Now that the New York Yankees have kept one of their key free agent pitchers, their attention turns to re-signing David Cone.
Completing a deal that had been in the works for weeks, the Yankees and reliever Mike Stanton agreed Monday to a $7.35 million, three-year contract.
"There were a number of options open to me but this is where I wanted to be," Stanton said. "I've had a great run in New York so far and obviously I didn't think it was over. We got the numbers where we needed to get them and I'm happy to still be in the pinstripes."
The 32-year-old left-hander was 2-2 with a 4.33 ERA in 73 games this season. He is 12-4 with a 4.20 ERA and nine saves since joining the Yankees in December 1996.
Stanton has won two World Series championships with the Yankees and pitched in the last eight postseasons. He has 1.09 ERA in 33 postseason innings.
"Mike has established himself as one of the most durable and versatile relievers in the game today," Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said. "He has also become, like so many others on this team, a player who thrives and excels in postseason play."
Keeping Stanton addresses part of the Yankees' bullpen needs, but they still have not resolved their biggest offseason question whether to re-sign David Cone, who went 12-9 last season with a 3.44 ERA and pitched a perfect game.
Cone, who turns 37 on Jan. 2, has a history of arm problems and struggled down the stretch, making the Yankees hesitant to give him a two-year contract. But Cone rebounded in the postseason, going 2-0 with a 1.29 ERA in two starts.
Owner George Steinbrenner met with his front office staff Monday at the team's offices in Tampa, Fla., and the Yankees' brass had lunch at Malio's Steakhouse the same restaurant where they approved February's deal for Roger Clemens.
The Yankees are said to be mulling a $9.5 million, one-year offer to Cone with a club option for a second year.
According to The Record of Hackensack, Cone asked the Yankees for a two-year deal estimated at $25 million. It is uncertain whether any of his other suitors Cleveland, Boston, Baltimore or the Mets will offer him that.
If the Yankees can't re-sign Cone, they will turn their attention to free agent left-hander Chuck Finley. Before the July 31 trade deadline, New York had talked about acquiring Finley from Anaheim.
Stanton's preference is to keep Cone.
"I think he would be missed," Stanton said. "It would be difficult to not have him there. Baeball is still a business and at some point ownership has to draw a line. I hope that line will include David. If it doesn't, we will have to go about our business and win again."
New York also has been negotiating with Arthur Rhodes, a left-handed reliever seeking a four-year contract. Rhodes and Allen Watson, who joined the Yankees during the past season, are among the candidates to join Stanton as the second lefty in New York's bullpen.
Stanton, coming off a $5.5 million, three-year contract, gets $2.4 million in 2000, $2.45 million in 2001 and $2.5 million in 2002, plus the chance to earn more in performance bonuses.
He said he turned down other offers, including from teams who would have made him a closer, to stay in New York.
"There were a lot of things I had to weigh, but none of those things kept me away from wanting to stay in New York," he said.
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