16 players settle before arbitration; Sasaki won't return

Posted: Tuesday, January 20, 2004

NEW YORK Seattle pitcher Joel Pineiro got a $14.5 million, three-year deal and Chicago Cubs first baseman Derrek Lee agreed to a $6.9 million, one-year contract Monday as 16 players settled with their teams a day before the annual exchange of salary arbitration figures.

In other baseball news, Mariners closer Kazuhiro Sasaki told the team Monday he will not pitch for Seattle in 2004, deciding to forfeit the final year of his contract and remain with his family in Japan. Seattle's career saves leader, who turns 36 on Feb. 22, would walk away from up to $9.5 million.

''It's a personal situation,'' agent Tony Attanasio said. ''He wanted to stay home with his kids. Last year, he did not have his kids with him and his wife. He had to have that, and he left a lot of money on the table.''

Attanasio said Sasaki may pitch in Japan next season but ''he will not pitch again in the United States.''

Mariners general manager Bill Bavasi said Sasaki's intentions became clear in the last four to five days. He refused to say what the next step will be.

''There's just too many variables that I'm not certain about,'' Bavasi said. ''It's going to involve the agent, the player, the club, MLB, you name it.'' He said the team would try to ''accommodate'' the request but cautioned that as of right now the contract remained in effect.

As for the 65 players who filed for arbitration last Thursday, 22 already have agreed to contracts, and several more deals are likely to be finalized before the commissioner's office and the players' association swap figures Tuesday afternoon.

After 72 players filed for arbitration last year, just 34 exchanged figures and only seven had hearings, with owners winning five.

Among the top players left in arbitration this year are Cy Young Award winners Eric Gagne of Los Angeles and Roy Halladay of Toronto, former NL Rookie of the Year Albert Pujols of St. Louis, Philadelphia pitcher Kevin Millwood and New York Yankees second baseman Alfonso Soriano.

Houston said it agreed to one-year deals with its three pitchers in arbitration, settling with Wade Miller ($3.4 million), Roy Oswalt ($3.25 million) and Octavio Dotel ($2.8 million).

Pineiro, 25, went 16-11 with a 3.78 ERA for the Mariners last year.

Lee hit .271 with 31 homers, 92 RBIs and 21 steals last season to help the Florida Marlins win the World Series title. Lee, who made $4.25 million in 2003, was traded to the Cubs in November for first baseman Hee Seop Choi and minor league pitcher Michael Nannini.

Chicago hopes to work out multiyear contracts for Lee and pitcher Kerry Wood, who agreed Friday to a $9.75 million, one-year contract.

Los Angeles third baseman Adrian Beltre agreed to a $5 million deal Monday, up from $3.7 million last season. Beltre, who turns 25 in April, hit .240 with a career-high 23 homers and 80 RBIs last season.

San Francisco pitcher Jim Brower got a two-year deal worth $1,825,000. The Giants also agreed to an $850,000, one-year contract with utilityman Pedro Feliz.

Atlanta agreed to a $3.7 million, one-year deal with shortstop Rafael Furcal. Will Cunnane, who filled in as the Braves' closer when John Smoltz went on the disabled list, settled at $525,000. Cunnane went 2-2 with three saves and a 2.70 ERA last year.

Montreal agreed to one-year contracts with right-handers Tomo Ohka ($2,337,500) and Tony Armas Jr. ($2.1 million).

Pittsburgh Pirates right-hander Kip Wells agreed to $2,575,000, a raise of $2.2 million, after going 10-9 with a 3.28 ERA in a team-high 31 starts. Pittsburgh utilityman Craig Wilson settled at $1.15 million.

Milwaukee closer Dan Kolb got $1.5 million. He joined the Brewers on June 17 and became the club's closer after Mike DeJean was traded to St. Louis. Kolb went 1-2 with 21 saves and a 1.96 ERA, converting his first 19 save chances.

Cincinnati Reds right-hander John Riedling got $650,000.

In one-year deals over the weekend, Boston reliever Scott Williamson agreed at $3,175,000 and Montreal pitcher Rocky Biddle settled at $1.95 million.

Among free agents, Boston agreed to a minor league contract with infielder Terry Shumpert.

Most free agents talks, including those involving catcher Ivan Rodriguez and pitcher Greg Maddux, have been temporarily put aside while teams and agents focused on Tuesday's exchange of arbitration figures.

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