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Baseball meetings

Mets nab closer Rodriguez

Preliminary deal for 3 years, $37m

KERRY WOODIndians offer him 2 years KERRY WOODIndians offer him 2 years
Associated Press / December 10, 2008
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Record-setting closer Francisco Rodriguez and the New York Mets reached a preliminary agreement yesterday at the winter meetings in Las Vegas on a $37 million, three-year contract.

The sides still have to work out a written agreement and the pitcher must pass a physical, two people familiar with the negotiations said. They spoke on condition of anonymity because the contract had not yet been completed.

K-Rod recorded 62 saves for the Angels this year, five more than the record set by Bobby Thigpen of the White Sox in 1990, and then filed for free agency. Rodriguez's agent, Paul Kinzer, had hoped to get a five-year contract, possibly equaling the $15 million average salary Mariano Rivera is earning from the Yankees.

But with baseball executives worried about the economy, Kinzer accepted a more modest deal.

Rodriguez's contract will contain an option for 2012 that could become guaranteed based on his performance, the person said.

A three-time All-Star who turns 27 next month, Rodriguez was regarded as the top closer on the market. While some teams were worried about his violent pitching motion and drop in velocity last season, he developed an outstanding curveball to go along with his other pitches.

Yanks chase Sabathia

A source said that Yankees general manager Brian Cashman left the winter meetings and traveled to the San Francisco area to meet with CC Sabathia, giving New York renewed hope it could sign the prized free-agent pitcher. New York made a six-year offer to Sabathia Nov. 14 and met with him Sunday and Monday. The Yankees also pushed ahead with talks involving A.J. Burnett and Ben Sheets . . . The Indians have offered free agent Kerry Wood, the former Cubs starter turned reliever, a two-year contract, a person familiar with the deal said. Wood, 30, who has had numerous injury problems, needs to pass a physical before the deal can be completed. He had 34 saves last season for Chicago. Last season, deposed closer Joe Borowski's early problems - he blew four saves in his first 10 tries - contributed to the Indians' slide (81-81) . . . The Dodgers signed free agent infielder Casey Blake and reached an agreement with infielder Mark Loretta, who needs to pass a physical to complete the deal. Blake got a three-year contract to stay in Los Angeles and Loretta would receive a one-year deal. Blake, acquired from Cleveland July 16, plays third base and Loretta is a solid backup.

Orioles deal Hernandez

The Orioles traded catcher Ramon Hernandez to the Reds for outfielder Ryan Freel and minor league infielders Justin Turner and Brandon Waring. Baltimore will give Cincinnati cash to offset part of Hernandez's contract. He is owed $8.5 million next year. "Ramon is a guy we put high on our list and stayed with it," Reds general manager Walt Jocketty said. "One of the big things for us was to try to acquire a quality catcher. We felt there was something that we were lacking last year." . . . Hernandez was never really a target for the Red Sox, but the trade did affect the shape of the catching market. Landing spots for Jason Varitek keep getting eliminated, with the Orioles making the deal to open a place for Matt Wieters, the No. 5 pick in the 2007 draft. The Red Sox do not appear significantly closer to making a trade for catching, or to re-signing Varitek. General manager Theo Epstein did say the team is getting a little bit better feel for the market at the position, which he had termed "broad" last week before arriving in Las Vegas. "I think we look at all the different options," Epstein said. "We could end up being really young with both catchers. That's something we've talked about internally and we're comfortable with, if it comes to that. We might have a veteran and a young catcher. We might have two veterans. We're pretty open-minded." He added, "If we get the right players, I think we have the infrastructure in place with our coaching staff to handle something like that [two young catchers] if it came to pass. Obviously, you take a bit of a risk with a catcher's ability to handle a staff. It's a grind, mentally and physically, catching for a competitive club. At the same time, it's a great opportunity to build value."

Manuel re-ups

News filtered in about the Phillies picking up the option for 2010 on manager Charlie Manuel's contract and adding a guaranteed year for 2011. General manager Ruben Amaro rewarded Manuel for leading the Phillies to the NL East title and their first championship since 1980 . . . Infielder Mike Lamb agreed to a one-year contract with the Brewers, setting up a potential platoon with Bill Hall at third base . . . Pedro Martínez likely won't decide whether to pitch for the Dominican Republic in next year's World Baseball Classic until he reaches a contract agreement with a major league team . . . Major League Baseball hopes all bats used in big league games soon will have their own serial numbers and ink markings for tracking, part of the first step in the sport's efforts to decrease the number of broken bats and ensure a safer environment for players and fans . . . MLB also said it will push ahead with a plan to eliminate coin flips for deciding the site of tiebreaker games for division titles and wild-card berths. Instead, criteria involving play would be used, such as head-to-head record between the tied teams and record within the division.

Kubek honored

Tony Kubek, an All-Star shortstop who became a fixture on NBC's "Game of the Week" telecasts for more than two decades, was honored with the Hall of Fame's Ford C. Frick Award. The award is presented annually for major contributions to baseball broadcasting . . . The Fox network is considering dropping its Saturday pregame show before MLB broadcasts next season. . . . Red Sox performance enhancement counselor Don Kalkstein left his full-time position with the team to be closer to his family in Dallas. He will continue to work with the club over the phone, and will spend the bulk of his time working with the Mavericks. Epstein said it's possible the team will hire a replacement, with Bob Tewksbury being worked into the major league mix this season. He has primarily worked with the Sox minor leaguers in that role . . . With the Sox' 40-man roster at 39, Epstein said it's unlikely they will pick up a player in tomorrow's Rule 5 draft.

Amalie Benjamin of the Globe Staff contributed to this report from Las Vegas.

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