Giants offer arbitration to Kent, sign Grissom, DurhamPosted: Saturday December 07, 2002 3:03 PM
Updated: Sunday December 08, 2002 11:29 PM
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- Jeff Kent was offered arbitration on Saturday by the San Francisco Giants -- but just in case things don't work out with the former MVP, they also signed two players who might help replace him.
Second baseman Ray Durham and outfielder Marquis Grissom signed with the NL champions -- and in a mildly surprising move, the Giants agreed to continue negotiating with Kent, their star second baseman and Barry Bonds' most dependable teammate.
Durham crossed the Bay from Oakland to sign a $20.1 million, three-year contract with a $7 million player option for a fourth season. Grissom left the Los Angeles Dodgers for a $4.25 million, two-year contract with a club option for 2005.
Instead of shying away from the possibility of a huge arbitration settlement, general manager Brian Sabean kept every option open in his ongoing negotiations with Kent, who has driven in at least 101 runs in each of his six seasons in San Francisco. By offering arbitration, the Giants are free to continue talking about a contract with Kent's agent, Jeffrey Klein.
Though Durham would be a capable replacement for Kent at second base, Durham also understands that he might play the outfield in San Francisco. Several teams bid for Durham's services, but the Giants' winning tradition -- and their competitive offer -- won him over.
"I am open to the outfield," Durham said. "That was one of the big questions coming into my free agent year: Will he be willing to go play center field? And my answer was yes. Wherever the team needs me, that's where I'll go. Wherever they need me."
The Giants also declined arbitration for outfielders Kenny Lofton, Reggie Sanders and Tom Goodwin, third baseman Bill Mueller and infielder Shawon Dunston, continuing a huge offseason shakeup for the pennant-winners who came within one victory of a World Series title.
Sabean reportedly has discussed trading right-hander Russ Ortiz to attract a topflight bat, and the Giants made a $3 million offer to Houston right-hander Shane Reynolds before he re-signed with the Astros for $1 million, according to Reynolds' agent, Tommy Tanzer.
The Giants appeared to be close to signing Arizona free agent outfielder Steve Finley earlier this week, but Sabean instead signed a pair of two-time All-Stars whose roles might not be defined until spring training. Whatever positions they play, Durham and Grissom will add a fleet-footed dimension to the speed-starved Giants.
Durham, a dependable run-producer and a possible leadoff hitter, got a $3.6 million signing bonus. He will make $4 million next season, $6 million in 2004, and $6.5 million in 2005.
He hit .289 with 114 runs, 15 homers, 70 RBIs and 26 steals in 150 games last season for the White Sox and the Athletics, who acquired him in a trade last July 25.
"I'm looking forward to getting on base in front of Barry, and hopefully he can drive me home a bunch of times," Durham said. "The San Francisco Giants have been in the playoffs and at least given the guys a chance to go and try to win a World Series. I just hope we can keep the tradition going and try to get Barry that elusive World Series ring."
Grissom, a four-time Gold Glove with a .270 career batting average, is a veteran of 14 major league seasons with five clubs, including Montreal -- where he played for Alou, the Giants' new manager.
With the departures of Sanders and Lofton, Grissom almost certainly will start for the Giants. San Francisco has been searching for veteran outfield depth since dropping Tsuyoshi Shinjo last month, and Grissom says he's healthy enough to accept the assignment -- and once again become a base-stealing threat.
"In my 14th season, I'm kind of happy to become an everyday starter once again," Grissom said. "I think I'm in the prime of my career, and healthy. My main interest in going to any team was to get out there and play every day. I think I've got a lot left. I'm nowhere near a fourth outfielder on nobody's team."
Grissom played 111 games last season, batting .277 with 17 home runs and 60 RBIs. He gets a $250,000 signing bonus, $1.75 million in 2003 and $2 million in 2004. The Giants have a $2.5 million option for 2005 with a $250,000 buyout.
Kent, a three-time All-Star, hit .313 with 37 homers and 108 RBIs last season as the Giants won the NL pennant for the first time since 1989. He is sixth in major league history with 229 homers as a second baseman, and he's the first right-handed hitter to get 100 RBIs in six straight seasons for the Giants since Willie Mays.
The Giants and Kent's representatives worked on a deal for several days before the deadline. Kent feels he deserves a big contract after six years of phenomenal numbers, but he acknowledged last summer that the market might be limited for a middle infielder who will turn 35 in spring training.
Kent's value on the open market is anybody's guess. The Cubs are known to be interested in him, while NL West rivals Los Angeles and Colorado might enter the bidding for the right price.
Late in the regular season, Bonds said he hoped the Giants would
re-sign Kent, even though the sluggers have had a rocky
relationship that included a shoving match in the dugout in San
Diego last season.