Burks signs three-year, $20 million deal with Indians
Updated: Monday November 20, 2000 11:49 PM
CLEVELAND (AP) -- The Cleveland Indians finally found a right fielder willing to accept their millions.
Ellis Burks became the first high-profile free agent hitter to go elsewhere this offseason, signing a three-year, $20 million deal Monday with the Indians, who began filling the void that would be left by the departure of Manny Ramirez.
Burks decided to sign with the Indians during the weekend after narrowing his choice to Cleveland and the Texas Rangers.
By signing Burks, the Indians may have ended any possibility of re-signing Ramirez, who rejected the club's $119 million, seven-year offer and is still on the market.
"I don't think this helps. We would have to be creative," Indians general manager John Hart said on the prospect of reopening negotiations with Ramirez. "I'd have to say it's unlikely, but it's not impossible. ... We have left the door open."
Hart said he would contact Ramirez's agent, Jeff Moorad, this week.
"We would need some overtures from their camp that they are interested in us," Hart said.
Moorad, who asked the Indians for $200 million over 10 years, said he had met with another team on Monday and that he has had serious negotiations with six clubs in the past week.
Moorad said he spoke with Hart last week and expected to hear again from the Indians in the next few days. However, he didn't seem optimistic about working out a new deal for Ramirez in Cleveland.
"It feels more and more like we're each going to go in other directions," Moorad said Monday night. "I would welcome them (the Indians) getting re-involved, but it would require a penny or two more than they proposed last time."
Once Ramirez turned them down, the Indians switched their priority to signing the 36-year-old Burks, who batted .344 with 24 home runs and 96 RBIs in only 393 at-bats last season for the San Francisco Giants.
"He was a player that was at or near the top of our list," Hart said.
Burks knows he can't duplicate the numbers put up by Ramirez, who has driven in 432 runs the past three seasons. He won't even bother trying.
"There's no way you can replace a bat like Manny Ramirez," Burks said from his home in Englewood, Colo. "He's been one of the premier players in the American League for years. I'm not trying to come there and be anyone's savior. I just want to be part of the machine."
Burks gets a $2 million signing bonus, $5 million next season, $6 million in 2002 and $6.5 million in 2003. The Indians have a $5 million option for 2004 with a $500,000 buyout.
In addition, performance bonuses could raise the value of the deal to $28.05 million over four years.
The Indians plan to use Burks in right field and as their designated hitter so he can rest his knees. Burks' aching knees have prevented him from playing in more than 120 games since 1996, and the chance to be a DH was one of the reasons he wanted to play in the AL again.
Hart said Burks underwent a thorough physical when he visited Cleveland last week and there is no concern about his knees.
"It's something that needs to be monitored when he plays four, five, six times a week," Hart said. "But he's a specimen. He checked out medically. We're comfortable. This signing legitimizes our lineup. I think it's going to make it better."
Hart said he envisions Burks playing a minimum of 80 games in the outfield and a maximum of 120. Whatever it takes to get him 600 at-bats.
As for other free-agent signings, Hart said the Indians would take a wait-and-see approach. The club would still like to add another bat to their lineup and they have made inquiries to the agent for Tony Gwynn.
The Indians would also like to get in the hunt for free-agent pitchers Mike Mussina and Mike Hampton. However, Hart is leery of getting involved in a bidding war when the market has yet to be established with Ramirez and Alex Rodriguez still available.
"We've got some players we have talked to," Hart said. "But I think we're going to hold back for a while. I think the rest of the winter is going to be interesting from the standpoint that we won't be pursuing quite as hard."
He hasn't played in the AL since 1993 and said he'll spend the winter reviewing tapes put together by the Indians' advance scouts of pitchers he has never faced.
He's no Manny Ramirez, but Burks is sure he can make a name for himself in Cleveland.
"At some point," he said. "I know I'll be a factor as well."