Yanks' Williams Becomes Free Agent

Two of the biggest prizes in baseball's off-season sweepstakes, Bernie Williams of the New York Yankees and Kevin Brown of the San Diego Padres, highlighted a list of 28 players who declared for free agency Monday.

Williams led the AL in batting with a .339 average while hitting 26 homers and driving in 97 runs. The 30-year-old switch-hitter collected just one hit in 16 at-bats in the Yankees' World Series triumph over San Diego, but still is expected to command a contract in excess of $10 million per season.

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  • A similar lucrative deal awaits Brown, who was 18-7 with a 2.38 ERA in his first year in San Diego. The NL champions have expressed a desire to retain the right-hander, but it is unknown if their uncertain stadium situation will allow the Padres to make a competitive offer.

    With Mike Piazza agreeing to a seven-year, $91 million with the New York Mets, the offers for Williams and Brown could escalate.

    Outfielders Steve Finley and John Vander Wal, two teammates of Brown, also filed for free agency, as did Tim Raines, Williams' teammate in New York. Finley hit just .249 this season, but could receive an offer from the Yankees if Williams signs elsewhere.

    Other notable free agents to file Monday included three members of the Baltimore Orioles -- second baseman Roberto Alomar, left-hander Jimmy Key and outfielder B.J. Surhoff. Alomar, the subject of trade rumors last season, hit .282, 22 points lower his career average entering the year.

    Paul Molitor of the Minnesota Twins, who had said the 1998 season likely would be his last, also filed today, probably to keep open his options should he decide to return. Another likely Hall of Famer, all-time stolen base leader Rickey Henderson, filed along with Oakland Athletics teammate Bip Roberts.

    Carlos Baerga, who is not expected to re-sign with the Mets after hitting .266, filed along with New York right-hander Armando Reynoso.

    Outfielder Gregg Jefferies, traded from Philadelphia late in the season, was one of four Anahiem Angels to file Monday. The others were right-hander Mike Fetters, catcher Chad Kreuter and infielder Craig Shipley.

    Other American leaguers who declared Monday included infielders Mike Benjamin and Mark Lemke of Boston, right-hander Tim Belcher of Kansas City, outfielder Rich Amaral of Seattle and 41-year-old Toronto right-hander Dave Stieb.

    Other National Leaguers included Colorado left-hander Mike Munoz, Houston third baseman Sean Berry, Milwaukee first baseman John Jaha, Philadelphia infielder Mark Lewis and St. Louis infielder Pat Kelly.

    Eligible players have until November 7th to file for free agency. Eighty of the 169 eligible free agents have filed since Thursday.

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