Belle Given More Time To Decide

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The deadline for Albert Belle to decide whether to return to his Chicago White Sox contract has been extended from Nov. 25 to Dec. 2, management's Player Relations Committee said Friday.

Belle became a free agent this week under a clause that allows him to void his $55 million, five-year contract if he is not among the three highest-paid players in baseball. Belle has three seasons remaining under that deal at $35 million guaranteed.

Under the White Sox contract, Belle had the right to explore the free-agent market for 30 days. Both sides agreed to give him until 6 p.m. ET Dec. 2 to restore his deal with Chicago.

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  • Meanwhile, Tampa Bay prevented Wade Boggs from becoming eligible for free agency by exercising a $750,000 option for 1999. The Devil Rays also added an option for the 2000 season.

    Four more ball players filed for free agency, increasing the total to 120: Jim Poole and Mark Whiten of the Cleveland Indians, Scott Bailes of the Texas Rangers and Mike Morgan of the Chicago Cubs.

    Also, the New York Yankees were said to be leaning toward declining catcher Joe Girardi's $3.4 million option and deciding to pay a $400,000 buyout. It also appeared the Yankees and Darryl Strawberry, who is recovering from colon cancer surgery, would agree to extend the deadline for deciding on his option.

    Strawberry, who hit .247 with 24 homers and 57 RBI, had his best season since 1991, then missed the postseason after a cancerous tumor was discovered. His option is for $2.5 million with a $100,000 buyout.

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