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Damon, Wells close to landing big contracts

The Associated Press

Johnny Damon closed in on a $30 million, four-year contract with Boston, David Wells neared a deal with Arizona and Hideo Nomo returned to the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Friday, December 21, 2001

Johnny Damon closed in on a $30 million, four-year contract with Boston, David Wells neared a deal with Arizona and Hideo Nomo returned to the Los Angeles Dodgers.

On a busy day as teams prepared for their year-end break, Texas cut loose former 20-game winner Rick Helling on Thursday, clearing the way for the Rangers to pursue free-agent pitcher Chan Ho Park.

Atlanta added a possible fifth starter, agreeing to a $4 million, one-year contract with right-hander Albie Lopez, who went 9-19 with Tampa Bay and Arizona last season.

The World Series champion Diamondbacks neared a one-year deal with Wells. The 38-year-old left-hander’s agent said the deal is 85 percent complete, and that Wells expects to sign a contract loaded with incentives shortly after the new year.

”We hit it off well. He’s happy. We’re happy. We’ve agreed to agree,” Diamondbacks owner Jerry Colangelo said. ”There’s some I’s to dot and T’s to cross and a physical to take. I fully expect him to be in a Diamondback uniform next year, and he’s looking forward to it.”

While Boston was talking to Damon, the team’s limited partners unanimously voted to sell the team for $660 million, plus $40 million in assumed debt to a group headed by former Florida Marlins owner John Henry, whose investors include former San Diego Padres owner Tom Werner. The deal would double the baseball record set in last year’s $323 million sale of the Cleveland Indians to Larry Dolan.

Henry is negotiating to sell the Marlins to Jeffrey Loria, the owner of the Montreal Expos, a team that baseball commissioner Bud Selig wants to eliminate. That agreement could be completed before the end of the year, a baseball official with knowledge of the talks said on the condition he not be identified.

The record for a sports franchise is the $800 million Daniel Snyder paid in 1999 for the Washington Redskins and the team’s stadium in Landover, Md.

The deal for the Red Sox includes Fenway Park and 80 percent of the New England Sports Network.

The sale must be approved by 75 percent of the 30 major league owners, who usually take about six months to consider sales.

Meanwhile, the Mets continued to talk about possible multiple-team trades that would bring first baseman Mo Vaughn from Anaheim to New York.

In one possibility involving Los Angeles, outfielder Marquis Grissom, pitcher Kevin Appier and pitcher Matt Herges would wind up with the Angels, and pitcher Troy Percival and infielder Lenny Harris would go to the Dodgers. The Mets also were dangling first baseman Todd Zeile as trade bait.

On the last day for teams to offer 2002 contracts to unsigned players on their 40-man rosters, several players agreed to contracts, including Milwaukee right-hander Jeff D’Amico ($1.84 million), Chicago White Sox infielder Tony Graffanino ($1.25 million for two years) and Philadelphia infielder Tomas Perez ($475,000).

Players not offered contracts – teams didn’t want to go to salary arbitration with many of them – become free agents Friday. Besides Helling, Texas let go of outfielder Ricky Ledee, pitcher Justin Thompson and infielder Scott Sheldon.

Colorado didn’t offer contracts to newly acquired catcher Scott Hatteberg, outfielder Clifford Brumbaugh and catcher Sal Fasano, and Florida declined to offer contracts to outfielder Jeff Abbott and infielder Dave Berg.

San Francisco let go of right-hander Brian Boehringer and outfielder Ruben Rivera, and Milwaukee cut loose right-hander Jimmy Haynes. The Angels cut pitchers Shigetoshi Hasegawa and Mike Holtz. The Mets let go of pitcher Rick White and Detroit cut infielder Deivi Cruz.

Minnesota, the other team Selig wants to eliminate, mailed out contracts Thursday to all 28 unsigned players on the Twins’ 40-man roster.

”We’re still trying to function as normal as we can under these circumstances,” general manager Terry Ryan said. ”It’s a little awkward. This is a tough business even on its best day.”

In other moves, Detroit agreed to a minor league contract with right-hander Juan Acevedo and claimed outfielder Endy Chavez off waivers from Kansas City.

Damon, 28, was among the top hitters on the free-agent market, batting .256 with nine homers, 49 RBIs and 27 steals for Oakland.

The deal was not complete as of late Thursday, but the sides were close, a source familiar with the negotiations said on the condition he not be identified. Boston and Damon’s agent, Scott Boras, were scheduled to talk later Thursday night to try to close the deal, the source said.

The Boston Globe reported on its Web site Thursday that the Red Sox agreed to a contract with Damon.

”We’ve got some more work to do, but we’re encouraged by the conversations we’ve had,” Boston general manager Dan Duquette told The Associated Press.

Nomo, who agreed to a $13 million, two-year deal, was the NL Rookie of the Year with the Dodgers in 1995 and became a sensation with his hesitation windup and sharp breaking ball.

”I’m very happy to be back with the Dodgers,” he said through an interpreter. ”I thought the opportunity to be back with the Dodgers wouldn’t come.”

Helling was Texas’ opening-day starter this season and went 12-11 with a 5.17 ERA in 34 starts. He gave up 38 home runs.

Helling is 72-58 with a 4.75 ERA with Texas and Florida in a major league career that began in 1994. He was 20-7 for the Rangers in 1998.

The Rangers, whose 5.71 ERA was the highest in the majors, have added pitchers John Rocker, Dave Burba, Todd Van Poppel and Jay Powell since the season ended.