Mets, Yankees, Red Sox Make Deals

Friday, December 14th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

BOSTON (AP) _ The big names went to the big markets at the winter meetings.

New York's Yankees and Mets and the Boston Red Sox took care of business at baseball's five-day swap session, while most other teams preferred to wait as trade talks became more fashionable than flashing cash.

While other teams still roamed the hotel hallways, the Yankees already were back in New York to announce the biggest free-agent signing of the offseason, a $120 million, seven-year contract with first baseman Jason Giambi.

``This is my best fit,'' Giambi said at Yankee Stadium. ``This was the team I was hoping would come after me.''

The Mets, who earlier in the week acquired 12-time All-Star Roberto Alomar in the biggest trade of the meetings, signed two free agents Thursday, agreeing to an $18 million, four-year contract with outfielder Roger Cedeno, and a $9.4 million, three-year deal with reliever David Weathers.

Meanwhile, Barry Bonds, Juan Gonzalez, Chan Ho Park and other leading free agents waited to find fortunes while teams dealt cautiously with the top tier.

``We're seeing teams explore the trade market before the free-agent market,'' said Scott Boras, the agent for Bonds and Park. ``I think we'll see things start to move.''

Just five free-agent signings were announced at the winter meetings for a total of $38.15 million, down from $739.2 million committed to 25 players in deals negotiated at last year's session in Dallas. The contracts for Cedeno and Weathers followed deals for by right-hander Jay Powell and Texas ($9 million for three years), left-hander Norm Charlton and Seattle ($1.25 million) and outfielder Jose Guillen and Arizona ($500,000).

Thus far, owners have committed $300.2 million to 25 free agents with major league contracts, including a pair of preliminary two-year agreements the Yankees haven't announced: $12 million for left-hander Sterling Hitchcock, and $10 million for outfielder Rondell White.

By the time last year's meetings were over, owners already had given contracts worth $1.044 billion to 52 free agents, including $252 million by Texas to Alex Rodriguez, $160 million by Boston to Manny Ramirez, and $121 million by Colorado to Mike Hampton.

Giambi was welcomed to New York with a news conference at Yankee Stadium. The 2000 American AL MVP and 2001 runner-up was signed to revitalize a lineup that struggled in the seven-game World Series loss to Arizona, which ended New York's streak of three straight titles.

``You have the most incredible surroundings to win,'' he said. ``Besides the money, all the other things, the intangibles.''

The Yankees also traded reliever Jay Witasick to the San Francisco Giants for outfielder John Vander Wal.

While teams discussed dozens of trades, they completed only 10 deals involving 37 players, up from five trades involving 14 players last year.

The only top names to move were Alomar, who went from Cleveland to the Mets in an eight-player trade, and Carl Everett, sent by Boston to Texas early Thursday.

Later in the day, Pittsburgh acquired right-handers Kip Wells, Sean Lowe and Josh Fogg for right-hander Todd Ritchie and minor league catcher Lee Evans.

Also, Toronto sent right-hander Paul Quantrill and infielder Cesar Izturis to Los Angeles for right-handers Luke Prokopec and Chad Ricketts.

Boston was happy to unload Everett, their temperamental outfielder, to Texas for left-hander Darren Oliver.

``It's been a struggle for the last year and a half,'' Boston general manager Dan Duquette said. ``This an extremely interested fan base. Some players can respond to the pressures of this market and play very well. ... It just didn't work out here.''

Everett was an All-Star his first season in Boston, hitting .300 with 34 homers and 108 RBIs in 2000. But he clashed with two Boston managers this year and struggled on the field, batting .257 with 14 homers and 58 RBIs before his season ended Sept. 8 because of a knee injury.

``We're certainly not blind,'' Rangers general manager John Hart said. ``It's well-documented the problems Carl has had in Boston. At the same time, we recognize the opportunity a new fresh start in Texas will provide to Carl.''

The 31-year-old Oliver went 11-11 last season with a 6.02 ERA in 28 starts, allowing seven first-inning homers and 260 baserunners in 189 innings.

Ritchie, 30, was 11-15 with a 4.45 ERA last season and 35-32 with a 4.29 ERA in three years with the Pirates. Wells went 10-11 with a 4.79 ERA in 40 games with the White Sox, and also spent time in Triple-A Charlotte.

The trade followed the collapse of a deal in which Chicago would have gotten outfielder Darin Erstad from Anaheim for outfielder Chris Singleton, right-hander Jon Garland and two minor leaguers. The deal was approved by the general managers but vetoed by Angels president Tony Tavares.

White Sox general manager Kenny Williams declined comment on the Erstad deal.

In a minor deal, Philadelphia traded right-hander Chris Brock to Baltimore for righty John Wasdin on Thursday.