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AROUND THE MAJORS

Yankees Splurge, Obtain Contreras

December 25, 2002|From Associated Press

The New York Yankees' need to cut payroll ends at the U.S. border.

For the second time in less than a week, baseball's biggest spenders broke their budget for a big international acquisition, reaching a preliminary agreement Tuesday on a four-year, $32-million contract with Cuban defector Jose Contreras.

Last week, the Yankees agreed to a three-year, $21-million deal with outfielder Hideki Matsui, Japan's leading slugger. The agreement with Contreras means the Yankees will have eight starting pitchers on the roster as soon as their deal to re-sign Roger Clemens is completed.

"We couldn't, the right word is we wouldn't, sacrifice the opportunity to sign these talents on the basis of reducing payroll first," Yankee General Manager Brian Cashman said.

Contreras, a right-hander who said he is 31, got the largest deal ever for a Cuban defector, topping the four-year, $14.5-million deal Cleveland gave pitcher Danys Baez three years ago. Contreras throws in the mid-90s, and the Yankees envision him as part of their rotation.

Contreras pitched for Cuba's national team for seven years. He was 117-50 with a 2.82 ERA in the Cuban League, according to the Yankees.

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The Boston Red Sox signed reliever Chad Fox and finalized Mike Timlin's one-year, $1.85-million contract.

Fox, 32, had only six appearances in Milwaukee and double-A Huntsville last season after going 5-2 with a 1.89 earned-run average and two saves in 65 appearances for Milwaukee in 2001. Timlin, 36, went 4-6 with a 2.97 ERA in 72 games.

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Pitchers Jose Rijo and Pete Harnisch agreed to minor league contracts with the Cincinnati Reds, giving them a chance to prolong careers interrupted by elbow operations. The Reds also signed infielder Wilton Guerrero to a minor league deal. All three were invited to spring training.... Former Toronto Blue Jay manager Tim Johnson became the manager of the Lincoln Saltdogs of the Northern League. Johnson was fired by Toronto in 1999 after lying about his military service in Vietnam.... Right-handed reliever Jay Witasick rejoined the San Diego Padres, agreeing to a two-year, $2.75-million contract.

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