Big Unit Files For Free Agency


Randy Johnson became the latest big name to file for free agency Wednesday, and both the New York Yankees and New York Mets said they had been in touch with the agent for Albert Belle.

It was unclear if the Yankees' interest in the outfielder is genuine, or if they were just sending a message to Bernie Williams, unsure whether he'll re-sign with the World Series champions.

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Yankees owner George Steinbrenner said he wasn't bothered by Belle's tempestuous past.

"Nobody's history scares me," Steinbrenner said. "We have a discipline in the organization that has proven itself."

Belle generally prefers to avoid reporters and would have trouble doing that in the Yankees clubhouse, where dozens of writers and cameramen spend hours each day.

Joe Torre's team was a model of tranquility this year, and Belle doesn't appear to be a good fit.

"Who comes from deeper problems that Darryl and Doc?" Steinbrenner said, referring to Darryl Strawberry and Dwight Gooden. "Yet they accepted the discipline and accepted the direction."

Mets general manager Steve Phillips said he had talked with Belle's agent, Arn Tellem, but about a different player.

"You'd certainly have to be interested in him offensively and what he's done," Phillips said. "Any team in baseball would like to add his offense to their club. But does he fit? I can't tell you yes or no."

Belle hit .328 with 49 homers and 152 RBI last season. He agreed to a $55 million, five-year contract with the Chicago White Sox in November 1996, but has a unique clause in his deal that allowed him to become a free agent Tuesday and also gave him the option through Nov. 25 of returning to his White Sox contract.

Meanwhile, David Cone and the Yankees postponed a decision on whether he will exercise a $5.5 million player option for next season. The deadline, originally midnight EST Wednesday, was pushed back to Nov. 4.

Johnson led the majors with 329 strikeouts, going 10-1 with a 1.28 ERA in 11 starts after Houston acquired him from Seattle on July 31. The Astros have said they want to re-sign him but the 35-year-old left-hander hasn't said whether he wants to stay.

In other free-agent news, the San Diego Padres exercised their $1.9 million option on postseason hero Jim Leyritz.

Philadelphia Phillies center fielder Doug Glanville, who would not have been eligible for salary arbitration until after next season, agreed to a three-year contract worth $5,575,000.

Glanville, who led the National League with 678 at-bats last season, will make $525,000 in 1999, up from a $260,000 base this year. He gets $2 million in 2000, $3 million in 2001 and a $50,000 signing bonus.

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