Miller, Mirabelli finalize deals as market resumes

Posted: Tuesday, November 30, 2004

NEW YORK Damian Miller's $8.75 million, three-year contract was finalized by the Milwaukee Brewers and Doug Mirabelli became the first of Boston's 16 free agents to re-sign, agreeing to a $3 million, two-year deal Monday.

As the free-agent market resumed following the Thanksgiving weekend break, Gary Bennett was the third catcher to sign off on a deal, agreeing to a $750,000, one-year contract with the soon-to-be Washington Nationals.

And the New York Yankees neared agreement on a contract with backup catcher John Flaherty.

Left-handed pitcher Dennys Reyes agreed to a $550,000, one-year contract with the San Diego Padres, who last week reached an agreement with right-hander Rudy Seanez for the same amount.

While the top and middle of the market awaits the Dec. 7 deadline for teams to offer salary arbitration to their former players who became free agents, players with lower profiles are signing.

Miller's deal was agreed to last Tuesday, and he took a physical the following day. But the Brewers put off completing the agreement because they couldn't find any of their team physicians to read the MRI exam results ahead of the holiday weekend.

''We were getting all the information together to a level we felt comfortable with and we feel fine about it now,'' general manager Doug Melvin said. ''It was just due diligence. We had to get a second opinion on some things.''

Miller gets $3.25 million in each of the next two seasons, and Milwaukee has a $3.75 million option for 2007. If the Brewers decline it, Miller would get a $2.25 million player option and the chance, if he exercises it, to earn $750,000 more in performance bonuses.

Miller, 35, grew up in La Crosse. He hit .272 with nine homers and a career-high 58 RBIs in 110 games for Oakland last season, including .324 with runners in scoring position and .412 with the bases loaded.

Mirabelli will earn a $200,000 signing bonus and $1.4 million in each of the next two seasons under his contract with the World Series champions. Mirabelli made $825,000 last season, when he batted .281 with nine homers and 32 RBIs in 160 at-bats as Jason Varitek's backup and the regular catcher for knuckleballer Tim Wakefield.

Bennett, 32, fulfills the need for a backup to Brian Schneider on the Expos, who will become the Nationals once baseball owners approve the proposed move. Bennett hit .224 with three home runs and 20 RBIs in 75 games for Milwaukee last year. He's a career .247 hitter in nine seasons with Philadelphia, the New York Mets, Colorado, San Diego and Milwaukee.

Bennett's best season came with San Diego in 2003, when he had 42 RBIs in 96 games.

Reyes was 4-8 with a 4.75 ERA in 40 games with Kansas City last season, including 12 starts.

Flaherty hit .252 in 127 at-bats but was the key to several New York wins, hitting six homers and driving in 16 runs. He made $775,000 and his new deal was likely to be for a salary between that and $1 million.

Second baseman Miguel Cairo, like Flaherty represented by agent Alan Nero, also hopes to re-sign with the Yankees.

''We're in the process of exchanging ideas. With Flaherty, we've got only a couple of items left,'' Nero said. ''It's nothing more than with John, we started earlier.''

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