Tejada an Astro; Cubs dump Prior
By: By MIKE FITZPATRICK, AP Baseball Writer
Miguel Tejada can’t wait to hit in Houston and Aaron Rowand has a new home in San Francisco.
On a busy day in baseball, Tejada was traded from Baltimore to the Astros and Rowand agreed to a five-year contract with the Giants as major league teams made a flurry of moves one day before the release of George Mitchell’s report on drugs.
Andruw Jones, Jake Peavy, Andy Pettitte and Kosuke Fukudome also were in the news Wednesday, completing deals that had been agreed to earlier. Slugging second baseman Jeff Kent confirmed he’ll return to play a fourth season for the Los Angeles Dodgers, and pitcher Mark Prior was let go by the Chicago Cubs.
Tejada was shipped from Baltimore to the Astros for a package of five players, giving the former AL MVP a fresh start on a team looking to improve its lineup.
“I was in Houston last week and I’ve played in Minute Maid Park in the All-Star game, so I think I’ll do great in that city,” Tejada said.
The Orioles received outfielder Luke Scott, pitchers Matt Albers, Troy Patton and Dennis Sarfate, and third baseman Michael Costanzo for the four-time All-Star shortstop.
Two winters ago, Tejada caused a stir in Baltimore when he said he was unhappy with the Orioles’ direction and wanted to be traded. He later backed off that stance, but acknowledged Wednesday that all the trade rumors were distracting.
“I didn’t know where I would be next month. Now my mind is fresh. Now I’m really relaxed and ready to go,” he said. “I’m very happy, very happy. It’s the biggest gift Santa Claus will give me.”
The 2002 AL MVP with Oakland is owed $13 million in each of the next two years, the final seasons of a $72 million, six-year contract. Reports had the Astros pursuing him for some time.
“This is a big day for us. We got a big bat,” new general manager Ed Wade said. “The reality is when you are talking about a player of this magnitude, you have to go in with every expectation that the asking price is going to be very high and if you want to participate, it’s going to be tough.”
Rowand agreed to a $60 million deal with San Francisco, giving the club a Gold Glove center fielder without having to trade young pitchers Matt Cain or Tim Lincecum.
“With this move, we will no longer listen to any offers for Cain and Lincecum,” Giants GM Brian Sabean said. “They might be the hottest two names in baseball.”
The 30-year-old Rowand is expected to bat fifth for the Giants after spending the past two seasons with the Philadelphia Phillies. Before that, he helped the Chicago White Sox win the 2005 World Series.
“I wanted to get in a spot where I would be long term,” said Rowand, who noted he weighed four or five similar multiyear offers. “In this day of free agency, that’s not commonplace.”
Jones finalized his $36.2 million, two-year contract with the Dodgers and was introduced at a news conference. The former Atlanta star, coming off a poor season, has won 10 consecutive Gold Gloves in center field and joins Kent in a lineup that Los Angeles hopes will have more punch next season.
“I’ll bounce back. I never had a bad year like I had this year,” Jones said. “I’m really happy the Dodgers gave me this opportunity.”
Kent’s agent, Jeffrey Klein, said in an e-mail that his client had advised Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti that he intends to play next year. Kent, a five-time All-Star who turns 40 in March, is baseball’s career leader in home runs by a second baseman. He batted .302 with a team-leading 20 homers and 79 RBI this season despite being slowed by a strained hamstring in the second half.
“I never thought there was any doubt he was coming back,” Colletti said.
Now, the Dodgers can turn their attention to adding a starting pitcher. Colletti wants to land Japanese free agent Hiroki Kuroda.
“We’ve had conversations,” Colletti said, acknowledging an offer has been made but refusing to elaborate. “I would love to meet with him as soon as I can.”
Fukudome, another Japanese star, reached a preliminary agreement with the Chicago Cubs on a $48 million, four-year deal to become their right fielder. The NL Central champions, seeking their first World Series title since 1908, had been looking for a left-handed bat.
“He’s been our target acquisition from Day 1,” Cubs general manager Jim Hendry said. “He changes the dynamic of our club.”
Peavy signed a $52 million, three-year contract extension with San Diego, the biggest deal in Padres history. It was completed just less than a month after the right-hander won the NL Cy Young Award in an unanimous vote.
Pettitte and the Yankees agreed to a $16 million, one-year contract. The move was a formality after the 35-year-old left-hander decided to pitch for New York rather than retire, then accepted the team’s offer of salary arbitration.
Prior becomes a free agent after the Cubs declined to offer him a 2008 contract before Wednesday’s deadline. An 18-game winner in 2003, the right-hander has been sidetracked by a string of injuries.
Teams had until 11 p.m. to offer contracts to unsigned players on their 40-man rosters.
In all, 43 players became free agents after they weren’t tendered deals. They included outfielder Emil Brown (Kansas City), reliever Kiko Calero (Oakland), reliever Brendan Donnelly (Boston), pitcher Chad Durbin (Detroit), infielder Morgan Ensberg (San Diego), catcher Johnny Estrada (Mets) and shortstop Adam Everett (Houston).
Others on the list were outfielder Willie Harris (Atlanta), pitcher Mark Hendrickson (Dodgers), outfielder Jason Lane (San Diego), infielder Dallas McPherson (Angels), outfielder Kevin Mench (Milwaukee), infielder Aaron Miles (St. Louis), catcher Miguel Olivo (Florida), reliever Akinori Otsuka (Texas), pitcher Josh Towers (Toronto), outfielder Jason Tyner (Minnesota) and reliever Matt Wise (Milwaukee).
In a quiet trade, Texas acquired first baseman Ben Broussard from Seattle for minor league infielder Tug Hulett. The Rangers also completed their one-year deal with Milton Bradley worth $5.25 million when the outfielder passed his physical. Bradley can earn an additional $2.75 million in performance bonuses.
Several players agreed to one-year contracts: utility infielder Chris Gomez ($1 million) with Pittsburgh; relievers Seth McClung ($750,000) and Greg Aquino ($500,000) and catcher Mike Rivera ($395,000) with Milwaukee; and lefty Lenny DiNardo ($900,000) with Oakland.
Left-hander Tim Byrdak ($712,500) and the Detroit Tigers avoided salary arbitration. Washington agreed to 2008 contracts with right-handers John Patterson ($850,000), Luis Ayala ($1.7 million) and Ryan Wagner ($450,000, and he can earn $25,000 bonuses if he reaches 40 and 50 games), also avoiding arbitration.
Associated Press Writer Juan A. Lozano, AP Baseball Writer Ronald Blum and AP Sports Writers Rick Gano, Janie McCauley, John Nadel and Bernie Wilson contributed to this report.