Kent signs with Astros

Published 12:00 am Thursday, December 19, 2002

NEW YORK -- Jeff Kent signed with Houston on Wednesday, the New York Yankees neared agreement with Hideki Matsui, and Boston and Texas made pickups as more free agents decided where they'll play next year.

Greg Maddux, among 18 players facing a midnight EST Thursday deadline to accept salary arbitration offers, still wasn't hinting on his decision.

Meanwhile, Montreal's talks to trade pitcher Bartolo Colon to the New York Yankees or Boston appeared to be at a standstill.

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Cuban right-hander Jose Contreras changed the makeup of the market when he finally was declared a free agent, and Baltimore said its talks with catcher Ivan Rodriguez had reached an impasse.

Kent's $18.2 million, two-year contract with Houston was the biggest deal of the day. Boston gave Mike Timlin a $1.85 million, one-year contract to join its bullpen, and Damian Jackson a $625,000, one-year deal to back up its starting infielders. Texas gave Doug Glanville $1 million and the chance to become a starter in the outfield.

The Yankees finalized their $1.5 million, one-year deal with backup infielder Todd Zeile, and St. Louis agreed to minor league contracts with right-hander Cal Eldred and left-hander Lance Painter. Cleveland agreed to minor league contracts with right-hander Mike Thurman, catcher Tim Laker and infielder Casey Blake.

Kent's deal with the Astros was a surprise. He had been offered arbitration by San Francisco, but decided to leave the Giants, partly because of Dusty Baker's decision to leave to become manager of the Chicago Cubs.

The Yankees, who had opened talks with free agent Cliff Floyd in an effort to gain bargaining power, made progress in talks Wednesday with Matsui's agent, Arn Tellem, and neared agreement on a three-year deal worth about $21 million.