Record-setting closer Francisco Rodriguez and the New York Mets reached a preliminary agreement yesterday on a three-year, $37 million contract.
The sides still have to work out a written agreement and the pitcher must pass a physical, two people familiar with the negotiations told the Associated Press.
Rodriguez had 62 saves for the Los Angeles Angels last season, five more than the previous big league mark set by Bobby Thigpen of the Chicago White Sox in 1990, and then filed for free agency. His agent, Paul Kinzer, had hoped to get a five-year contract, possibly equaling the $15 million average salary Mariano Rivera is earning from the New York Yankees.
But with baseball executives worried about the national recession, Kinzer accepted a more modest deal.
With the agreement, the Mets are ceasing negotiations with Brian Fuentes and career saves leader Trevor Hoffman, two other free-agent closers, one of the people said. Rodriguez's contract will contain an option for 2012 that could become guaranteed based on his performance, the person said.
Rodriguez, who turns 27 next month, had a 2.24 ERA and struck out 77 batters in 68 1/3 innings last season. The three-time All-Star was regarded as the top closer on the market. Some teams were worried about his violent pitching motion and drop in velocity last season, but he developed an outstanding curveball to go along with his other pitches.
The Mets were seeking a closer to replace Billy Wagner, who likely will miss all of next season after elbow ligament-replacement surgery.
Indians: : Cleveland offered free agent Kerry Wood, the former Cubs starter-turned-reliever, a two-year contract, a person familiar with the deal told the AP.
The person spoke on the condition of anonymity because the sides are still working through details at the winter meetings in Las Vegas.
Wood saved 34 games last season.
In other news, Cleveland sold right-hander Tom Mastny's contract to Yokohama of the Japanese Central League.
Phillies:: Philadelphia has picked up the option for 2010 on manager Charlie Manuel's contract and added a guaranteed year for 2011.
Manuel, who doesn't have a losing record in four seasons with Philadelphia (354-249), led the Phillies to the National League East title and their first championship since 1980 last season. Manuel also led the Phillies to the division title in 2007.
Dodgers: : Los Angeles reached preliminary agreements with third baseman Casey Blake (three years) and infielder Mark Loretta (one year), both pending physicals, a source told the AP.
ESPN.com reported that Blake's deal is worth slightly more than $17.1 million and that Loretta's is worth $1.25 million.
Blake, a 10-year major leaguer, batted .251 with 10 home runs and 23 RBIs in 58 games for Los Angeles last season. Loretta, 37, batted .280 with four homers and 38 RBIs in 101 games for the Astros.
Equipment: : Scary scenes of broken maple bats sailing into the stands or dugouts soon could be a thing of the past. At least that's what Major League Baseball hopes.
All bats used in big league games soon will have their own serial numbers and ink markings for tracking, part of the first step in the sport's efforts to decrease the number of broken bats and ensure a safer environment for players and fans.
By the start of the 2009 regular season, the plan of MLB's safety and health advisory committee is that all bats will have been certified by MLB and that the 32 manufacturers making them will be held to a new list of standards surrounding their production.
Brewers: : Infielder Mike Lamb agreed to a one-year contract with Milwaukee, setting up a potential platoon with Bill Hall at third base next season.
Milwaukee also agreed to a one-year deal with right-handed reliever Todd Coffey, avoiding arbitration.
Et cetera: : Tony Kubek, an All-Star shortstop who became a fixture on NBC's Game of the Week telecasts for more than two decades, was honored with the Hall of Fame's Ford C. Frick Award.
MLB will push ahead with a plan to eliminate coin flips for deciding the site of tiebreaker games for division titles and wild-card berths. Instead of deciding the sites by coin flips, criteria involving play would be used, such as head-to-head record between the tied teams and record within the division.