Juan Gonzalez agreed to a $10-million, one-year contract with the Cleveland Indians on Tuesday, giving the club a right fielder and power hitter to replace Manny Ramirez.
Gonzalez, who has had a history of back problems, passed a team physical before signing the deal, which includes a $14-million mutual option for 2002.
"The driving force was our desire and need for a player of Juan's ability and Juan's desire to want to play in Cleveland," General Manager John Hart said. "We have a player that at 31 years old has Hall of Fame credentials."
Gonzalez, a two-time American League most valuable player while with the Texas Rangers, will help the Indians replace Ramirez, who signed with the Boston Red Sox last month.
Gonzalez was diagnosed with a herniated disk after last season, his first with the Detroit Tigers.
More troubling for the Tigers was that Gonzalez twice skipped medical exams, leading to speculation his back trouble was more serious.
Gonzalez reportedly passed a physical with the Tigers, but the Indians wanted to take a look themselves.
Last week, Gonzalez told a newspaper in his native Puerto Rico that he wants to play in Cleveland because he loves hitting at Jacobs Field and because he's close friends with Indian all-star second baseman Roberto Alomar and outfielder Wil Cordero.
Gonzalez's 12 homers and 36 runs batted in are the most by an opposing player at Jacobs Field, and he has hit .344 in 30 games at Cleveland.
Indian starter Chuck Finley underwent successful arthroscopic surgery on his right knee and is expected to be able to pitch in four to six weeks. . . . Chicago White Sox reliever Bill Simas, one of the team's main middle relievers, will sit out the season after ligament replacement surgery on his elbow last month. The typical recovery period is 12-18 months. . . . Pitcher Mark Leiter, the older brother of New York Met ace Al Leiter, agreed to a minor league contract with the club, as did outfielder Darren Bragg. Mark Leiter hasn't pitched in the major leagues since May 1, 1999, before he had right shoulder surgery. . . . Outfielder Luis Gonzalez's $4-million option for 2003 was exercised by the Arizona Diamondbacks. Gonzalez, 33, had two years left on a three-year, $12.5-million contract extension. . . . Closer Jason Isringhausen agreed to a $3.3-million, one-year contract with the Oakland Athletics.
The Philadelphia Phillies will retire the No. 14 jersey worn by Hall of Fame pitcher Jim Bunning before their home opener in April. . . . The Montreal Expos will be back on television this season, agreeing to a one-year contract with Reseau des Sports (RDS), a French-language all-sports station.