Pedro picks Mets over Red Sox, Lee dealt to Brewers

Posted: Tuesday, December 14, 2004

ANAHEIM, Calif. — Pedro Martinez picked the New York Mets over the Boston Red Sox, and the Chicago White Sox dealt Carlos Lee to Milwaukee for Scott Podsednik and a reliever on Monday as baseball's annual winter meetings finished with many top stars still searching for teams.

There were just five trades and seven free-agent signings finalized during the four-day session, but several teams struck preliminary agreements with free agents that will be completed later this week.

Richie Sexson and Seattle appeared to be working their way toward a deal, but the first baseman's agent said Baltimore was still in the hunt. The agent for Carlos Delgado, another first baseman, held preliminary talks with the New York Yankees and also was speaking to the Mariners, who told an agent they might try to sign both.

Four free-agent agreements were announced, topped by catcher Mike Matheny's $10.5 million, three-year agreement with San Francisco. Right-hander Esteban Yan agreed to a $2.25 million, two-year contract with Anaheim, right-hander Todd Jones finalized a $1.1 million, one-year deal with Florida and outfielder Wil Cordero got a $600,000, one-year contract from the Washington-bound Expos, who also agreed to a minor league deal with outfielder Jeffrey Hammonds.

In an agreement awaiting a physical, second baseman Jose Hernandez agreed to a $1.8 million, one-year contract with Cleveland. Late Sunday night, the Toronto Blue Jays and free-agent third baseman Corey Koskie reached preliminary agreement on a $17 million, three-year contract.

As teams headed home, many top free agents remained on the market, including Carlos Beltran, Adrian Beltre, Magglio Ordonez, Derek Lowe, Eric Milton, Jason Varitek, Orlando Cabrera, J.D. Drew, Edgar Renteria and Moises Alou.

Among the deals awaiting completion were Carl Pavano's four-year contract with the Yankees, a deal worth about $39 million, and David Wells' two-year agreement with Boston.

Making the biggest splash of the meetings, Martinez closed in on a four-year deal with the Mets.

''He was a great member of the Red Sox team for seven years, and a certain Hall of Famer,'' Boston president Larry Lucchino told The Associated Press in an e-mail. ''He will be missed, and we are disappointed to have lost him to the Mets and the National League.''

Martinez's agent, Fernando Cuza, told the Mets he will attempt to work out a deal with them after New York guaranteed a fourth year, a person involved in the talks said on condition of anonymity.

Mets general manager Omar Minaya expressed confidence about the negotiations with Martinez, but wouldn't detail the discussions.

''The good news is that we're still in dialogue,'' Minaya said. ''Every day that goes by and we are having dialogue is a good day.''

Minaya then left baseball's winter meetings and returned to New York, and the sides will work by telephone to finalize the contract language. Cuza did not want to comment on the talks.

Martinez helped pitch Boston to its first World Series title since 1918, but Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein said he refused to increase the team's offer in the past two days.

''We wish Pedro nothing but the best going forward both on the field and off the field,'' Boston owner John Henry said in an e-mail.

''He pitched with every ounce of his being for the Red Sox over the course of 216 games. Some of those performances were among the most memorable in Red Sox history. Who will ever forget the 1999 All-Star game? He has earned everything that he has accomplished, including his World Series ring and his reputation as one of the greatest who ever lived.''

Martinez, 33, must pass a physical before the Mets complete the deal.

New York initially offered a $37.5 million, three-year contract with a $12.5 million team option for 2008.

Boston's final proposal was a $40.5 million, three-year deal that contained a club option for 2008, a baseball official said, also on condition of anonymity. The Red Sox thought the Mets' offer was for $56 million over four years, the official said, but a Mets official said that figure was not correct.

An agent who spoke with the Mets said New York's proposal was worth about $52 million.

''We put our best foot forward and made an offer that makes sense to the club,'' Epstein said. ''We think it's a fair and generous offer.''

A Seattle executive told an agent that the Mariners thought they were close to agreement on a three-year contract with Sexson. An official of another team that had sought the first baseman said the deal being discussed averaged about $11 million.

Sexson's agent, Casey Close, said that Seattle and Baltimore were still competing for Sexson.

''Nothing is conclusive at this moment. We'll have to see where this thing goes the next 24, 48 hours,'' Close said. ''It's all speculative as to what people's perspectives are.''

Two days after sending All-Star closer Dan Kolb to Atlanta for pitching prospect Jose Capellan, the Brewers acquired Lee for Podsednik, right-hander Luis Vizcaino and a player to be named.

Lee hit .305 with 31 homers and 99 RBIs last season and gives the Brewers a right-handed slugger to complement Geoff Jenkins and Lyle Overbay, both left-handed hitters.

After finishing runner-up for NL Rookie of the Year in 2003, Podsednik hit .244 with 12 homers, 85 runs, 39 RBIs and a major league-high 70 steals last season. Vizcaino went 4-4 with a 3.75 ERA and one save in 73 relief appearances.

Lee will make $8 million next year, and his contract contains an $8.5 million club option for 2006 with a $500,000 buyout.

''People will probably be shocked that we spent the money,'' Milwaukee general manager Doug Melvin said. ''I don't know that we have a lot left to spend, but this does send the right message to our fans.''



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