Rodriguez to leave, Maddux may follow

Published 12:00 am Monday, December 8, 2003

NEW YORK - Ivan Rodriguez said goodbye to Florida, Greg Maddux appeared set to depart Atlanta, and the New York Mets got ready to welcome Japanese shortstop Kazuo Matsui on a busy Sunday night in baseball.

Rodriguez and the World Series champion Marlins failed to agree to a contract during negotiations at Miami International Airport. The catcher's previous contract prevented Florida from offering salary arbitration to the 10-time All-Star, which would have extended the negotiating period through Jan. 8.

On Friday, Rodriguez had asked for a $40 million, four-year contract. He made $10 million last season.

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ScottBoras represents Rodriguez and Maddux, who spent the last 11 seasons with the Braves, helping them to the playoffs each year. Last year, Atlanta offered arbitration, and the four-time Cy Young Award winner accepted. The sides later agreed at $14.75 million - the largest one-year contract in baseball history.

The 37-year-old right-hander went 16-11 last season, moving within 11 wins of 300, but it appeared unlikely Atlanta would offer arbitration again. Boras said he had not heard from the Braves on Maddux.

Teams had until midnight to offer arbitration to their former players who became free agents, and players offered arbitration have until Dec. 19 to accept the offers. Those players not offered arbitration can't re-sign until May 1.

Among those not offered arbitration were Montreal outfielder Vladimir Guerrero.

Oakland offered arbitration to 2002 AL MVP Miguel Tejada and reliever Keith Foulke.

In that group awaiting arbitration offers were Philadelphia pitcher Kevin Millwood and two Yankees left-handers, Andy Pettitte and David Wells. New York was attempting to work out a new deal with Wells, who had back surgery last week.

The Mets, meanwhile, waited to hear that they had landed Matsui. The seven-time All-Star called a Monday news conference in Japan, and the Kyodo news agency and public broadcaster NHK reported he had decided to join the Mets.

Mets general manager Jim Duquette and Matsui's U.S.-based agent, Arn Tellem, declined comment.

Nicknamed ''Little Matsui,'' the 28-year-old shortstop is not related to New York Yankees outfielder Hideki Matsui. He hit .305 with 33 homers and 84 RBIs last season for the Seibu Lions.

On the trade front, Texas general manager John Hart would like to know by the end of the winter meetings on Dec. 16 whether the American League MVP will remain with the Rangers for next season. The Rangers have been discussing a deal that would send him to the Red Sox for Manny Ramirez.

''As long as this potentially is alive, it precludes us from having a road map of what we can do with anybody else,'' Hart said Sunday. ''The sooner we have a resolvement, the better.''

The deal would be a swap of baseball's only $20 million-a-year players. In a sign of how extraordinary the situation is, commissioner Bud Selig is allowing the Red Sox to speak directly with Rodriguez. In most situations, a tentative trade must be in place before baseball grants a window for a team to speak with a player under contract to another club.

''To the extent that it happened, the commissioner has approved it,'' said Sandy Alderson, executive vice president of baseball operations in the commissioner's office.

Eleven players who faced the midnight deadline agreed by Sunday night to rejoin their former teams. In addition, the San Francisco Giants agreed to a $3.5 million, two-year contract with outfielder Michael Tucker, who hit .262 with 13 homers and 55 RBIs in 104 games for Kansas City.

Reliever Shigetoshi Hasegawa agreed to a $6.3 million, two-year contract with the Seattle Mariners.

''I was really holding my breath on this one,'' Mariners manager Bob Melvin said. ''Re-signing Shiggy, as valuable and versatile as he is, was a priority for us.''

The Chicago Cubs agreed to a $2.75 million, one-year contract with second baseman Mark Grudzielanek and $650,000, one-year deal with outfielder Tom Goodwin.

St. Louis brought back two of its relievers, agreeing to a $1.7 million, one-year contract with left-hander Steve Kline and a $900,000, one-year deal with right-hander Cal Eldred.

Also re-signing were San Francisco first baseman J.T. Snow ($1.75 million), Los Angeles third baseman Robin Ventura ($1.2 million), Florida right-hander Chad Fox ($1.2 million), Kansas City right-hander Jason Grimsley ($1 million), Philadelphia catcher Todd Pratt ($875,000) and Milwaukee right-hander Dave Burba (minor league contract that would become $440,000 one-year deal if he's added to the major league roster).