Cardinals fill need for second baseman

Friday, January 7, 2005

St. Louis signed free-agent Mark Grudzielanek to a one-year deal.

The St. Louis Cardinals have signed free-agent second baseman Mark Grudzielanek to a one-year, $1 million deal, putting in place the final piece of a retooled middle infield for the NL champions.

Grudzielanek, who can earn up to $500,000 in performance bonuses under the deal that includes no options, will replace Tony Womack, who played one season batting leadoff for the Cardinals before signing as a free agent this month with the New York Yankees.

Grudzielanek's infield mate next season will be fellow Cardinals newcomer David Eckstein, the former Anaheim Angel who last month signed a three-year, $10.25 million contract.

Eckstein, who will replace Womack in the leadoff slot, succeeds Edgar Renteria, lured to Boston by a $40 million, four-year contract.

Grudzielanek, 34, batted .307 with six home runs and 23 RBI in 81 games for the Chicago Cubs last season, missing more than two months because of an inflamed Achilles tendon.

In 1,299 games over his 10-year major-league career, Grudzielanek has a .287 batting average with 66 home runs and 443 RBI. He led the NL in doubles (54) in 1999 with the Dodgers and had 38 two-base hits for the Cubs in 2003, when he batted .314.

"We've been trying to identify infielders to handle a variety of roles for us," Cardinals general manager Walt Jocketty said. "Grudzielanek offers us versatility with both the bat and in the field. He's a proven veteran who should fit nicely into our everyday lineup."

Grudzielanek has played for Montreal (1995-98), Los Angeles (1998-2002) and the Cubs (2003-04).

Johnson comes to terms

All that stands between Randy Johnson and the New York Yankees are a bunch of medical tests.

The Big Unit and the Yankees reached a preliminary agreement Thursday on a $32 million, two-year contract extension, leaving only a physical as the final step needed to finishing the drawn-out process of finalizing the trade Arizona and the Yankees agreed to Dec. 30.

Johnson, a five-time Cy Young Award winner, waived his no-trade clause as part of the agreement negotiated by agents Barry Meister and Alan Nero, a baseball official and a person close to Johnson told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity.

Arizona will receive pitchers Javier Vazquez and Brad Halsey, catcher Dioner Navarro and $9 million in the swap for the 41-year-old left-hander.

Astros make final offer

The Houston Astros said Thursday that they've made their final offer to Carlos Beltran. They'll find out this weekend whether it was enough to keep the All-Star center fielder.

"The offer on the table is our final offer," general manager Tim Purpura said. "We're not interested in going any higher."

Houston faces an 11 p.m. CST Saturday deadline to re-sign Beltran. After that, under baseball rules the Astros wouldn't be allowed to strike a deal with him until May 1.

Agent Scott Boras is seeking a deal worth more than $100 million for the 27-year-old switch-hitter.

Purpura declined to discuss the amount of Houston's proposal.

Green negotiations fail

The Arizona Diamondbacks and Los Angeles Dodgers slugger Shawn Green failed to reach an agreement on a contract extension by the Thursday deadline, leaving the tentative trade in jeopardy of falling through.

The Dodgers had granted the Diamondbacks a 48-hour window to negotiate with Green.

Green has one year and $16 million remaining on his contract, which includes a no-trade clause. The prospect of his waiving the no-trade clause without a contract extension seemed unlikely.

If Green refuses the trade, it could create an awkward situation for his return to a Los Angeles team that had tried in at least two deals to get rid of him. Green would have been part of the three-team, 10-player trade among the Dodgers, Diamondbacks and Yankees that fell apart last month.

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