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Baseball
Tom Verducci
November 25, 2002
Bronx-Bound BomberAs the Yanks closed in on a deal with Hideki Matsui, other teams whined and unloaded big contracts
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November 25, 2002

Baseball

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Costly Contracts

By trading lefthander Mike Hampton, the Rockies moved all but $11 million of the $84.5 million that they owed him over the next six years. Here's a sampling of other high-priced players still on the trading block, with their teams' remaining financial obligations (includes guaranteed buyout money).

Player, Team

Money Owed (in millions)

Years

Larry Walker, Rockies

$38.5

3

Denny Neagle, Rockies

$37.0

3

Bobby Higginson, Tigers

$29.6

3

Richard Hidalgo, Astros

$22.0

2

Todd Hundley, Cubs

$12.5

2

Jeromy Burnitz, Mets

$11.5

1

Greg Vaughn, Devil Rays

$9.3

1

Eric Karros, Dodgers

$9.0

1

Jeffrey Hammonds, Brewers

$7.3

1

Sterling Hitchcock, Yankees

$7.0

1

Raul Mondesi, Yankees

$7.0

1

Rey Ordo´┐Żez, Mets

$6.3

1

Mark Grudzielanek, Dodgers

$6.0

1

Rondell White, Yankees

$5.0

1

Bronx-Bound Bomber
As the Yanks closed in on a deal with Hideki Matsui, other teams whined and unloaded big contracts

The sun never sets on the Yankees' Empire. New York announced last Friday that it had signed a working agreement with the Yomiuri Giants (the Yankees of Japanese baseball) just as last year it hooked up with Manchester United (the Yankees of English soccer). So, too, the grumbling about how the Yankees wield their enormous clout may never cease.

Though none of the five New York team executives who flew to Japan last week winked while the Yomiuri accord was announced, many officials from other major league teams assumed that the Yankees, in proper time, will also announce the signing of free-agent outfielder Hideki Matsui, a wildly popular three-time MVP in Japan. Matsui's former team? Yomiuri.

"It stinks, and we could complain to the commissioner, but what is he going to do?" one National League club executive said.

Nothing. One source in the commissioner's office said of Matsui, a career .300 hitter coming off a 50-homer season, "He's a free agent. If you sign with New York and have an understanding that two years later you go back to Yomiuri, that's your choice. There's something slightly untoward about it, but if that's the deal, it's not illegal."

In the meantime the only agreement in place as of Monday was the one with Yomiuri that provided for the two teams to share scouting reports, facilities and organizational ideas. The deal allows the Yankees to keep any money they make by selling Giants merchandise, televising Giants games on their network or, as the Mariners did with Ichiro Suzuki, attracting international fans to their home park The rights of Yankees games broadcast in Japan, however, belong to Major League Baseball. Those proceeds would be split equally among the 30 clubs.

Questions remain about how Matsui's talents will translate to the American game. "He doesn't run that well or field that well, at least not like Ichiro [ Suzuki]," says one scout, who compares Matsui with former Red Sox outfielder Mike Greenwell, who averaged .300 and 15-20 homers in his prime. "He looks like a good power hitter, but that's in the smaller parks in Japan."

Matsui would likely bat sixth or seventh in the Yankees' lineup and play leftfield or, if New York succeeds in trading Raul Mondesi, rightfield. ( Arizona backed out of a swap of lefthander Greg Swindell and catcher Damian Miller for Mondesi, instead trading Miller to the Cubs for two minor leaguers.) Owner George Steinbrenner has ordered general manager Brian Cashman to cut last season's payroll of $125 million, which was $17 million more than the second-ranked club. Cashman has been exploring deals to move Mondesi, outfielder Ron-dell White, pitchers Orlando Hernandez, Sterling Hitchcock and Andy Pettitte, and catcher Jorge Posada. Pitchers Roger Clemens, Ramiro Mendoza and Mike Stanton are free agents.

New York also must decide whether to bring back free-agent third baseman Robin Ventura or find a cheaper alternative. Prospect Drew Henson does not figure in immediate plans at that position after a stunning lack of progress this year. In all, at least 10 players from the 25-man roster that lost the Division Series to Anaheim cannot be certain they'll be Yankees next spring. Not as certain, at least, as Matsui.

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