Wed, Dec 10, 2003 - Page 20 News List

Kazuo Matsui may finalize Mets deal in New York visit

AP , NEW YORK

The Anaheim Angels closed in on pitcher Bartolo Colon, shortstop Nomar Garciaparra expressed dismay at Boston's talks to acquire Alex Rodriguez, and Japanese shortstop Kazuo Matsui arrived in New York to complete his deal with the Mets.

The day after baseball's first big offseason deadline passed, teams plotted moves in advance of the winter meetings, which start Friday in New Orleans.

There were only two free-agent signings, with right-hander Kerry Ligtenberg agreeing to a US$4.5 million, two-year contract with Toronto and outfielder Eduardo Perez settling on a US$1.7 million, two-year deal with Tampa Bay. But other deals were percolating.

Twenty-five free agents were offered salary arbitration before Sunday's midnight deadline. They have until Dec. 19 to accept and can re-sign with their former teams through Jan. 8. The 139 free agents not offered arbitration can't re-sign until May 1.

Among those cut off by the deadline were pitcher Greg Maddux and Atlanta, catcher Ivan Rodriguez and Florida, and outfielder Vladimir Guerrero and Montreal.

"There was absolutely no possibility this was going to fit into our operating scheme this year," Braves general manager John Schuerholz said of Maddux. "I would have loved to have seen him say, `I want to stay with the Braves no matter what. I want to achieve these goals wearing a Braves uniform. I want to stay.' We all would have loved that. But our economics and his economics weren't anywhere near each other."

Colon was close to a big money-deal Monday.

While neither Colon nor the Angels discussed the talk, both Anaheim and the Chicago White Sox believed the right-hander was on the verge of a deal with Anaheim, said two baseball officials who were familiar with details of Colon's negotiations with the two teams. The pair spoke on the condition of anonymity.

Anaheim offered a US$48 million, four-year contract, one of the officials said. Once a preliminary agreement is reached, the right-hander still must pass a physical.

Colon was only 15-13 with a 3.87 ERA this year, but he's coveted for his durability and consistency.

His agent, Mitch Frankel, did not return several telephone calls from The Associated Press. Angels general manager Bill Stoneman refused to confirm or deny talks.

The Angels could be dealing again if the Alex Rodriguez-Manny Ramirez trade goes through. Garciaparra would be out of a job, and it's believed the Red Sox could trade him to the Angels for a pitcher, possibly Jarrod Washburn, or second baseman Adam Kennedy.

"I'd definitely be hurt," Garciaparra said Monday in an interview with Boston's WEEI radio. "I'm in a place that I've given so much of my life and so much of my effort."

In New York, the Mets welcomed Matsui after the shortstop accepted their US$20.1 million, three-year offer. He was welcomed at John F. Kennedy International Airport by Mets chief operating officer Jeff Wilpon and New York GM Jim Duquette.

While New York hasn't formally acknowledged the signing, Mets spokesman Jay Horwitz said Matsui will have a physical Tuesday and the team will have a news conference Wednesday.

In addition to his salary, Matsui's contract includes a full no-trade clause and gives him the right to become a free agent again after the 2006 season, a source told AP, speaking on the condition of anonymity.

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