Indians Sign Ellis Burks

Ellis Burks wanted a chance to play in the World Series and the Cleveland Indians wanted a right fielder.

Now that Burks and the Indians have a deal, where does that leave Manny Ramirez?

Burks became the first free agent hitter to change teams this offseason, agreeing with Cleveland on a three-year deal worth nearly $21 million.

Burks hit .344 with 24 home runs and 96 RBIs in only 393 at-bats last season for the San Francisco Giants. The NL West champions, however, did not make a firm, multiyear offer to keep him.

Burks narrowed his choice to the Indians and the Texas Rangers. The Colorado Rockies had made a strong bid, and the New York Yankees dropped out after expressing early interest.

"It was a tough decision," Burks said Monday from his home in Englewood, Colo. "I looked at every different scenario possible and Cleveland was the route that I decided to go."

The 36-year-old Burks plays the same position Ramirez held for Cleveland. Ramirez recently sought a $200 million, 10-year contract from the Indians, who countered with a $119 million, seven-year offer to the free agent slugger, a deal that included a large amount deferred without interest.

The Indians then pulled their proposal off the table, an indication they might instead spend their money on a hitter Burks

and a pitcher, possibly Mike Mussina.

Cleveland also has contacted free agent Tony Gwynn, and could wind up pursuing pitchers such as Denny Neagle and Darren Dreifort.

Indians general manager John Hart is a wheeler-dealer, though, and there remained a chance he would re-sign Ramirez, too.

Burks grew up in the Fort Worth, Texas, area and maintains a home in Colorado, which made both the Rangers and Rockies attractive alternatives. But the opportunity to reach the World Series for the first time may have been the deciding factor.

The Indians won the AL Central from 1995-99, but missed the playoffs last season as injuries, particularly to their pitching staff, took their toll.

Having lost the division to the Chicago White Sox, the Indians went into the final day of the season hoping to win the wild-card spot, but finished one game behind Seattle.

Hart already was in action this month, acquiring catcher Eddie Taubensee from the Cincinnati Reds for two pitchers. That move may have closed out catcher Sandy Alomar Jr.'s career in Cleveland.

The Indians were said to have discussed an even bigger deal, a megaswap that would have sent second baseman Roberto Alomar and pitcher Dave Burba to Toronto for pitcher David Wells and outfielder Raul Mondesi.

Burks made his major league debut with Boston in 1987 and later played for the White Sox, Colorado and the Giants. He put up strong numbers this season despite a couple of knee surgeries in recent years.

The chance to take some pressure off his knees, occasionally serving as the DH, helped lure him back to the American League.

Burks took a tour of Jacobs Field earlier this month and met with Indians owner Larry Dolan and Hart.

"They gave me the red-carpet treatment," Burks said at the time. "I would like to come to a winning organization and become part of that Octoberfest. I want to get to that ultimate goal."

Burks was in Los Angeles on Saturday night, attending the Lakers' NBA game against Denver.

His agent, Jim Turner, said Burks had made his final choice between Cleveland and Texas, but would not disclose the decision.


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