Angel center fielder Darin Erstad, nearly traded to the Chicago White Sox in December, agreed to terms on a one-year, $6.25-million contract Wednesday, a lucrative deal that avoids arbitration and could increase the chances of Erstad remaining in Anaheim beyond this coming season.
Erstad, who can become a free agent after 2002, received a considerable raise over the $3.45 million he made in 2001, when he suffered through a mediocre, injury-plagued season batting .258 with nine home runs and 63 runs batted in.
"Rick Schlesinger [Angel vice president for business and legal affairs] made it clear he wanted to have discussion about a multiyear deal later this year, and we agreed to do that," said Jeff Moorad, Erstad's agent. "We're pleased with the result [of Wednesday's deal]. It's obvious the Angels were committed to getting something done that was fair for Darin."
Erstad had a tremendous 2000 season, batting .355 with 25 homers, 39 doubles, 100 RBIs and a franchise-record 121 runs and 240 hits, but after slumping in 2001, he wasn't sure what to expect.
Talks between Moorad and the Angels on a long-term deal broke down quickly after the season, and the sides agreed to pursue a one-year deal. Erstad was pleasantly surprised by the results.
"It's nice to know they still think highly of me," Erstad said. "Hopefully I can reward them."
Erstad moved from center field to first base for the final week of the 2001 season, in anticipation of a possible move back to the infield for 2002. But it appears Erstad will remain in the outfield.
That means barring a trade or free-agent acquisition, Scott Spiezio will probably play first, with Shawn Wooten seeing some time at first base and designated hitter.
"I've been told, more than likely, that I'll play center field," Erstad said. "I'm preparing to play the outfield.''
Japanese left-hander Kazuhisa Ishii looks forward to closing a deal with the Dodgers as soon as possible.
"I'm really enthusiastic," Ishii said after returning to Japan from a Yakult Swallows' training camp in Hawaii. "The team I want to join the most made the highest bid for me so of course I'm pleased."
The Dodgers reportedly made a formal contract offer late Monday in an attempt to sign the 28-year-old Ishii.
Second baseman Bret Boone, who helped lead the Seattle Mariners to an American League-record 116 wins last season, agreed to a $25-million, three-year contract.
The deal contains a team option for 2005 that would become guaranteed if he has about 400 plate appearances the previous year. The contract would be worth $33 million over four seasons.
Boone, 32, finished third in the league MVP voting last year when he set AL records for second basemen in home runs and runs batted in. He hit .331 with 36 homers and 141 RBIs.
Outfielder Jermaine Dye avoided arbitration by agreeing to a $32-million, three-year contract with the Oakland Athletics. Dye, acquired from Kansas City by the A's in a July trade, filed for arbitration Tuesday and could have become a free agent after next season.
The Minnesota Twins, facing an uncertain future, locked up another promising player for the long term by signing pitcher Joe Mays to a four-year contract worth $20 million.
"I'm ecstatic," said Mays, who had a breakthrough season in 2001, going 17-13 with a 3.16 earned-run average.
The signing of Mays is another indication the Twins, who finished a surprising 85-77 and in second place in the AL Central last year, are preparing to play this season, despite the possibility of the franchise being eliminated.
Free agent pitcher Pedro Astacio, shut down late last season by the Houston Astros because of an injured right shoulder, agreed on a one-year deal with the New York Mets.
Astacio is guaranteed $5 million, and can make an additional $5 million next season in performance bonuses if he pitches 230 innings.
The Milwaukee Brewers signed free agent second baseman Eric Young to a $5-million, two-year contract. Young gets $2 million in each of the next two seasons, and Milwaukee has a $3-million option for 2004 with a $1-million buyout.
Young batted .279 with six home runs, 42 RBIs and 31 stolen bases last season for the Chicago Cubs.
Outfielder J.D. Drew avoided arbitration, agreeing to a one-year, $3.1-million contract with the St. Louis Cardinals.... Right-hander reliever Danny Patterson and the Detroit Tigers agreed to a $7-million, three-year contract.... Catcher Scott Servais signed a minor league contract with the San Francisco Giants.... The Chicago Cubs and Alan Benes agreed on a minor league contract.
The Boston Red Sox agreed to a one-year contract worth $650,000 with catcher Doug Mirabelli, avoiding arbitration.... The Pittsburgh Pirates signed right-hander Scott Service to a minor league contract.