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BASEBALL NOTEBOOK

Mariners reel in Ichiro for four more years

Right fielder Ichiro Suzuki agreed to a four-year contract with the Mariners yesterday, ensuring the three-time All-Star with Gold Glove defense and exciting leadoff hitting will remain in Seattle.

 

The 30-year-old Suzuki was the AL's MVP and Rookie of the Year in 2001 and won Gold Gloves in each of his three major league seasons.

The Mariners faced a deadline of tomorrow to offer Suzuki a 2004 contract. Suzuki hit .312 this year, his lowest average in his three seasons.

Suzuki's 662 hits in his first three major league seasons rank second to Lloyd Waner's 678 from 1927-29. He's only the third player to record at least 200 hits in each of his first three seasons. His arm is one of the strongest in baseball, and he had 12 outfield assists last season.

The Mariners face decisions about whether to offer contracts to several other players, including righthanders Freddy Garcia, Gil Meche, Joel Piniero, and catcher Ben Davis.

Angels sign Kennedy

Adam Kennedy avoided salary arbitration by agreeing to an $8.85 million, three-year contract with the Anaheim Angels.

The second baseman gets annual salaries of $2.5 million, $3 million, and $3.35 million, and can earn an additional $150,000 in performance bonuses over the term of the contract.

Kennedy, who turns 28 next month, hit .269 with 13 homers, 49 RBIs, and a team-leading 22 stolen bases in 143 games with the Angels last season -- his fourth with the team.

Kennedy hit .312 with seven homers, 52 RBIs, and 17 stolen bases in 2002 in helping the Angels win their first World Series. He batted .270 with six homers and 40 RBIs in 2001 and .266 with nine homers and 72 RBIs in 2000.

Cubs aren't left out

The Chicago Cubs got the lefthanded reliever they wanted, agreeing to a $1.2 million, one-year contract with Kent Mercker.

A few hours later, they found a fourth outfielder, agreeing to a $1 million, one-year deal with Todd Hollandsworth.

"This fills some of our needs," Cubs general manager Jim Hendry said. "We're not done, hopefully, adding to the ball club, but it does fill some of our prime concerns."

Solidifying the bullpen was one of Hendry's biggest priorities, and he wasted little time getting it done. The Cubs signed LaTroy Hawkins earlier this month, and Mercker gives Chicago another lefthanded setup man to go along with Mike Remlinger.

A's land Rhodes

Free agent reliever Arthur Rhodes and the Oakland Athletics have reached agreement on a three-year contract. The deal, worth about $9.2 million, was subject to Rhodes passing a physical, a source familiar with the negotiations said on the condition of anonymity. The Athletics have not confirmed a deal. Earlier in the day, the Athletics acquired lefthanded reliever Chris Hammond from the New York Yankees for a pair of minor leaguers, pitcher Edwardo Sierra and infielder J.T. Stotts. New York also is sending cash to cover part of Hammond's contract . . . Lefthander Wilson Alvarez, a surprise last season after spending the first two months in the minors, agreed to a $1.5 million, one-year contract with the Los Angeles Dodgers. Alvarez was 6-2 with a 2.37 ERA in 12 starts and nine relief appearances last season . . . Lefthander Sterling Hitchcock, who led San Diego into the 1998 World Series, rejoined the Padres, agreeing to an $800,000, one-year contract. The Padres also agreed to a one-year deal with righthander Ismael Valdes, a former division rival with Los Angeles who pitched the last three seasons in the AL . . .

Center fielder Mike Cameron and the Mets finalized their $19.5 million, three-year contract.

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