Albert Belle and World Series MVP Scott Brosius were among 17 players filing for free agency Tuesday, and the Texas Rangers exercised their $8.5 million option on Juan Gonzalez.
Belle, unlike other free agents, is in the unusual position of having a fallback position. Through Nov. 25, he has the option of reverting to his contract with the Chicago White Sox, which calls for salaries of $10 million in each of the next three seasons with a $10 million club option for 2002 that carries a $5 million buyout.
His talent is undisputed -- he hit .328 last season with 49 homers and 152 RBI -- but so is his temper, making it unclear how much other teams will pursue the outfielder.
Brosius, obtained by the Yankees from Oakland last November for pitcher Kenny Rogers, definitely increased his value this year. He hit .300 with 19 homers and 98 RBI during the regular season and played outstanding third base, then batted .383 in the postseason, leading New York in hits (18), home runs (4) and RBI (15).
He earned Series MVP honors by going 8-for-17 (.471) with two homers and six RBI in the sweep of San Diego.
A day earlier, Yankees center fielder Bernie Williams filed.
"We need to formulate a proposal for Scott and Bernie to consider," Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said Tuesday. "We're going to get together, probably in the next few weeks, have an organizational meeting, formulate a plan and make a proposal."
New York will find out Wednesday whether David Cone decides to exercise his $5.5 million player option. Cone's agent, Steve Fehr, said no decision had been made, but it sounded as if the pitcher, a 20-game winner for the first time since 1988, wanted to negotate an extension.
"I've told them if they wanted to make an offer, they should make an offer," Cashman said. "Right now he's a signed player until he tells us he's not."
Wetteland has elbow surgery
ARLINGTON, Texas -- Texas Rangers closer John Wetteland underwent arthroscopic surgery to remove a bone spur from his right elbow Tuesday in Inglewood, California.
The Rangers have not determined a timetable for Wetteland's rehabilitation, but a team spokesman said the club hopes he can be ready by Opening Day. The surgery was performed by Dr. Lewis Yocum, the orthopedist of the Anaheim Angels.
"The main thing is we have time on our side," Rangers manager Johnny Oates told the Dallas Morning News. "Procrastination would cause problems. Doing this now gives John the time he needs to get ready. It doesn't matter if he's ready for the start of spring training. It's the start of the season that we care about."
Wetteland, who completed the second year of a four-year $23 million contract, posted a 3-1 record with 42 saves and a 2.03 ERA in 63 games for Texas in 1998, allowing 47 hits with 14 walks and 72 strikeouts. He appeared in one game in the Rangers' American League Division Series against the New York Yankees, which Texas lost in three straight, and pitched a scoreless inning.
Wetteland, who earned MVP honors in the 1996 World Series by saving all four victories for the Yankees, twice went seven days without pitching during the regular season.
The 31-year-old Wetteland has recorded 253 saves in his 10-year major-league career. He was signed as a free agent by the Rangers in 1997 after two seasons with the Yankees. Wetteland spent three years with the Los Angeles Dodgers and Montreal Expos before being traded to the Yankees early in the 1995 season.
Rangers extend option on Gonzalez
ARLINGTON, Texas -- Juan Gonzalez's 1999 option was exercised Tuesday by the Texas Rangers.
Although management's Player Relations Committee and the players' association list the option at $7.25 million, the team said the figure is actually $8.5 million because the contract signed in February 1994 was amended a month later.
Gonzalez led the AL in RBI (157) and doubles (50), hit 45 home runs, batted a career-high .318. He could win his second AL MVP award in three years next month.
The Rangers also have a $7.5 million option for the 2000 season. Gonzalez made $7 million, plus bonuses, this season.
Lopez agrees to $1.35 million, two-year deal
NEW YORK -- A day after the New York Mets signed Mike Piazza for a record $91 million over seven years, they signed another player.
This one got less.
Infielder Luis Lopez, who would have been eligible for saary arbitration this winter, agreed Tuesday on a $1.35 million, two-year contract.
Lopez, 28, hit .252 in 266 at-bats this season with two homers and 22 RBI. He made $375,000.
Lopez gets $575,000 next season and $775,000 and 2000. He can earn $200,000 in performance bonuses during the second year of the deal.
Seven Mets remain eligible for arbitration.
Blue Jays re-sign Grebeck
TORONTO -- Infielder Craig Grebeck and the Toronto Blue Jays agreed Tuesday to a $1.35 million, two-year contract.
Grebeck hit .256 with 17 doubles and 27 RBI in his first season with the Jays in 1998.
The nine-year major-league veteran started 83 games with Toronto, 77 at second base this year.
Grebeck, who made $415,000 in 1998, gets $625,000 next season and $725,000 in 2000. He can make an additional $200,000 per season in performance bonuses.
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