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Matsuzaka talks near deadline; Jennings dealt to Astros

NEW YORK (AP) _ While Daisuke Matsuzaka's status remained uncertain, the Houston Astros and Texas Rangers found some pitching help.

Five days after a potential trade with the White Sox came apart, Houston acquired Jason Jennings and pitcher Miguel Asencio from the Colorado Rockies on Tuesday for outfielder Willy Taveras and pitchers Taylor Buchholz and Jason Hirsh _ who all would have been sent to Chicago for Jon Garland.

Astros general manager Tim Purpura needed to replace Andy Pettitte, who left his hometown team Friday after three seasons to go back to the New York Yankees.

``This gives us a solid No. 2 starter and some depth in the bullpen,'' Purpura said. ``It's an exciting day for us.''

Eric Gagne and the Rangers reached a preliminary agreement on a one-year contract worth about $6 million.

The agreement was confirmed by a person familiar with the negotiations who spoke on condition of anonymity because no announcement had been made. The deal would allow Gagne to earn about $5 million more in performance bonuses.

``He's a guy who wants to win as well, so I think with him deciding to come here knowing what they're trying to do here, I think he also wants to be part of a winner,'' said Gagne's former Los Angeles Dodgers teammate, Kenny Lofton, who finalized his own $6 million deal with the Rangers.

Gagne, like Matsuzaka, is represented by agent Scott Boras. As the midnight Thursday EST deadline for Matsuzaka to sign approached, Red Sox officials left agent Boras' office Tuesday night apparently still apart.

``We're going back to Boston tomorrow,'' chairman Tom Werner said.

There was no evidence that progress was made Tuesday, when the Red Sox had said they would present their second offer.

``I'll have something for you maybe later in the day,'' Boras said when he left his office. It was unclear whether the sides were done for the night.

Asked if there would be additional talks, general manager Theo Epstein said: ``That's up to Matsuzaka.''

Boston bid $51.11 million for the right to negotiate with Matsuzaka, and the money only goes to his Japanese club, the Seibu Lions, if he reaches an agreement by Thursday's midnight EST deadline. If he doesn't, Boston keeps the money and Matsuzaka can't be offered to major league teams again until next November. He is not eligible for free agency until after the 2008 season.

In other signings, reliever David Weathers got a $5 million, two-year deal from Cincinnati, and pitcher Dave Williams got a $1.25 million, one-year contract from the New York Mets. Canadian outfielder Matt Stairs agreed to a minor league contract with the Toronto Blue Jays and would get $850,000 if added to the major league roster, of which $400,000 would be a signing bonus.

Infielder Jeff Cirillo and the Minnesota Twins reached preliminary agreement on a $1.5 million, one-year contract, while outfielder Jose Cruz Jr. got a $650,000, one-year contract from the San Diego Padres.

Teams allowed 28 players to become free agents when they didn't offer them contracts before a midnight EST deadline Tuesday.

Atlanta cut ties to Marcus Giles, deciding it could no longer afford the second baseman under an ever-tightening budget. Giles made $3.85 million in 2006 and likely would have commanded over $5 million for next season in arbitration. He could join his older brother, outfielder Brian Giles, on their hometown Padres.

``It's not an easy decision when you're talking about somebody's who's been a key guy for our team over the years and grew up in our organization,'' Braves general manager John Schuerholz said. ``But it's a fact of the matter with the economics of this business. As salaries continue to rise, we've got to use our assets the best way we can to put our most balanced team together.''

Injured pitcher Victor Zambrano was cut by the Mets, who planned to continue negotiations with him. A right-hander acquired from Tampa Bay on July 30, 2004, for Scott Kazmir, Zambrano was 1-2 with a 6.75 ERA in five starts this year. He was hurt May 6, when he took himself out of a game against the Atlanta Braves after striking out Andruw Jones, and was diagnosed with a torn flexor muscle.

During surgery on Zambrano on May 15, Mets team physician Dr. David Altchek repaired the right-hander's elbow tendon, removed bone spurs and replaced the ligament.

Also let loose were Seattle pitcher Joel Pineiro, St. Louis outfielder Rick Ankiel, Baltimore outfielder David Newman and Yankees infielder-outfielder Aaron Guiel.

Among players eligible for arbitration, Colorado catcher Yorvit Torrealba agreed to a $1,075,000, one-year contract and St. Louis second baseman Aaron Miles agreed to a $1 million, one-year deal.

Also, Dodgers spokesman Josh Rawitch said the team won't file tampering charges against the Red Sox. Los Angeles GM Ned Colletti recently said they were looking into the circumstances leading to J.D. Drew's decision to opt out of the final three years and $33 million of his contract. Drew then agreed to a $70 million, five-year deal with Boston.
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