to $201.5 million and the threshold for where the tax began increased from $128 million to $136.5 million. Under the new labor contract, the threshold for the tax rises to $148 million next year.

For luxury tax purposes, the average annual values of contracts are used and benefits are included.

"The luxury tax is not the something the players are in love with because its purpose is to cause people to have an extra cost when they sign a player," union head Donald Fehr said. "Obviously we were prepared to live with it during the term of the last agreement and we got what we expect will be appropriate modifications this time.

"We didn't really envision specific numbers. What we were hoping was that we would see a circumstance in which it did not have a meaningful adverse effect on the player market, and obviously you have to judge that year by year."

Using the regular method of accounting, the Yankees finished with a $207.5 million payroll for their 40-man roster, according to final figures released Friday by the commissioner's office, up from $206.6 million in 2005.

Boston was a distant second this year at $137.5 million, followed by the New York Mets ($116.6 million), Houston ($107.7 million), the Los Angeles Dodgers ($107.2 million) and the Los Angeles Angels ($104 million).
The World Series champion St. Louis Cardinals were 10th at $96.1 million, and the AL champion Detroit Tigers were 14th at $89.8 million.

Florida, last at $21.1 million, had less than half the payroll of Pittsburgh, 28th at $43.4 million. Tampa Bay was in between them at $36.4 million.

Management calculated the average salary at $2,642,915. The players' association, whose calculation method differs slightly, had the average at $2,699,292 in its annual report this week.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Jeff Suppan and Brandon McCarthy find new homes for the holidays

By David

Last years NLCS MVP Jeff Suppan agreed to a four year deal worth $42 million with the Milwaukee Brewers today. Yesterday, former White Sox pitcher Brandon McCarthy was traded to the Texas Rangers in a five player deal.

Several teams including the Mets, Pirates and Suppan's former team the St.Louis Cardinals were in the hunt for Suppan's services , but the 12 year veteran decided to go where the money was and sign with the Brew crew. With the addition of Suppan, the Brewers now have an extremly solid starting rotation and one that will be able to compete in the tough NL Central.

Brandon McCarthy was acquired by the Rangers along with Minor Leaguer David Paisano for Minor Leaguers John Danks, Nick Masset and Jacob Rasner. In the view point of Texas general manager Jon Daniels ''this is one of the elite, young, now-ready, battle-tested pitchers in the game.''

McCarthy never seemed to find his place with the White Sox, but he will be an impactful addition to a Rangers starting rotation that is in desperate need of quality pitchers. Along with Kevin Milwood and Vicente Padilla, the Rangers have a decent starting three. Still, McCarthy has never started more than ten games in a season and he will need to demonstrate that he can hold up through an entire season.

Suppan was an extremly important signing for a young Brewers pitching staff because he brings stability, leadership and postseason experience. Brewers general manager Doug Melvin said ''We're jumping the gun a little bit, but we wanted to make an announcement before things leaked out.'' It's a certainty that Milwaukee over paid for the right hander, but they believe that they can win now and the addition of Suppan only increases their chances of making the playoffs.

Suppan was 12-2 in his career against the Brew crew and 5-0 at Miller Park. Luckily for them, Suppan will now be in charge of winning games for the Brewers and leading them to the postseason.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Dontrelle Willis is arrested on DUI charges

By David

Just when you thought nothing could go wrong for the Marlins ace, he gets arrested early Friday morning on DUI charges in Miami.

Willis is the face of the Marlins franchise and has become an emerging star throughout baseball. He is one of the top left handed pitchers in the majors and is coming off of another productive season.

It's unfortunate that the soon to be 25 year old who has everything going for him had to commit such a foolish act. Under his attorney's advice he has not commented on the case, but as the days progress we should expect to hear a statement from the electrifying south paw.

I hope that this was only a minor bump in the road for Dontrelle Willis and that he will quickly return to the lovable pitcher that so many of us have become accustomed too.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Jeremy Bonderman remains a Tiger

By David

Not too long ago Tigers starting pitcher Jeremy Bonderman lost 19 games, but this past season he lead his team to their first World Series appearance since 1984. It's fascinating how quickly a young pitcher can go from being one of the worst to one of the elite.

At only 24 years of age, Bonderman has transformed into one of the best young pitchers in the league. Still, it is unthinkable to believe that he can warrant $9.5 million per season. Despite having stellar talent, he has never won more than 14 games in a season or have an ERA under 4.08.

Bonderman could not have responded better to his new contract when he said''They gave me a good offer that will make my family
comfortable.''Sure, what man in their mid twenties would not want to be making nearly ten million per season and belong to one of, if not the best starting rotation in all of baseball.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Radke says goodbye to Twins- MLB.com

Long time Minnesota Twin pitcher Brad Radke retired this week after a productive 12 year big league career. He will be cemented in Twins history as one of their best and most likeable players to ever wear the uniform.

Veteran announces retirement at Tuesday press conference
By Kelly Thesier / MLB.com

• Radke highlight reel: 350K
Radke through the years
A look back at Radke's career highlights
Molony: Consistency key for Radke

MINNEAPOLIS -- His eyes glistened with tears, but Brad Radke was determined not to make his retirement announcement on Tuesday afternoon a sad event.

"It's time to close this chapter and move on," Radke said with a few sniffles as he looked out at the crowd before him. "No tears. I don't want to see any tears from any of you. This should be a happy time for everyone."

It may be the start of another phase in Radke's life, but it was clear by the emotions on display at his retirement press conference that the veteran's departure was the end of a special period for the club.

"He's done just about everything you can ask here," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire told a packed room at the Metrodome. "It's been a pleasure giving him the ball and believe me, I never enjoyed taking it away from him. It's just always been a pleasure with Brad. We're not just losing a great pitcher, but we're losing a great person."

Radke's retirement was not a surprise as it had been talked about since the pitcher signed his last two-year deal with the club following the 2004 season. At the time, he felt that it would be his last contract, and he again echoed that sentiment earlier this spring.

The right-hander admitted that he considered pitching one more year, but after battling a torn labrum and a stress fracture in his right shoulder socket this past season, it was clear that the time to retire was now.

"I know my body real well, and this year I just totally ran out of gas," Radke said.

His numbers may not make him a Hall of Fame pitcher, but the impact that Radke had in Minnesota is hard to ignore. Having come to the club when the Twins were near the bottom of the American League to helping them rise to dominance in the AL Central, Radke certainly had an integral part in the organization's turnaround.

The latter part of the 90s was a dismal time for the Twins as the club was unable to record any winning seasons. It wasn't until 2001 when the team finally began turning a corner, and, of course, Radke, 34, was there for it all.

Twins general manager Terry Ryan spoke on Tuesday of what it meant to the team when Radke agreed to a four-year extension in 2000 to remain in Minnesota, despite all the down years that he had endured.

"It was a turning point in the franchise," Ryan said. "After Brad signed, many others have since followed. It kind of got us on our way."

And it was his legacy as the consistent, stoic leader that will remain etched in Twins fans' minds.

The best testament of Radke's will and his heart may have been the way that he battled through his injuries in his last season. Even when the pain was so great that Radke could barely even hold a ball between starts, the pitcher continued to pitch every fifth day as he was determined to finish out his career by helping his team win.

"All you want is a guy to go out and give you everything he's got," Gardenhire said. "And Brad proved that over and over again in his career, especially this past year. He was broken down, between innings he could barely throw the ball to home plate, but he went out and did it for his teammates. That pretty much says what Brad Radke is all about."

Radke's loyalty to the franchise was also something not often seen in baseball. It's safe to say that Radke is one of the last of a bygone era where players remain with one team for their entire career.

Even though Radke grew up in Florida, he often considered the Twins his hometown team. Radke was born in Eau Claire, Wis., and grew up attending Twins games every summer when he visited his family. So to be able to play for the Twins was something he considered a privilege.

And for him, Minnesota really did become home.

"It's hard to leave this family," Radke said. "These 12 years have been really special."
Family is something that the Twins organization is known for and there were many of Radke's former coaches, teammates and longtime personnel in attendance for his press conference. Former Twins manager Tom Kelly, former teammates Kent Hrbek, Paul Molitor, Terry Steinbach and current Twins pitchers Glen Perkins and Pat Neshek all took part in recognizing Radke's career.

It was such a profound moment for Radke that the normally quiet pitcher kept going on and on, trying to make sure that he thanked all those in attendance who helped him throughout his career. For his extended thank yous, Radke got his fair share of ribbing from the very same people that have spent years professing him to be their quiet leader.

"That's as much as I've heard come out of your mouth in 15 years," Ryan chided Radke during his speech.

And family is the main reason why Radke is stepping away now as he plans to spend more time with his wife, Heather, and their two sons, Kasey, 11, and Ryan, 7.

Exactly how Radke will be remembered will vary from person to person, but if the veteran right-hander had his say in his legacy, it would be fairly simple.

"I'd like to be known a guy that went out there and played with all of his heart," Radke said. "If you don't play this game with your heart, you shouldn't be playing. That's the way I went out every five days."

And it's the way that he went out on Tuesday.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Bagwell's career comes to a close- MLB.com

Major League Baseball saw one of their best players on and off the field retire last week as long time Houston Astro Jeff Bagwell hung up his boots. Bagwell was not only the face of the Astros franchise for the last 15 years because of his on the field contribution, but also for the kind of person he was when away from the game. He was an extremly respected and admirable man and one who will be greatly missed by his peers.

Four-time All-Star's performance leaves lasting effects
By Alyson Footer / MLB.com

Bagwell announces retirement: 350K
• Bagwell's career highlights: 350K
Bagwell retrospective galleries: 1 2
Molony: Why Bagwell is Hall of Fame caliber
Key Bagwell moments, facts

HOUSTON -- After 15 seasons, Jeff Bagwell put an official end to his stellar career Friday, confirming what has been considered as inevitable for several months. Bagwell, the greatest hitter in the 45-year history of the franchise, announced that he is retiring from baseball.

Bagwell ends his career as the all-time club leader with 449 home runs, 1,529 RBIs and 1,401 walks. He recorded a lifetime batting average of .297, and he finished in the top 50 among all Major League players in seven categories: home runs, RBIs, extra-base hits, walks, slugging percentage, OPS and on-base percentage.

A four-time All-Star, Bagwell appeared in the mid-Summer Classic in 1994, '96, '97 and '99. He played in six postseasons and reached his first and only World Series in 2005, serving as the designated hitter in Games 1 and 2.

Bagwell's journey through his Hall of Fame-caliber career began in 1990. He was playing for the Double-A New Britain Red Sox, and in the middle of a game on Aug. 31, his manager, Butch Hobson, pulled him off the field.

Hobson broke the news quickly: Bagwell was headed to Houston, after the Red Sox traded him to the Astros for a much-needed middle reliever.

Bagwell, a native of nearby Killingworth, Conn. who had spent the past two years dreaming of playing third base for his beloved Red Sox, was speechless.

Houston? Texas? Several images popped to mind. Tumbleweeds. Horses. Cowboys. Here he was, steps away from wearing a Red Sox uniform, and now, this New England kid was headed for gosh-knows-where, as part of an organization he knew nothing about. And to make matters worse, he was traded for popular comic reliever Larry Andersen, whom the fans in the Bayou City were not pleased was leaving.

In Boston, the news was barely a blip on the transaction page. Bagwell was behind future Hall of Famer Wade Boggs and prospect Tim Naehring, and his departure from the organization did not elicit much of an outcry. One rather astute baseball observer, however, reacted with disgust when he heard about the trade that night at Fenway Park. He knew the Red Sox would live to regret this.

"They passed out the press release near the dugout at 5," said Hall of Famer Peter Gammons, a Boston native who at the time was covering Major League Baseball for Sports Illustrated. "I rolled it up, tossed it in the trash barrell in the runway, went up the stairs and walked 1 3/4 miles home."

Bagwell may have had a similar reaction, but it didn't take long for him to realize that this trade was the best thing that could have happened to him. The Astros were rebuilding, replacing older veterans with young, inexpensive kids. Bagwell, having played no higher than Double-A, didn't figure to be in the mix in his first year with his new club. But after reviewing how the team was structured, with rookies and unprovens, he thought, well, maybe I have a shot.

He began Spring Training in 1991 as a third baseman behind incumbent Ken Caminiti. A month later, Bagwell hit his way onto the team, as a first baseman, giving the Astros what they figured to be a much better option than Mike Simms, who probably would have been the Opening Day first baseman for the sheer fact that the team didn't have any other viable options.

By the end of the season, Bagwell was the National League's Rookie of the Year. Three years later, he was the National League's Most Valuable Player. And just like that, he went from a homesick Boston kid to one of the most recognizable names on the Houston sports scene.

Beyond the statistics, Bagwell's contributions were priceless. His leadership in the clubhouse was as important as his performance on the field, and it's quite possible no other player in baseball generated more respect from his teammates.

Bagwell had a close, personal relationship with every player on the roster. When a young player was called up or the Astros acquired someone in a trade, Bagwell and Craig Biggio were the first to approach him to welcome him to the team.

Bagwell, remembering how he benefitted as a young player from veterans such as Casey Candaele, often took a young pitcher to dinner after his first Major League win. He was the first to reassure a reliever after a blown save or bad outing that things would be OK.

"He was a superstar-caliber player who really understood what every single player, regardless of their rung on the ladder, was going through," said Brad Ausmus, Bagwell's closest friend on the team. "He could relate to everybody, regardless of their status in baseball and their position on the team. He was very understanding."

In an era in which players are often more concerned about not hurting themselves, especially in a contract year, Bagwell played through an assortment of injuries. And he delivered.

He reached the 300- and 400-homer marks in signature fashion. He hit two off Brewers pitching on Aug. 19, 2000, to reach 300, and in Cincinnati on July 20, 2003, he knocked Nos. 399 and 400. Bagwell is the all-time club leader in multi-homer games, with 31.

Known as one of baseball's most instinctive players, Bagwell was nearly flawless on the basepaths. He stole home three times, including his swipe of the plate on Aug. 18, 2001, which contributed to a 3-0 win over the Pirates.

And his defense was second to none. He turned the 3-6-3 double play into his signature move, executing the somewhat acrobatic act with nearly 100-percent success rate.

"I was floored to see that he only won one Gold Glove," general manager Tim Purpura said. "I never saw a first baseman be that agile. Crashing in on bunts, whirling and throwing to second. He was a great defender."

Bagwell and Biggio were inducted into the Texas Baseball Hall of Fame on Nov. 12, 2004, and the Texas Sports Hall of Fame Feb. 9, 2005. As for Cooperstown, Bagwell will be eligible for that honor in 2011. After 15 stellar seasons as one of baseball's elite, he has a great chance to make it a hat trick.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Talks progressing on new Marlins' home- MLB.com

The Marlins want to call South Florida home for many years to come and now MLB has begun to step in to see that this becomes a reality. Despite not having a strong fan base, the fish have been very successful in their 14 years of existence and they want to continue their winning ways in the city of Miami.

MLB helping team secure funding for stadium in South Florida
By Joe Frisaro / MLB.com

MIAMI -- If no news is good news, then this was an encouraging week for the Marlins' stadium effort.

Earlier this week, Major League Baseball president Bob DuPuy was in South Florida taking part in a series of stadium-related meetings with team and local officials.

Securing funding for a new Marlins' home has become a high-league priority, and Major League Baseball has assumed an active role in the push to end more than a decade of stadium struggles in South Florida.

The Marlins had no comment on the meetings, which have quietly been going on outside of the public's eye.

MLB.com has learned that stadium talks are progressing.

One proposed site that is gaining momentum is the city of Miami, just south of the Miami Arena off I-95. Pompano, in Broward County, is also a viable location. And the city of Hialeah, in Miami-Dade County, is another possibility.

Since their inaugural 1993 season, the Marlins have been sharing Dolphin Stadium with the Miami Dolphins. A series of leases to remain in a park designed primarily for football expires after the 2010 season.

To secure the long-term stability of the franchise, the Marlins have long been searching for their own park, which would offer the team a much more favorable revenue stream.

With the Marlins having to be out of their current home after 2010, the clock is ticking to get a deal done in the near future. It takes three years to build a park, and ideally the team would like to move into a new home in 2010 rather than remain for the final year of their Dolphin Stadium deal.

Due to South Florida's scorching hot temperatures, and unpredictable rain patterns, the Marlins insist that a retractable-roof park is a necessity. One reason the city of Miami site is attractive is because parking isn't part of the estimated $430 million cost for a 38,000-seat facility.

The city of Miami has ample public parking already in the surrounding areas, plus the stadium would be accessible by the Metrorail train system.

DuPuy's presence at these meetings is significant because it shows the league's desire to keep baseball entrenched in South Florida.

Last year, the Marlins were granted permission to seek relocation after a proposed stadium plan next to the Orange Bowl in Miami fell through.

Marlins officials visited other markets, and while San Antonio, Texas, was impressive, there is no talk now of relocation.

MLB and team management want the franchise, with two World Series titles in their relatively brief history, to remain in South Florida.

Finding the Marlins a new home has moved up on the league's priority list because a series of events -- which includes the launching of the first World Baseball Classic, the new collective bargaining agreement and the Twins and A's stadium stalemates -- have all been addressed

Wells and Blue Jays agree to $126 million, 7 year extension- AP

Blue Jays Outfielder Vernon Wells was given an early holiday present on Friday as he agreed to a new contract worth a whopping $126 million. By keeping their franchise player, Toronto is able to keep their quest alive of over taking the Yankees and winning the AL East.

By ROB GILLIES, Associated Press Writer
December 16, 2006

TORONTO (AP) -- Vernon Wells said he wanted to take care of his kid's kids. He'll get that chance with the Toronto Blue Jays.

The All-Star center fielder and the Blue Jays agreed Friday night to a $126 million, seven-year contract extension through 2014, the sixth-largest deal in baseball history.

"How can you not be happy?" Wells said during a telephone interview with The Associated Press hours before terms of the deal were finalized. "Like I said, my family comes first. Obviously this gives me an opportunity to set my family up for a couple of generations. That's the biggest part of this thing. And this gives me a chance to do something special in Toronto that hasn't been done in a while."

The contract value trails only those of Alex Rodriguez ($252 million), Derek Jeter ($189 million), Manny Ramirez ($160 million), Todd Helton ($141.5 million) and Alfonso Soriano ($136 million). It is the 13th $100 million deal in baseball history and the third of the offseason, following those of Soriano with the Cubs and Carlos Lee ($100 million) with Houston.

Wells is due $5.6 million next season in the final year of his old contract. The extension calls for a $25.5 million signing bonus, payable in three $8.5 million installments each March 1 in 2008, 2009 and 2010. He will receive a salary of just $500,000 in 2008 and $1.5 million in 2009, but his salary jumps to $12.5 million in 2010 and $23 million in 2011. Wells receives $21 million in each of the final three seasons.

Under the extension, Wells has the right to terminate his agreement after the 2011 season and become eligible for free agency.

He gets a full no-trade clause and could earn bonuses of $250,000 for MVP, $200,000 for World Series MVP, $150,000 for league championship series MVP and $100,000 for receiving the most votes in his league in All-Star game balloting.

In addition, he will donate $143,000 annually to the Jays Care Foundation.

Wells hit .303 with 32 homers and 106 RBIs last season. He would have been eligible for free agency after next season.

He thought about trying to play with his hometown Texas Rangers.

"The ballpark is 20 minutes from my house. It's obviously a temptation, but (with) everything that I've gone through with Toronto and the relationships I've built there, it's tough to leave," Wells said.

The contract is the largest in franchise history -- dwarfing the $68 million, four-year deal that Carlos Delgado got from Toronto in 2000.

"We've said all along we're going to make every effort to sign him," general manager J.P. Ricciardi said Friday afternoon.

Ricciardi inherited Delgado's contract when the team's payroll was around $50 million, but it will be more than $90 million next season. A stronger Canadian dollar and ownership of the Rogers Center is allowing the team to spend more.

In the final month of the season, Rogers Communications chief executive officer Ted Rogers agreed that the team needed to increase its $72 million payroll to compete with New York and Boston in the AL East. The Blue Jays finished second in the division, trailing New York, which had an opening-day payroll of $198 million. Boston ($120 million) finished third.

Ricciardi said retaining Wells gives Toronto one of the best lineups in baseball.

"I know Gibby likes him in the third hole. We like our lineup. We think it's as good a lineup as there is in the American League," Ricciardi said.

Toronto could have traded Wells if it didn't get an extension done. While Toronto lost out on signing free agent pitchers Ted Lilly and Gil Meche, Ricciardi denied that those decisions freed up the money to sign Wells.

The contract is somewhat of a surprise because Ricciardi said after the season that if Wells wanted a contract similar the seven-year, $119 million deal Carlos Beltran got with the New York Mets two years ago they wouldn't be able to handle it.

The Blue Jays didn't include Wells in advertisements this winter, leading many to speculate that they wouldn't re-sign him.

Wells said the contract doesn't necessarily mean he'll retire a Blue Jay.

"It all depends on where my career is," he said.

AP Baseball Writer Ronald Blum in New York contributed to this report.

Updated on Saturday, Dec 16, 2006 2:58 am EST

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Daisuke Matsuzaka ends up in Boston

By David

The negotiations might have went down to the wire, but the Boston Red Sox and stud pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka were able to come to terms on a contract. Over the next 6 years, Matsuzaka will be making a comfortable $52 million and when you include incentives the deal could total $60 million. On top of the $51.1 million the Red Sox paid Matsizkaka's former team the Seibu Lions just to speak with the pitcher, this investment in the Japanese star totals $103.11 million.

Boston was able to sign Daisuke just in time because the deadline to come to terms with him was Thursday at midnight. There was no way that Daisuke wanted to return to Japan and he was content with the offer the Red Sox made him. On the other hand his agent Scott Boras who has become famous for getting players outrageous contratcts over the years was holding out until he got his client what he believed to be fair market value.

Boras was eyeing the $11 million that Gil Meche received from the Royals earlier this month, but for a player who has never thrown a pitch in a major league game $8.66 million per season is extremely respectable. Matsuzaka comes over to the states with very impressive credentials. In his Japanese career he had a 108-60 record to go along with a 2.95 ERA. He was also named MVP of this years World Baseball Classic.

The Boston brain trust that had to fly over to California just to solidify a contract with the pitcher is very confident that he will fit in nicely in an already potent starting rotation. He will be added to a staff that includes Schilling, Beckett, Papelbon, Wakefield and possibly Lester who is currently recovering from cancer. After struggling last season, the Red Sox instantly become contenders in a tough American League.

Still, if they want to overtake the Yankees in the AL East they will need to find a closer because last years man Jonathan Papelbon defected to the starting rotation. Matsuzaka said "I'm very happy and excited to be a member of the Boston Red Sox " and the Red Sox fans will be equally as pleased to have him if he can duplicate the success that he had over in Japan.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Busy day in the world of Baseball

By David

Today was an extremely hectic day around Major League Baseball as players continued to sign with new teams. Today is also the deadline for clubs to tender contracts to their arbitrationally eligible players and many teams decided to let players walk.

The Baltimore Orioles improved their offense by signing veteran Outfielder Jay Payton to a two year deal worth $9.5 million. Formerly of the A's, Payton is a versatile player who can play all three Outfield positions and will fit in nicely in the O's lineup. After not tendering a deal to right hander Joel Pineiro, the Mariners went out and signed fellow right hander Miguel Batista to a three year contract worth a staggering $27 million.

Batista pitched last season in the desert for the Diamondbacks where he won 11 games and posted a 4.58 ERA. I'm curious to see what Seattle management thought was so enticing about Batista. I might not be a general manager, but when I take a look at Batista's career the fact that he's lost 11 more games than he's won and that he has a career 4.46 ERA doesn't make me want to offer him $9 million per season.

On a positive note, the Texas Rangers reached an agreement with former NL Cy Young winner Eric Gagne on a one year contract. He has battled injuries over the last two seasons, but it's nice to see that he'll get a fresh start in Arlington.

Marcus Giles has spent his entire six year major league career as a member of the Atlanta Braves. Unfortunately, next season Giles will be calling another city home after becoming another example of a player who was not tendered a contract by his team. The Padres seem like the most logical choice for him to land because his brother Brian is the teams Right Fielder.

The list of other big leaguers who were not tendered contracts include: the Dodgers Jayson Werth and Toby Hall, Atlanta's Chris Reitsma, the Yankees Aaron Guiel, the Mets Victor Zambrano and the Tigers ''playoff hero'' Alexis Gomez.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Freddy Garcia in the city of brotherly love

By David

The Philadelphia Phillies enjoyed a successful winter meetings as they were able to trade for work horse Freddy Garcia. In exchange for the two time all star, Philly shipped pitchers Gavin Floyd and Gio Gonzalez to the windy city.

Almost a week after the deal was completed Garcia is finally speaking out about his new team. He recently added that "I'm really happy to go to Philadelphia" and that ''It's a young team with good players." The 30 year old right hander will be on his third team since 2004. He will be able to provide playoff leadership to his new team and teach his teammates about the art of winning.

Along with the off season signing of Adam Eaton, the Phillies are constructing a pretty formidable starting rotation that will be able to contend with the Mets for the NL East crown. Presently, Philadelphia's starting rotation includes Garcia, Eaton, Lieber, Moyer, Hamels and Myers. Myers and Hamels are two solid youngsters and at the age of 44 Jamie Moyer has the ability to nurture these two young pitchers.

Obviously, with the addition of Garcia the Phillies head into spring training with six starting pitchers. The question to ask is who will be the odd man out in Charlie Manuel's rotation? Will it be Adam Eaton who is getting paid slightly over $ 8 million per season or might veteran Jon Lieber be traded.

Garcia is coming off an impressive 17 win season with the White Sox and he will need to continue pitching well if the Phillies are to have any chance of making the playoffs. Despite winning 85 games in 2006 Philadelphia lost out on the Wild Card to the Dodgers. Freddy Garcia recently said "I love to pitch." and hopefully his love for the game can elevate the Phillies into the postseason.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Rule 5 Pick Pitches A Perfecto- MLB.com

The Kansas City Royals have been the laughing stock of baseball over the last few seasons, but maybe their luck has finally changed. The Royals selected pitcher Joakim Soria in this years Rule 5 draft and the first thing Soria did as a member of the Royals 40 man roster was pitch a perfect game for his team in the Mexican Pacific League. The Royals will get their first up close and personal look at how great this right hander is during spring training.

It took Joakim Soria about 48 hours to justify the Kansas City Royals' faith.

Two days after the Royals made him the second overall pick in the Major League phase of the Rule 5 Draft, Soria pitched a perfect game in the Mexican Pacific League on Saturday night as the Yaquis de Obregon blanked the Naranjeros de Hermosillo, 6-0.

Soria already was dominating the winter circuit, leading all three pitching triple crown categories (9-0, 1.77 ERA, 73 strikeouts). But the 22-year-old right-hander struck out nine and threw 101 pitches to remain unbeaten.

Soria tamed a lineup that included one current and one former big leaguer. Jerry Hairston Jr. batted leadoff for the Naranjeros and failed to get the ball out of the infield in three at-bats, while Geronimo Gil struck out and grounded out before leaving for a defensive replacement.

Making his 11th start for the Yaquis, Soria struck out Braves prospect Ivan Terrazas and Jorge Luis Valle to begin the ninth inning. With the count full, he retired Alejandro Ahumada on a ground ball to third base on his 101st pitch to finish off the third no-hitter in league history.

It was the first complete game of the season for Soria, who missed all of 2003 due to an injury. As a member of the Padres organization, he made seven relief appearances for Class A Fort Wayne in 2006 and went 1-0 with a 2.31 ERA. Before joining the Wizards, the 6-foot-2, 170-pounder served as the closer for the Mexican League's Diablos Rojos and compiled 15 saves and a 3.89 ERA in 39 games.

When Kansas City selected Soria from San Diego on Thursday, Royals general manager Dayton Moore raved about his repertoire.

"He throws three above-average pitches, and his mound presence was outstanding," Moore said. "He was almost too good to be true when we saw him."

To clear a spot on the 40-man roster, Kansas City released one-time top prospect Runelvys Hernandez.

"I think (Soria's) going to fit in well with some of the young arms we have coming into the organization," Moore said. "I think he's got a chance, a year from now, to be mentioned in the same vein with some of our younger prospects. He could be that kinda guy for us."

The Yaquis scored all of their runs on homers. Adan Munoz slugged a grand slam in the fourth inning off reliever Juan Alvarez, while Colorado Rockies outfielder Ryan Spilborghs and Kit Pellow connected for back-to-back solo shots in the fifth.

Daren Smith is a staff writer for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Barry Bonds Remains With The SF Giants - SF Chronicle

All I can say is "Yeah!"

$16 million, 1-year deal would allow slugger to chase homer record in S.F. uniform
John Shea, Henry Schulman, Chronicle Staff Writers
Friday, December 8, 2006

(12-08) 04:00 PST Lake Buena Vista, Fla. -- Roll in the leather recliner. Dust off the row of lockers. Alert the entourage.

Barry Bonds is ready to sign with the Giants for next season.

A source close to contract negotiations confirmed that Bonds and the Giants had reached an agreement on a one-year contract for $16 million, and the deal would be consummated once certain language is finalized and Bonds passes a physical.

"We're working real hard to get something done," Bonds' agent, Jeff Borris, said early this morning. "I'm optimistic we're going to get something done."

Giants Executive Vice President Larry Baer had no comment other than to say, "Some progress was made."

Early Thursday, sources on both sides of the negotiations said they believed the deal was on the verge of being done. In recent days, the sides narrowed the gap on how many millions Bonds would make in 2007 -- he wanted to be paid in the high teens, and the Giants preferred to pay in the low teens.

There was substantial give-and-take on both ends. Bonds wanted a vested option, hoping he could secure a second year by staying healthy, but the Giants insisted on only a one-year deal. They agreed to a higher base salary if Bonds took his eye off a second year, and it took weeks of hard negotiating to reach the compromise.

The deal, according to the Associated Press, includes performance bonuses that could push it to $20 million.

The sides had a series of phone conversations Thursday, one day after a three-hour meeting involving Borris and general manager Brian Sabean and a follow-up phone call.

Further dialogue was necessary to resolve issues, some nonmonetary, and it's possible the Giants will regulate Bonds differently -- for example, limit his number of assistants and their access.

As the winter meetings ended, Sabean hinted he wasn't willing to wait much longer to cut a deal. He was asked if he had any idea if other teams were interested in Bonds.

"No," he said.

Did he care?


Bonds didn't attend the Giants' negotiations here -- "It wasn't prudent," Sabean said -- but Borris made it seem Bonds was at the winter meetings hotel to visit with multiple teams. As the meetings ended, however, no other team emerged with legitimate interest in the 42-year-old left fielder.

Though published reports pointed to the Cardinals as the mystery team that could enter negotiations, they were no mystery at all. GM Walt Jocketty told reporters after Thursday morning's Rule 5 draft, "There's nothing on with Bonds. I'm sick and tired of people asking that. We don't have money for Bonds. We're trying to sign pitching."

The Cardinals never were interested in Bonds, sources said, and the stories were generated based on manager Tony La Russa's intrigue with big-name players. While Borris met with the Cardinals on Wednesday, sources said, Bonds was not present. On the other hand, Bonds did meet with Tigers manager Jim Leyland, apparently a long-awaited social visit.

With Cardinals owner Bill DeWitt a close friend of President Bush -- who called for pro leagues to get rid of steroids in his 2004 State of the Union address -- and the Cardinals still stinging from Mark McGwire's connection with the steroid scandal and embarrassing performance at a congressional hearing in 2005, St. Louis was never a fit.

It seemed clear Borris brought Bonds to the winter meetings to drum up interest for his client, but the Giants said his presence did not affect or accelerate negotiations.

What did alter negotiations was the free-agent market, which saw Alfonso Soriano sign for $136 million and Carlos Lee for $100 million, thus helping Bonds' bargaining power. The Giants pursued both players, along with a trade for Manny Ramirez, and adding any of them probably would have ended Bonds' time in San Francisco.

Instead, he's headed for a 15th season with the Giants. Though he's 22 home runs from breaking Hank Aaron's all-time record, Bonds wasn't attractive to other teams largely because of his involvement in the BALCO steroids scandal. From the outset, the Giants seemed Bonds' only possible choice.

Although Borris repeatedly said Bonds' main focus was winning a World Series, the Giants have posted consecutive losing seasons and lost ace pitcher Jason Schmidt to free agency. But Bonds often talked of retiring with the Giants, for whom his father (Bobby) and godfather (Willie Mays) played.

Bonds won five of his seven MVP awards with the Giants and set the single-season homers record in 2001. His last MVP was in 2004, and he was limited to 14 games in 2005 after undergoing multiple knee surgeries.

Last season, he played 130 games and didn't go on the disabled list. He hit .271 with 26 homers and 77 RBIs. He's coming off a five-year, $90 million contract.

E-mail the writers at jshea@sfchronicle.com and hschulman@sfchronicle.com.

Andy Pettitte returns to the Yankees

By David

Andy Pettitte and the New York Yankees have agreed on a one year deal worth $16 million. Pettitte will be returning to the team that he helped win four World Series titles during his first nine seasons in the Bronx.

After spending the last three seasons pitching along side his good friend and former Yankee Roger Clemens in Houston, Pettitte began to contemplate retirement. He had an immediate offer from Brian Cashman on the table and decided that he will end his career where it began.

This is a great and much overdue move by the Bronx Bombers who should have never let their star lefty defect to his home town team. This signing will bring stability and a regained sense of pride to the Yankees who have struggled to find a true sense of character since Pettitte left.

The veteran will be re-united with former teammates Mariano Rivera, Derek Jeter, Bernie Williams and battery mate Jorge Posada. During his nine stellar seasons in New York, Pettitte posted a 149 and 78 record to go along a 3.94 ERA. He also won 13 postseason games and helped the Yankees capture the AL East seven times. Pettitte is definitely accustomed to the pressures of October and the Yankees will need his veteran leadership if they want to return to the World Series. Ironically, the last time the Bronx Bombers represented the AL in the World Series was in Pettitte's final year in pinstripes.

Fellow pitcher Mike Mussina commented that "It will be good to have him back." and as a whole, all of New York can't wait for him to toe the rubber at Yankee Stadium for one more go around. Is it possible that the signing of Pettitte will foreshadow a return by his close friend Roger Clemens to the Bronx? It seems that both men are closely attached and that the actions of one man predicates what the other one does. Only time will tell, but I hope that the rocket will follow in the foot steps of Andy Pettitte and end his career as a New York Yankee.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Greg Maddux signs with the Padres

By David

Twenty one year veteran and to be hall of famer Greg Maddux has agreed to a one year contract with the San Diego Padres. During his illustrious career Maddux has compiled 333 career wins and an impressive 3.07 ERA.

He will be added to a starting rotation that already includes all star Jake Peavy, Chris Young, Clay Hensley and Tim Stauffer. Last season, the Padres posted the lowest ERA in the NL at 3.87 and were the only team to see their ERA be under four. With the addition of Maddux and former pitching coach Bud Black as their new manager, the Padres are stating a strong case as a team that will be able to compete with the Cardinals and Mets for National League supremacy.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Oakland A's Barry Zito To Meet With Texas Rangers

Oh. Oh. Don't look now, but Barry Zito's meeting with the Texas Rangers, who just hired Ron Washington, the A"s ace third-base coach. According to MickSports, which you can view with a click on the title of this post, Zito met with Rangers Officials including owner Tom Hicks this week.

Looks like the A's are set to lose another great player.

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