Cone Files For Free Agency

David Cone, still unsure of his future, became the first member of the New York Yankees to file for free agency since the team won it second consecutive World Series last week.

The 36-year-old right-hander was among seven players who filed Wednesday, increasing the total to 81. The move came after his agent, Steve Fehr, spoke with Yankees general manager Brian Cashman.

"It was our first substantive conversation," Fehr said. "We talked a while."

Cone also filed for free agency after going 20-7 with a 3.55 ERA in 1998, then agreed last Nov. 11 to an $8 million, one-year contract with $1.5 million in performance bonuses, all of which he earned.

While he went 9-4 with a 2.86 ERA in the first half of this season and opened the second half with a perfect game against Montreal, he slumped to 3-5 with a 4.28 ERA in the second half and openly admitted he wasn't sure if the Yankees wanted him back.

He excelled in the postseason, allowing two runs and seven hits in seven innings against Boston and one hit in seven shutout innings against Atlanta, winning both starts.

Cone wants the security of a multiyear contract, while the Yankees probably would prefer a one-year deal. Other teams may be interested, including the New York Mets, so negotiations may proceed slowly.

"I don't think it's something that can be done in a great hurry," Fehr said. "I intend to keep as a low a profile as possible."

Cashman, at the Yankees' organizational meetings in Tampa, Fla., did not immediately return a telephone message.

Five other Yankees are eligible for free agency but haven't filed: catchers Joe Girardi and Jim Leyritz, infielder Luis Sojo, and left-handers Mike Stanton and Allen Watson.

The other players who filed Wednesday were Baltimore right-hander Jim Corsi, Colorado right-hander Jerry Dipoto, Toronto outfielder Brian McRae, Oakland right-hander Greg McMichael, St. Louis left-hander Donovan Osbornand Atlanta outfielder Gerald Williams.

Dipoto and the Rockies have agreed to a $4.9 million, two-year contract, making the filing protective until the paperwork goes through.

Osborne filed after the Cardinals declined his $5 million option and decided to pay a $750,000 buyout.

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