Star-Bulletin Sports

Friday, January 4, 2002


Mets shop Agbayani to
Padres, Rockies

Star-Bulletin wire services

The New York Mets are discussing a pair of deals that would send Hawaii native Benny Agbayani westward, according to a report in the New York Times.

Major League Baseball The team's search for a slugger to bat behind Mo Vaughn and Mike Piazza has centered on free agent Juan Gonzalez, the Padres' Bubba Trammell and the Brewers' Jeromy Burnitz.

The Mets are close to choosing a direction and are expected to make a move soon.

One deal involving Agbayani (.277, 6 HRs, 27 RBIs in 2001) would send the St. Louis School and Hawaii Pacific alumnus to San Diego along with fellow outfielder Jay Payton (.255, 8, 34), left-hander Bruce Chen (7-7, 4.87 ERA) and another pitcher for Trammell (.261, 24 home runs, 92 RBIs), outfielder Mike Darr (.277, 2, 34), righty Brian Tollberg (10-4, 4.30) and perhaps another pitcher.

Under that scenario, Agbayani would likely compete with Payton for playing time, with Ray Lankford set in left field and Mark Kotsay the starter in right or center. The Padres' preference might be to unload Lankford's salary and start Agbayani and Payton.

If the Mets choose to go after Gonzalez -- whose agent is also meeting with the Rangers -- or Burnitz, Agbayani could be traded to the Colorado Rockies.

The Mets and Rockies are already discussing a deal involving Agbayani, though no other details were available.

Japanese pitcher up for bid: Kazuhisa Ishii wants to follow Ichiro Suzuki from Japan to the major leagues, and the left-hander's team is offering him to the highest bidder.

The Yakult Swallows, who won the Central League title last season, notified the commissioner's office in New York on Wednesday that Ishii was being formally "posted," the term used when a player in the Japanese leagues wants to switch to the majors.

Major league teams, many seeking to add starting pitching, have until 5 p.m. EST Monday to submit the price they would pay for the rights to the eight-year veteran. The Swallows have until 5 p.m. EST next Friday to accept or reject the highest offer. If the bid is accepted, the major league team has 30 days to work out a contract with the 28-year-old.

Anaheim, Arizona, Los Angeles, the New York Mets and Yankees, Seattle and Texas are among the teams thought to be interested in bidding for Ishii, who went 12-6 with a 3.39 ERA and 173 strikeouts in 175 innings last season.

Morris, Cards agree: Cardinals righthander Matt Morris, who won 22 games last season after winning three the year before, has passed up potential free agency by agreeing to a three-year contract estimated at a total of $29 million, including incentives, according to sources close to the Cardinals. Official word of the deal is expected in the next day or so.

Morris, who underwent reconstructive elbow surgery in spring 1999, was 22-8 with a 3.16 earned-run average last year as he helped the Cardinals to a share of the National League Central Division title.

As a five-year major league veteran, the 27-year-old Morris would have been eligible for free agency after the 2002 season.

Twins set to hire manager: In another sign baseball is unlikely to eliminate any teams this year, the Minnesota Twins called a news conference for today to announce their new manager, reportedly Ron Gardenhire.

"Right now I'm kind of waiting until tomorrow. I'll be able to talk a little after that," Gardenhire, the only remaining candidate, said yesterday.

Al Smith dies: Al Smith, the two-time All-Star outfielder who hit .272 in 12 seasons in the major leagues, has died. He was 73.

Smith, who worked part time in community relations for the Chicago White Sox, died yesterday at a hospital in Hammond, Ind., following a brief illness, the White Sox said today.

A native of Kirkwood, Mo., Smith played for the Indians, White Sox, Orioles and Red Sox. He had 167 home runs and 676 RBIs in 1,517 games.

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