Brown gives Yankees tentative approval

Reports: Sheffield, Lofton also bound for Bronx

Winter meetins notebook

Baseball

December 13, 2003|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

NEW ORLEANS - Still hurting after free-agent left-hander Andy Pettitte scorned them, the New York Yankees apparently have found another pitcher to accept their love - and their money.

Former Oriole Kevin Brown gave his tentative approval yesterday to a proposed trade that will send him from the Los Angeles Dodgers to the Yankees for pitcher Jeff Weaver, two minor leaguers and $3 million.

That's one way to get over Pettitte, who took less money Thursday to sign with the Houston Astros.

"We've pretty much completed everything we needed to complete with the Dodgers," Brown's agent, Scott Boras, said at the winter meetings in New Orleans. "Now we're dealing with the Yankees."

In other Yankees news, a source close to the negotiations told The Record of Bergen County, N.J., last night that free-agent outfielder Gary Sheffield has agreed on a three-year, $39 million contract.

The three-week delay in the agreement was Sheffield's insistence that an additional $3 million be added onto the $39 million, three-year "handshake agreement" the power hitter made with Steinbrenner, money that protects the annual value of the contract when factoring in deferred payments. But Sheffield backed off yesterday, agreeing to Steinbrenner's terms, according to the source.

Sheffield, who hit .330 with 39 home runs and 132 RBIs with the Braves, could be joined in the outfield by Kenny Lofton, who is close to signing a two-year free-agent contract, The New York Times reported. He would play center field, with Sheffield in right.

Lofton, who turns 37 in May, stole 30 bases last season while batting .296 for the Pittsburgh Pirates and Chicago Cubs. He had a better on-base percentage than Alfonso Soriano and would displace Soriano as the leadoff hitter.

The Brown trade is complicated by his unusual contract, which he signed in December 1998 while former Orioles assistant general manager Kevin Malone was the Dodgers' GM.

Brown's historic seven-year, $105 million deal included a no-trade clause, the use of 12 private jet trips for his family from its home in Macon, Ga., and eight premium season tickets to Dodgers Stadium.

"We're just trying to put together a plan for the jet service in his contract with his family," Boras said. "If we get everything worked out, he's consented to go."

Brown, who turns 39 in March, has two years and $30 million remaining on his contract, the first in baseball history to reach $100 million. Injuries limited him to 29 starts combined in 2001 and 2002, and he went 14-9 with a 2.39 ERA last season.

He should be a more viable replacement for Pettitte than Weaver, 27, who was 7-9 with a 5.99 ERA last season, lost his spot in the rotation and was routinely booed at Yankee Stadium. In his final appearance, Weaver allowed a 12th-inning home run to shortstop Alex Gonzalez that enabled the Florida Marlins to win Game 4 of the World Series.

Weaver is owed $15.5 million over the next two seasons, including $9.25 in 2005.

Jays, M. Batista agree

Making the first move of the winter meetings while continuing to overhaul their rotation, the Toronto Blue Jays agreed to terms yesterday with pitcher Miguel Batista on a three-year, $13.1 million contract.

Batista, who spent the last three seasons with the Arizona Diamondbacks, will earn $3.6 million in 2004, $4.75 million in 2005 and $4.75 million in 2006.

Batista, 32, was 10-9 with a 3.54 ERA in 36 games last season, including 29 starts. In nine major league seasons, he's 42-50 with a 4.39 ERA.

The Blue Jays project Batista as their No. 2 starter behind Cy Young winner Roy Halladay. He'll join two other newcomers, left-hander Ted Lilly and former Oriole Pat Hentgen, who signed as a free agent. Another former Oriole, Josh Towers, could be the fifth starter.

False alarms

There's never a shortage of rumors to chase at the winter meetings.

One of the juiciest yesterday involved three teams and six players. The trade would have sent Alex Rodriguez and Bobby Abreu to Boston, Manny Ramirez and Jimmy Rollins to Texas, and Nomar Garciaparra and Trot Nixon to Philadelphia.

Word of the proposed deal quickly spread through the media workroom at the New Orleans Marriott, sending reporters scurrying to the lobby for possible confirmation. It ended up being false.

So, too, was the Cleveland Indians' rumored interest in free-agent outfielder Vladimir Guerrero. The Orioles remain the favorites to sign him.

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