Thu, Jan 27, 2005 - Page 20 News List

Carlos Delgado may be contender with the Florida Marlins


Carlos Delgado wanted to play for a contender, and the Florida Marlins look like one now.

Delgado agreed Tuesday to a US$52 million, four-year contract. The deal, which includes an option year making it potentially worth US$64 million over five seasons, is contingent on Delgado passing a physical Wednesday.

With the addition of the Puerto Rican free-agent first baseman, Florida becomes perhaps the team to beat in the National League East.

"It's a spectacular day for the franchise," owner Jeffrey Loria said in a telephone interview with AP. "I'm going to spring training tomorrow. I'm not waiting."

The Marlins won the World Series in 1997 and 2003 but still are seeking their first division title. They also want to win support for a new ballpark.

"We're about trying to be a very competitive ballclub, and the stadium will take of itself in due time," Loria said. "But Carlos certainly is not going to hurt that effort."

The Marlins landed the most formidable left-handed power hitter in their 12-season history, and it took the franchise's richest per-season deal to do it. Florida won out over the New York Mets, Texas and Baltimore.

New York also made a US$52 million, four-year offer, of which US$2 million was the buyout of a fifth-year option.

"You can't win them all," Mets general manager Omar Minaya said. "You don't like losing, but those things happen."

Delgado's side calculated that in present-day value, New York's offer was worth US$30,000 more than Florida's.

"From day one, we have told everyone that Carlos would make his choice based on where he felt he had the best chance to win a World Series," wrote his agent, David Sloane, in an e-mail. "I'm proud to say that is exactly why he made the choice he made."

The Marlins made an initial offer of US$35 million for three years, then went even higher to win the bidding. The contract will push their payroll above US$56 million for the first time.

Delgado, 32, batted .269 with 32 homers and 99 RBIs last season. He also drew attention for protesting the US-Iraq war by refusing to stand when "God Bless America" was played at ballparks across the majors.

He hit at least 30 homers each of the past eight seasons, all with Toronto.

The Marlins were 11th in the NL in runs and 12th in homers last year. Their top left-handed hitter, Juan Pierre, totaled three home runs.

Even so, Florida was in the race for a wild-card berth until mid-September, finishing 83-79, 13 games behind division winner Atlanta. The team lost ace Carl Pavano and closer Armando Benitez to free agency but added veteran left-hander Al Leiter and has slotted Guillermo Mota to be the closer.

The lineup will include Pierre, Luis Castillo, All-Stars Miguel Cabrera, Mike Lowell and Paul Lo Duca -- and now Delgado. A news conference was tentatively set for Thursday.

Kidnappers holding the mother of Detroit Tigers pitcher Ugueth Urbina have demanded a US$3 million ransom, but have not contacted the family in several weeks, Venezuelan police said Tuesday.

Ten police detectives in an anti-kidnapping unit are on the case and believe 54-year-old Maura Villarreal is still being held hostage. Police said the strategy of making no contact is a common ploy used by kidnappers in the South American country.

Urbina's mother disappeared from her home on the outskirts of Caracas on Sept. 1.

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