Thu, Dec 02, 2004 - Page 20 News List

Martinez waits on Yankees

AP , NEW YORKAP, WILLOWBROOK, ILLINOIS

With an offer in hand from the New York Mets, Pedro Martinez will wait to see what the New York Yankees do before deciding where he'll play next year.

The Dominican free-agent ace isn't close to making a decision on where to sign, a person close to Martinez said Tuesday on condition of anonymity.

Martinez is likely to wait until the Yankees determine their level of interest, which could hinge on whether they acquire Randy Johnson from Arizona in a trade that could send Javier Vazquez to the Diamondbacks.

The Mets, trying to make a splash in the free-agent market, offered a US$37.5 million, three-year contract last weekend, an agent with knowledge of the proposal said, also on condition of anonymity. The offer contains an option for a fourth season that could make the deal worth US$50 million over four years, the agent said.

Boston has offered a two-year deal to retain Martinez and must decide by Dec. 7 whether to offer salary arbitration, which would extend the window for the World Series champion Red Sox to re-sign him until Jan. 8.

Martinez's agent, Fernando Cuza, would not comment on the Mets' proposal, which was first reported Tuesday in several New York and Boston newspapers. New Mets general manager Omar Minaya declined comment.

Yankees owner George Steinbrenner met with Martinez in Tampa, Florida, on Nov. 18, and Martinez also met with New York third baseman Alex Rodriguez.

But the Yankees' primary interest in recent days appears to be Johnson, the 41-year-old left-hander who would prefer to leave the rebuilding Diamondbacks and play for a contender. The Yankees and Diamondbacks have been discussing a trade involving the five-time Cy Young pitching award winner for several weeks, but talks haven't gained any momentum, several baseball officials said.

Steinbrenner met in Tampa with top aides Mark Newman and Billy Connors on Tuesday.

Boston, coming off its first World Series title since 1918, has not publicly discussed its offer to retain Martinez, who teamed with Curt Schilling to give the Red Sox a powerful starting rotation.

A 33-year-old right-hander who has won three Cy Young Awards, Martinez's ERA rose from 2.22 to 3.90 last season, the highest of his career. He went 16-9 in 33 starts, his most losses since 1996.

He has excelled at Shea Stadium, going 5-1 with a 1.17 ERA in five starts and two relief appearances, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

The six-time All-Star went 117-37 with a 2.52 ERA for the Red Sox over the past seven seasons, and has a 182-76 record and 2.71 ERA in a 13-year major league career that also included stints with Los Angeles and Montreal.

Under the Mets' plan, the option year would become guaranteed if Martinez reached performance levels, similar to Tom Glavine's deal with New York. Glavine's contract calls for the 2006 option to be guaranteed if he pitches 200 innings next season or 560 over 2003-2005. He has 395 2-3 innings in his first two seasons.

A complete set of 1914 Cracker Jack baseball cards featuring "Shoeless" Joe Jackson and Ty Cobb has been sold for a record US$800,000.

The cards did not have the usual caramel stains found on many Cracker Jack cards and were in pristine condition, said Doug Allen, president of MastroNet Inc., an auction house in this Chicago suburb. He said the previous record for a complete set of baseball cards was US$360,000.

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