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Players Wait As Baseball Deadline Nears

December 21, 2003

NEW YORK (AP) _ Seattle pitcher Freddy Garcia agreed to a $6,875,000, one-year contract Saturday night, about two hours before the deadline for teams to offer 2004 contracts to unsigned players on their rosters.

Garcia, a 27-year-old right-hander, slumped to a 12-14 record with a 4.51 last season after going 18-6 in 2001 and 16-10 in 2002. His salary matches the amount he won in arbitration for 2003.

The Dec. 20 deadline has become increasingly important in recent years because teams are squeezing players to agree to contracts by threatening to make them free agents. Players with more than three years of major league service who are offered contracts are eligible for salary arbitration.

About 3 1/2 hours before the deadline, Boston announced it was offering a contract to David Ortiz, who hit .288 last season with 31 homers and 101 RBIs, both career highs.

Facing the deadline, 20 players agreed to deals Friday and Garcia was among seven players who settled for one-year contracts Saturday. The others were Oakland designated hitter Erubiel Durazo ($2.1 million), Boston catcher Doug Mirabelli ($825,000), Atlanta outfielder Gary Matthews ($800,000), Toronto shortstop Chris Woodward ($775,000), San Diego utilityman Brian Buchanan ($650,000) and St. Louis outfielder Kerry Robinson ($450,000).

As of 10 p.m., teams had failed to offer contracts to 31 players, among them Colorado outfielder Jay Payton, who hit .302 and set career bests with 28 homers and 89 RBIs. The Rockies agreed to a one-year contract with free agent outfielder Jeromy Burnitz that guaranteed him $1.5 million.

Boston didn’t offer contracts to six players: outfielder Gabe Kapler, infielders Lou Merloni and Damian Jackson, and pitchers Scott Sauerbeck, Edwin Almonte and Jason Shiell. Kapler, Almonte and Shiell are expected to re-sign with the Red Sox shortly.

Also cut loose were Anaheim utilityman Shawn Wooten; Baltimore pitchers Jason Johnson and Damian Moss; Cleveland pitchers Danys Baez and Carl Sadler; New York Yankees outfielders David Dellucci and Karim Garcia; Oakland pitchers Jeremy Fikac and Mark Redman and Athletics infielder Frank Menechino.

Not offered contracts in the NL were Cincinnati outfielders Ruben Mateo and Reggie Taylor and infielder Russell Branyan; Colorado pitcher Scott Elarton and infielder Kit Pellow; Montreal right-handers Hector Almonte, Orlando Hernandez and Britt Reames; New York Mets reliever Scott Strickland; Pittsburgh pitcher Mike Lincoln; St. Louis pitcher Gene Stechschulte; and San Diego pitcher Mike Matthews, catcher Miguel Ojeda and infielder Todd Sears.

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