Before the major league baseball world gathered in California for the winter meetings, Arizona snapped up third baseman Troy Glaus and Los Angeles added second baseman Jeff Kent in a pair of big-money deals involving All-Stars.
Glaus, the 2002 World Series most valuable player for Anaheim, agreed Thursday to a US$45 million, four-year contract with the last-place Diamondbacks.
Los Angeles didn't even wait for the formal start of the meetings to hold the first news conference at the hotel where baseball officials will gather in Anaheim, traveling south to announce a US$17 million, two-year contract with Kent, who helped Houston come within a game of its first National League pennant.
In other deals Thursday, the Chicago White Sox agreed to a US$10.15 million, two-year contract with outfielder Jermaine Dye; San Diego agreed to a US$1 million, one-year deal with outfielder Eric Young; and 46-year-old first baseman Julio Franco stayed with the Atlanta Braves for a US$1 million, one-year deal.
Plenty of big names are likely to be bandied about on the trade market when baseball officials gather Friday for their annual weekend of business and gossip. At last year's meetings in New Orleans, there were 13 trades, eight deals with free agents who agreed to major league contracts and six more contracts with free agents that were agreed to but not announced.
Randy Johnson, Sammy Sosa, Mike Piazza, Kevin Brown, Barry Zito, Tim Hudson and Shawn Green all have been mentioned in trade talk, but there's been no indication their teams are ready finalize any deals.
Most of the biggest names among free agents have held off agreeing to contracts, among them pitchers Pedro Martinez, Derek Lowe, Carl Pavano, Russ Ortiz, Eric Milton and Kevin Millwood; first basemen Carlos Delgado and Richie Sexson; third baseman Adrian Beltre; outfielders Carlos Beltran and Magglio Ordonez; and catcher Jason Varitek.
Fifty-four of the 207 free agents have agreed to contracts thus far, five fewer than on the eve of last year's meetings.
Glaus, slowed by a shoulder injury the past two seasons, is being counted on by Arizona to fill the void left by Sexson.
"He's a cornerstone player," general manager Joe Garagiola Jr. said of Glaus. "What he brings is one of the issues we felt we needed to address. Now we've done that and I'm confident in saying there will be more to come."
Glaus, 28, hit .284 with an American League-leading 47 home runs in 2000, followed by 41 homers in 2001 and 30 in the Angels' World Series championship season of 2002. In Anaheim's seven-game World Series triumph over San Francisco, he hit .385 with three home runs and eight RBIs.
The three-time All-Star played in only 91 games in 2003 because of the shoulder problems, then appeared in 29 games last season before arthroscopic surgery. Glaus returned in late August, and hit seven of his 18 home runs in the final month of the season to help the Angels to the division title.
"It's healed. It's fixed," Glaus said. "Now it's just a matter of time in the throwing program and thing's like that, and I'll be ready for spring without any doubt."
His deal includes a signing bonus of US$4 million and annual salaries of US$8 million, US$9 million, US$10.5 million and US$12.5 million. The contract also provides Glaus a hotel suite on road trips and up to US$250,000 reimbursement per year for personal business expenses.