Sun, Dec 12, 2004 - Page 24 News List

Arizona works to rebuild team after horrendous season


Just down the road from the Disney's Magic Kingdom, major league teams toyed with trades and focused on free agents as the winter meetings began Friday.

Russ Ortiz, Steve Finley and Richard Hidalgo found new teams, though there were no trades announced.

Arizona, coming off a 111-loss season, set the free-agent pace for the second straight day, agreeing to a US$33 million, four-year contract with Ortiz in an effort to complement Randy Johnson in its starting rotation.

Finley, who started last season with the Diamondbacks and finished it with the Dodgers, moved down Interstate 5, agreeing to a US$14 million, two-year contract with the Anaheim Angels.

The Texas Rangers agreed to a US$5 million, one-year deal with right fielder Richard Hidalgo, who split last season between Houston and the New York Mets. And the Florida Marlins reached preliminary agreements with relievers Antonio Alfonseca and Todd Jones.

As for the biggest names, agents appeared to be holding back, waiting for the market to rise even higher.

"When you look at last year's attendance growth, all those things put more money in the marketplace," Mets general manager Omar Minaya said.

Carlos Beltran, Adrian Beltre, Jason Varitek and Derek Lowe are represented by Scott Boras, whose clients have not reached deals until later in the offseason in recent years.

Yankees general manager Brian Cashman expected to talk Friday night with Boras and with other top agents during the weekend, including Scott Shapiro, who represents Carl Pavano. Cashman also said Yankees pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre and staff ace Mike Mussina were to have called Pavano in the past week.

"He just needs some time to see where his heart is," Shapiro said.

Anaheim, Baltimore, Boston, Detroit and Seattle also are competing for Pavano, who pretty much has ruled out returning to the Marlins.

"At this point in time, I'd say it's very slim," Shapiro said. "Ultimately, I don't know if they have the financial resources to compete as the market has matured to a certain level."

New York is close to an agreement with Jaret Wright on a US$21 million, three-year deal, and Cashman would like to get at least one other starting pitcher this weekend. He's been talking with Eric Milton, remains interested in Pedro Martinez and said he received a telephone call Thursday from a familiar voice -- David Wells.

Boston, coming off its first World Series title since 1918, offered a one-year contract to Wells. The Red Sox also hope to re-sign Martinez and Varitek.

"I'm sure before all the players are off the board, there will be players for whom the price is right for the Boston Red Sox," Boston GM Theo Epstein said.

Sammy Sosa, Mike Piazza, Barry Zito, Tim Hudson and Shawn Green have all been mentioned in trade talk, but it appears Randy Johnson and Kevin Brown won't be going anywhere soon.

The Diamondbacks said Friday that while Johnson had asked them to explore trading him to a contender, they expect the 41-year-old left-hander will remain in Arizona. The Yankees pulled out of talks last week, saying Arizona's asking price was too high, and it's not clear whether the Big Unit would waive his no-trade clause to go anywhere else.

New Arizona chief executive officer Jeff Moorad said the talks were over and would not resume unless "they choose to re-engage."

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