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Second baseman agrees to two-year deal

DETROIT -- Slick-fielding second baseman Fernando Vina agreed Wednesday to a $6 million, two-year contract with the Detroit Tigers.

Vina, 34, won Gold Gloves in 2001 and 2002 with the St. Louis Cardinals and has a .284 career batting average. His
strikeouts-to-at-bats ratio is among the lowest in baseball. In
4,125 career at-bats, Vina has struck out just 283 times, or once
every 14.6 at-bats.

But he missed much of last season with a hamstring injury and
hit .251 with four homers and 23 RBI in 61 games.

St. Louis declined his $4.5 million option for 2004, opting to
give him a $1 million buyout.

Vina, who had been negotiating with several teams, made his
decision Wednesday.

"Fernando Vina has reached an agreement with the Detroit Tigers
pending a physical examination," said Sam Levinson, Vina's agent.

"We're encouraged where things are with Fernando Vina," Tigers
president Dave Dombrowski said. "I can't say much more because
there's another step or two that we're still working on."

Vina, an All-Star with Milwaukee in 1998, joins a team coming
off a dismal season. The Tigers set an American League record with
119 losses, one short of the major league post-1900 record.

"I'm excited, to tell you the truth," Detroit's Dmitri Young
said. "I played against him in the National League, and he's going
to really help us in the leadoff spot because he'll walk, bunt and
hit the other way. And his great defense speaks for itself."

While other teams are cutting payroll, the Tigers are willing to
spend this offseason.

"There's no question we're in a mode that we can be very active
and aggressive in our conversations with agents and other teams,"
Dombrowski said. "It's great. It's an exciting time for our organization. We're looking to upgrade at
second base, shortstop, outfield, starting pitching."

Shortstop Miguel Tejada, the 2002 AL MVP, is a possibility.

"Yes, we would have an interest there," Dombrowski said.

The Seattle Mariners also are making a play for Tejada. Seattle reportedly has offered him a three-year contract for $24 million to $25 million and is the first team to begin serious negotiations with him. The Oakland Athletics offered Tejada arbitration, but GM Billy Beane has said it is "probably unrealistic" to think the shortstop will re-sign with the team.

The Tigers planned to be relatively active after signing only
one major league free agent -- Craig Paquette -- the past three
winters. Paquette agreed to a $5 million, two-year contract on Dec.
13, 2001, and was released early last season.

Detroit may have as much as $20 million to spend on free agents,
and players through trades.

"I know signing Vina is just the start, but it's a great
start," Young said. "I know the front office is not finished. I
know there's a couple more pieces they want to get. I've been
biting my nails because teams are starting to get active, so I was
hoping we would get somebody soon."

The Tigers will count on Vina to be their everyday second baseman.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.