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Tuesday, July 15
Updated: July 16, 11:26 AM ET
 
Yankees have agreed to absorb Benitez's contract

ESPN.com news services

The Yankees and Mets are closing in on a deal that would send All-Star closer Armando Benitez across town to serve in a set-up role for Mariano Rivera.

Armando Benitez
Relief Pitcher
New York Mets
Profile
2003 SEASON STATISTICS
GM W L Sv K ERA
45 3 3 21 50 3.10

Sources have told ESPN's Peter Gammons that the Yankees have agreed to absorb the remaining money on Benitez's contract for the rest of this season, or about $3 million, and the two sides are negotiating which prospects the Yankees would send to the Mets. In rare cases, a team trading a hefty contract would be willing to pick up a portion of the salary, but the Mets were reluctant to do so with Benitez's.

Sources say a prospect the Mets may receive from the Yankees is right-hander Jason Anderson, who has spent parts of this season with the big-league team. In 22 appearances -- all in relief -- for the Yankees, the 24-year-old Anderson is 1-0 with a 4.79 ERA. The Mets could also receive pitcher Anderson Garcia, who plays in the Class A Midwest League for Battle Creek.

Benitez, meanwhile, is 3-3 with a 3.10 ERA, but has seven blown saves in 28 opportunities.

"It's not done, but it's very serious and very close," said one official. "It's not done, but it might get done [Wednesday], it might get done Friday; you don't always know how things like this go."

Because the Yankees will pay Benitez's salary, Grade B-type prospects would go to the Mets, rather than someone like left-hander Brandon Claussen, considered the Yankees' best young pitcher.

The Yankees know first-hand of Benitez's fragile psyche. He set off a nasty brawl between the Orioles and Yankees in 1998 when he drilled Tino Martinez in the middle of the back following a home run by Bernie Williams.

Two years later, after Benitez was traded to the Mets and became their closer, the Mets led the Yankees in the ninth inning of Game 1 of the World Series. But Benitez walked Paul O'Neill, allowed a single to pinch-hitter Luis Polonia, then another hit before Chuck Knoblauch drove in the tying run with a sacrifice fly.

Just a few weeks ago, Benitez completely collapsed while trying to close out the Yankees, walking home the tying run; the Yankees eventually won the game in extra innings.

With the market for relievers so thin, and the Yankees having a glaring need for a right-handed reliever, acquiring Benitez makes sense. The Yankees had substantive talks with Texas for Ugueth Urbina, but the Rangers made a deal with the Florida Marlins last week in which Texas acquired three prospects.

The Yankees hold a two-game lead over the Red Sox in the AL East but are concerned about their bullpen heading into the second half. While Rivera has been outstanding, converting 16 of 17 save chances, the rest of the bullpen has been shaky in the absence of right-hander Steve Karsay, who is injured and hasn't pitched at all this season.

Juan Acevedo was released after struggling, and Antonio Osuna was out from June 14 until last weekend because of a strained groin. Chris Hammond, who replaced Mike Stanton during the offseason as the top left-hander in the bullpen, has been inconsistent.

The Mets, last in the NL East at 40-53, have gone into a rebuilding mode following the firing of general manager Steve Phillips on June 12. Second baseman Roberto Alomar was dealt to the Chicago White Sox on July 1 and outfielder Jeromy Burnitz was traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers on Monday. The Mets received prospects in both deals.

Yankees general manager Brian Cashman was in Tampa, Fla., on Monday and Tuesday for organizational meetings and could not be reached by The Associated Press. Mets spokesman Jay Horwitz declined comment to the AP.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.






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