Third baseman Ken Caminiti said he'll probably decide by no later than Wednesday whether to return to San Diego or, more likely, rejoin the Houston Astros. And the agent for Steve Finley said the center fielder plans to visit the New York Yankees and the Atlanta Braves next week.
Vander Wal, acquired from the Colorado Rockies Aug. 31 to give the Padres another left-handed hitter off the bench, agreed to a two-year, $1.75 million contract. He had filed for free agency. Vander Wal will receive a $100,000 signing bonus and salaries of $775,000 in 1999 and $875,000 in 2000. He can earn another $200,000 per season in performance bonuses.
Caminiti, 35, looked physically spent during the World Series, but vowed to come back strong next year. He's unhappy with the Padres' offer of one year at $3.5 million, the same salary he earned in 1997, plus an option year.
The astros, who traded Caminiti and Finley to the Padres in a 12-player dal in December 1994, reportedly have offered nearly $7 million over two seasons, plus an option.
The Padres "need to step up and call me," Caminiti said Friday. "They need to give me some numbers that are real."
The Padres, however, are unlikely to increase their offer to Caminiti, the 1996 NL MVP.
Caminiti earlier this week turned down a three-year, $21.5 million offer from Detroit, preferring to sign with either San Diego or Houston.
Caminiti said he's leaning toward taking the Astros' offer, "just based on being treated right. Just that they're talking to me. It's my home here, too."
Finley, a free agent for the first time, plans to test the market. His agent, Tommy Tanzer, said he got a surprise call this week from Atlanta, which is looking for a right fielder after trading Michael Tucker to Cincinnati, along with pitcher Denny Neagle for second baseman Bret Boone.
"The thrust of our situation is that Steve would like to go there and meet them, and after talking to each other in person, get a better feel for if they're serious," Tanzer said. "I get a feel they're going to revamp the offensive side of their club."
The Padres beat the Braves in the NL championship series, then were swept by the Yankees in the World Series. Yankees center fielder Bernie Williams is a free agent who's being courted by several teams.
Tanzer said the Baltimore Orioles and Texas Rangers are among the other teams showing interest in Finley, whose .249 average this year was his lowest since also hitting .249 as a rookie for the Orioles in 1989. Tanzer expects to talk to the Padres next week. Finley made $3.4 million last season.
The Padres' top priority is to re-sign ace Kevin Brown. They've offered him a four-year deal worth approximately $44 million, but Brown's agent, Scott Boras, said at least two teams have said they'll offer six years.
"I don't see any of those guys going real quick here," Padres general manager Kevin Towers said Friday. "They'll wait to see what happens out on the market."
Towers wasn't able to reach a deal to trade reliever Randy Myers during the general managers' meetings, but still feels confident he'll be able to deal the left-hander, who's due to make more than $12 million the next two seasons.
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