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Matsui, Astros ink $16.5m pact

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Associated Press / December 3, 2007

Second baseman Kaz Matsui finalized a $16.5 million, three-year contract with the Houston Astros yesterday, a little more than a month after helping the Colorado Rockies to their first World Series appearance.

The 32-year-old switch-hitter batted .288 with four homers and 37 RBIs for Colorado, stealing 32 bases and scoring 84 runs - his best totals in the majors. Houston swiped only 65 bases this year, the third fewest in the National League

General manager Ed Wade said Matsui will likely bat second, behind speedy center fielder Michael Bourn, acquired last month from Philadelphia.

"Kaz is an ideal fit for our club," Wade said. "Kaz runs extremely well. He steals bases, moves runners and takes the extra base. He plays the game the right way."

Matsui gets a $1.5 million signing bonus, payable upon approval, and yearly salaries of $5 million. Houston will provide a translator and a physical therapist.

In addition, Matsui has a limited no-trade provision.

"After I became a free agent, the Houston Astros very strongly pursued me," Matsui said through a translator, "and I feel I am needed by the Houston Astros."

Matsui has a .272 average in four seasons with the New York Mets (2004-06) and Colorado (2006-07). He hit .304 with a home run in the playoffs, including his first career grand slam in the second game of the first-round series against the Phillies.

Also, the Astros offered arbitration to free agent pitcher Trever Miller and infielder Mark Loretta, but not to pitcher Jason Jennings and infielder Mike Lamb.

The Astros also declined to offer arbitration to righthanded reliever Brian Moehler, pinch hitter Orlando Palmeiro, and second baseman Craig Biggio, who retired after 20 seasons.

Miller and Loretta have until Friday to accept the offer. If they decline and sign with another club, the Astros would receive a draft pick between the first and second rounds of the June 2008 draft for each player.

New deal for Peavy?

Cy Young Award winner Jake Peavy of the San Diego Padres could have a contract extension within the next several days. "We're moving toward it, but it's not a done deal yet," Peavy's agent, Barry Axelrod, said from Nashville, site of the winter meetings. "There's still some stuff we're trying to work out. We're happy and we're moving. We're closing the gap, put it that way." Peavy is due $6 million in 2008. Because Peavy won the Cy Young Award, the price of the club's 2009 option increased by $3 million to $11 million . . . Sammy Sosa wasn't offered salary arbitration by the Texas Rangers, who still may be interested in bringing back the slugger. Sosa, 39, hit .252 with a team-high 21 home runs and 92 RBIs in 114 games following a year out of baseball. He became a part-time player after joining the 600-homer club, starting only 19 of the last 56 games while the Rangers evaluated younger players. Even though the Rangers didn't offer arbitration, which wasn't a surprise, that doesn't preclude Sosa from re-signing with them at any time . . . The Rangers also didn't offer salary arbitration to righthander Jamey Wright, first baseman/outfielder Brad Wilkerson, and utility player Jerry Hairston Jr. The Rangers have talked to Wright about returning, but don't expect to re-sign Wilkerson or Hairston.

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