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Maddux stays with Braves, accepts arbitration offer

ATLANTA (AP) _ Greg Maddux's decision to stay with the Atlanta Braves means another move is probably coming.

Maddux accepted the team's offer of salary arbitration Thursday, the equivalent of signing a one-year deal for the 2003 season. The four-time Cy Young Award winner was a free agent.

His acceptance gives Atlanta a surplus of pitchers. Atlanta added two starters Tuesday, trading for San Francisco's Russ Ortiz and signing free agent Paul Byrd, a 17-game winner for Kansas City.

Last month, Atlanta acquired Mike Hampton from Colorado in a three-team deal, and the Braves return Kevin Millwood and Jason Marquis from last year's rotation.

With the Braves hoping to trim payroll, one of the other starters is likely to be traded. Millwood also is eligible for arbitration.

``I think it's been well-publicized that we're working under certain parameters for next season,'' assistant general manager Frank Wren said. ``That means we will have some starting pitching to deal with.''

Tom Glavine already left the Braves, agreeing to a three-year contract with the New York Mets.

Maddux, a 36-year-old right-hander, made his decision late Wednesday night, according to agent Scott Boras, and told the team about eight hours before the midnight EST deadline.

``At this point in time, at least for this year, they wanted to return to Atlanta and give it one more shot of winning there,'' Boras said.

Unless they agree on a contract, Atlanta and Maddux will exchange proposed salaries for a one-year contract in mid-January and will argue their cases before three arbitrators the following month.

Maddux is coming off a $57.5 million, five-year contract, and he is expected to ask for an arbitration record. The highest figure submitted for a player was $18.5 million by the Yankees' Derek Jeter in 2001.

Maddux and the Braves can negotiate a contract until an arbitrator rules some time in February.

Wren said negotiations for a long-term deal with Maddux will continue, but, ``Right now, we're preparing for an arbitration hearing.''

``We intend to talk to them,'' Boras said. ``We're really kind of beginning the process.''

Atlanta closer John Smoltz talked to Maddux a few weeks ago, jokingly asking him if any of Smoltz's golf partners would be in Atlanta next season. Maddux and Glavine routinely spent off-days playing golf with Smoltz, and a putting green was installed for the trio when Turner Field was built.

``My Christmas wish list included having both Maddux and Glavine,'' Smoltz said. ``I guess one out of two isn't bad, although I don't think we're done making moves.''

No other teams publicly said they were pursuing Maddux.

``Many clubs at the ownership level were interested in him,'' Boras said.

Maddux was 16-6 last season, winning at least 15 games for the 15th straight year to tie the record set by Cy Young. Maddux had a 2.62 ERA, second-best in the NL behind Arizona's Randy Johnson, and he won his 13th straight Gold Glove Award.

``Greg's one of the premier pitchers in baseball,'' Atlanta manager Bobby Cox said. ``Hopefully, we can still sign him to a longterm deal to keep him in Atlanta. But at least he'll be with us this year.''

Ortiz, 28, is owed $4.6 million in 2003 and the Braves have a club option for $5.7 million in 2004. Byrd is guaranteed $10 million: He gets $3 million in 2003 and has a $7 million player option for 2004.

The Braves also offered arbitration to three other free agents _ outfielder Darren Bragg, first baseman Julio Franco and infielder Keith Lockhart _ but all three declined. Atlanta has until Jan. 8 to agree to new deals with them; after that, the team won't be able to sign them until May 1.
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