Boston couldn't get a deal done to keep Mo Vaughn, its top hitter and team leader. The Red Sox had no problem completing a $26 million, four-year contract with Jose Offerman, who's not even sure where he will play.
"I'm ready to play anywhere they want me," Offerman said after the deal was announced Friday.
Offerman, who turned 30 last Sunday, is likely to bat leadoff and see time at first base, second base and designated hitter. He led Kansas City with a .315 average and .403 on-base percentage this year, stealing 45 bases, hitting seven homers and driving in 66 runs. Offerman led the major leagues with 13 triples.
"Jose is one of the best offensive players in the major leagues," Red Sox general manager Dan Duquette said in a statement. "He is a premier leadoff man who has had an outstanding on-base percentage throughout his career."
Duquette wasn't available for comment and was said to have traveled Thursday to Tucson, Ariz., trying to convince Albert Belle to sign with the Red Sox.
The surly outfielder, who has until Dec. 2 to decide whether to keep or jettison his $10 million-a-year contract with the Chicago White Sox, would provide the offensive pop Boston lost when it broke off talks with Vaughn Wednesday.
Offerman, who like Vaughn is represented by Tom Reich and Adam Katz, broke into the major leagues with Los Angeles Dodgers in 1990 and spent six seasons with the Dodgers, developing a reputation as a shortstop with a wild arm.
At Kansas City, he put in three solid seasons (he hit .303 in 1996 and .297 the following year) and moved to second base, where he made 19 errors in 152 games last season.
Offerman, paid $2 million this season, gets a $1 million signing bonus, $4.5 million next year, $5.5 million in 2000 and $6.5 million in each of the following two seasons. Boston has an $8 million option for 2003 with a $2 million buyout.
Earlier this week, Offerman was close to agreeing to a contract with Cleveland, but Indians general manager John Hart also was pursuing Roberto Alomar to play second base.
"I'm real hap6py (I'm) going to play in Boston," Offerman said. "It's hard for me to say what position I'm going to play."
Boston noted Offerman hit .338 (27-for-80) with a .454 on-base percentage from the seventh inning on when the Royals were leading by one run, were tied or the tying run was at base, on base or on deck. He hit .352 with a .450 on-base percentage when he batted with runners in scoring position.
"He is an excellent clutch hitter," Duquette said.
Boston also thinks he may be able to play the outfield, but he has made just two outfield appearances in his major-league career.
"I can get used to it," Offerman said. "In batting practice, I go to the outfield and try to catch some fly balls."
Offerman's family, from San Pedro de Macoris in the Dominican Republic, was not injured by Hurricane Georges. Offerman, who lives in Toluca Lake, Calif., said he intends to go back to the Dominican Republic in several weeks.
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