Gooden's agent rejects Mets' bid


The New York Mets offered yesterday to make Dwight Gooden the third-highest-paid player in baseball, but the pitcher's agent immediately said the offer was unacceptable.

Gooden says that if he doesn't get the extension by tomorrow, he will file for free agency after the World Series and won't negotiate during the season. The proposal, the third by the team in recent weeks, is being sent to Gooden's agent by overnight mail.

Frank Cashen, the team's general manager, said at a news conference that the proposal was for three years and that its annual value fell between the $4.05 million-a-year deal the Dodgers awarded Darryl Strawberry and the $4.7 million Jose Canseco is collecting from the Oakland Athletics. Roger Clemens, whose new deal is worth more than $5 million a year, is the highest-paid player.

"It's a new and improved offer," said Cashen. "And I make no apologies for it."

"It's a start," the agent, Jim Neader, said from his office in St. Petersburg, Fla. "I haven't seen it yet. Those numbers would make it less than $4.7 million and more than $4.1 million. That's a wide range and it is not acceptable."

Gooden will make $2.25 million this season, the last year of a three-year $6.7 million deal. Complicating the Mets' situation is that Frank Viola also wants an extension. Viola will make $2.8 million this season, the last year of a three-year $7.9 million contract. He hasn't set any deadlines.

"We would like to sign both of them," Cashen said. "We will attempt to sign both."

* RED SOX: An arraignment hearing in Houston for Clemens and his brother was postponed yesterday pending the outcome of a grand jury investigation of charges the two wrestled with an off-duty officer at a nightclub last month.

State District Judge A.D. Azios rescheduled the hearing for March 8 after prosecutors and defense attorneys agreed to the delay.

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