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Friday, December 20
Cruz Jr. to become free agent

Associated Press

TORONTO -- Outfielder Jose Cruz Jr. will become a free agent after Toronto said it will not offer him a contract by Friday's midnight deadline.

Cruz, 28, hit .245 with 18 home runs and 70 RBI last season and made $3.95 million.

Non-tenders roundup
Players who were not offered 2003 contracts by their now former clubs on Friday, becoming free agents:

Marlon Anderson, Phillies
Manny Aybar, Giants
Ronnnie Belliard, Brewers
Gary Bennett, Rockies
Jose Cabrera, Brewers
Frank Catalanotto, Rangers
Jovanny Cedeno, Rangers
Jose Cruz, Jr., Blue Jays
Will Cunnane, Cubs
Brian Daubach, Red Sox
Courtney Duncan, Cubs
Chad Durbin, Royals
Scott Elarton, Rockies
Robert Fick, Tigers
Brad Fullmer, Angels
Aaron Fultz, Giants
Jesse Garcia, Braves
Charles Gipson, Mariners
John Halama, Mariners
Travis Lee, Phillies
Alan Levine, Angels
Mike Mahoney, Cubs
Doug Nickle, Mets
Eric Owens, Marlins
Christian Parker, Yankees
Jim Parque, White Sox
Desi Relaford, Mariners
Dennys Reyes, Rangers
Todd Ritchie, White Sox
Jim Rushford, Brewers
Julio Santana, Tigers
Olmedo Saenz, Athletics
Chris Singleton, Orioles
Shane Spencer, Yankees
Jeff Suppan, Royals
John Thomson, Mets
Mike Venafro, Athletics
Kerry Ligtenberg, Braves
Ramon Martinez, Giants
Neifi Perez, Giants
Olmedo Saenz, Athletics
Julio Santana, Tigers
Tanyon Sturtze, Devil Rays
Mike Venafro, Athletics
Paul Wilson, Devil Rays
Jay Witasick, Giants
Esteban Yan, Devil Rays

Signed to minor-league deals:
Julio Franco, Braves
Darren Bragg, Braves

General manager J.P. Ricciardi said he would rather spend the money on pitching.

Cruz established career-highs in home runs (34) and stolen bases (32) in 2001. He hit .250 with 122 home runs and 355 RBI for Toronto since being acquired from Seattle in 1997.

Detroit's Fick, Santana hit market
DETROIT -- The Detroit Tigers announced that outfielder Robert Fick and pitcher Julio Santana were not offered contracts for the 2003 season, making both players unrestricted free agents.

Fick batted .270 with 17 home runs and 63 RBI in 148 games for the Tigers last season. In 360 career games for the Tigers, he has a .268 batting average with 45 home runs and 163 RBI.

Santana was designated for assignment on Monday. The reliever went 3-5 with a 2.84 ERA in 38 games last season.

Red Sox make Daubach a free agent
BOSTON -- Brian Daubach became a free agent Friday after the Boston Red Sox didn't offer him a contract for 2003 even though their first-base picture is unsettled.

If an offer were made, Daubach could have rejected it and gone to arbitration where he would have received more than the team wanted to spend, general manager Theo Epstein said.

In four seasons with the Red Sox, Daubach averaged 21 homers, 75 RBI and 130 games and hit .266. But he also averaged 114 strikeouts and 46 walks, a sign that he didn't have the patience at the plate that Epstein emphasizes.

"He's been a remarkably consistent player,'' Epstein said, "I never said Brian didn't fit into the team. It's just his salary, based in an arbitration setting, did not fit in our player projections.''

Friday was the last day for teams to offer 2003 contracts to unsigned players.

Daubach, 30, is the second potential first baseman for the Red Sox next season to become a free agent in 24 hours. Just before Thursday's midnight deadline, Cliff Floyd rejected Boston's offer of arbitration

On Friday, Floyd agreed to a $26 million, four-year deal with the New York Mets, who must give Boston two high draft picks as compensation. Epstein said Floyd's departure didn't make him reconsider whether to keep Daubach.

World champ Angels let DH Fullmer go
LOS ANGELES -- Brad Fullmer became a free agent when the World Series champion Anaheim Angels didn't offer the team's primary designated hitter last season a contract for 2003.

The Angels also opted to not tender a contract offer to right-handed reliever Al Levine on Friday, making him a free agent.

Friday was the final day to offer 2003 contracts to unsigned players.

Fullmer was acquired from the Toronto Blue Jays last Jan. 17 -- his 27th birthday -- for right-hander Brian Cooper.

Fullmer played in 130 games last season, hitting .289 with 35 doubles, six triples, 19 homers and 49 RBI. The left-handed batter was the Angels' starting designated hitter in 89 games, and also started 27 games at first base.

A native of nearby Chatsworth, Calif., Fullmer played in 12 of the Angels' 16 postseason games, hitting .294 with three doubles, one homer and five RBI.

Angels general manager Bill Stoneman said the move was made for financial reasons, and didn't rule out signing Fullmer at a lower cost.

Fullmer, who is arbitration-eligible, earned $3.75 million last season.

"We have a budget increase, which is great,'' Stoneman said. "We're able to keep the core of this team together, and we're going to do that. It's really about how to best spend your money.''

The move leaves the Angels without an established designated hitter.

"We're going to look at the landscape, have a better picture of it tomorrow once I have been able to ascertain who else is out there as a free agent,'' Stoneman said. "There are some guys out there right now, the guys who were not tendered contracts today, they'll be out there tomorrow.

"In respect to Fullmer, he's on the list, too. He'll be on the list of guys we're considering. A free agent can discuss employment with anybody as opposed to an arbitration eligible player.''

Rays don't offer deals to three pitchers
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- The Tampa Bay Devil Rays did not offer contracts to right-handers Paul Wilson, Tanyon Sturtze and Esteban Yan on Friday, making them free agents.

In his second full season with the Devil Rays, Wilson went 6-12 with a 4.83 ERA but set career highs with 30 starts and 193 2-3 innings in 2002.

Sturtze, 4-18 with a 5.18 ERA last season, led the American League in losses, runs allowed (141), hits allowed (271), and walks (89).

An original expansion pick of the Devil Rays, Yan went 7-8 last season with 19 saves and a 4.30 ERA. He is the Rays career strikeout leader with 351 and has appeared in a franchise-high 266 games.

Lee, Anderson not offered contracts
PHILADELPHIA -- First baseman Travis Lee and second baseman Marlon Anderson, half of the Philadelphia Phillies' starting infield the last two seasons, will not be offered contracts before Friday's midnight deadline and become free agents.

Lee, acquired in the trade that sent Curt Schilling to Arizona in 2000, became expendable when the Phillies signed Jim Thome to an $85 million contract last month. Lee hit .265 with 13 homers and 70 RBI last season.

Anderson will be replaced by Placido Polanco, who moves over from third base after the Phillies signed David Bell to a $17 million deal last month. Anderson hit .258 with eight homers and 48 RBI last season.

In other moves, the Phillies acquired right-hander Kevin Millwood from Atlanta for backup catcher Johnny Estrada.

Giants decline to offer five contracts
SAN FRANCISCO -- The San Francisco Giants signed left-handed pitcher Scott Eyre to a one-year contract Friday and denied to offer contracts to five other players.

Those players who were not given contracts and became free agents were right-handers Manny Aybar and Jay Witasick, lefty Aaron Fultz and infielders Ramon Martinez and Neifi Perez.

Assistant general manager Ned Colletti said the Giants have had many conversations with Perez.

"We are hopeful we can get something done with him,'' Colletti said. "Our first choice is Perez right now. It doesn't mean we wouldn't have interest in any of the other four. They have all contributed to our success here, especially in a pennant year. If we can figure something out that both parties can live with, it's not out of the realm of possibility.''

Perez was claimed off waivers from the Kansas City Royals last month.

Perez, a shortstop who also can play second base or third, gives the Giants some versatility in their new infield that no longer has David Bell at third or former NL MVP Jeff Kent, who signed with the Houston Astros on Wednesday.

Perez hit just .236 with 37 RBI in 2002. Kansas City acquired Perez, the 2000 NL Gold Glove winner at shortstop for Colorado, midway through the 2001 season in a three-way trade.

Yankees part ways with Spencer, Parker
NEW YORK -- The New York Yankees did not offer contracts to outfielder Shane Spencer and right-hander Christian Parker on Friday, making them both free agents.

Spencer has spent parts of five seasons with the Yankees, batting .263 with 43 homers and 167 RBI.

New York had an excess of outfielders after agreeing to a deal with Japanese slugger Hideki Matsui on Thursday.

Spencer burst onto the scene in 1998 when he hit .373 with 10 homers, including three grand slams, and 27 RBI in only 27 games.

But he has rarely gotten a chance to play every day because of injuries and the Yankees' deep roster.

Parker made one appearance for New York, going 0-1 with a 21.00 ERA in 2001. He went on the DL after that start with an injured right shoulder and hasn't pitched since.

The Yankees also moved closer to agreeing to a one-year deal with free-agent Roger Clemens for about $8 million to $10 million. Clemens went 13-6 with a 4.35 ERA last season, as injuries limited him to 29 starts. He has 293 career wins and getting to 300 is an important goal of his.

If the Yankees re-sign Clemens, it would likely end their pursuit of Montreal ace Bartolo Colon.

Rangers keep Kolb, Greene but not Catalanotto
ARLINGTON, Texas -- The Texas Rangers signed right-hander Danny Kolb to a $450,000 contract and catcher Todd Greene to a $750,000 deal for next season.

The Rangers decided not to keep Frank Catalanotto, who will become a free agent after Texas did not offer him a contract Friday. Also free to cut a deal with any team are pitchers Jovanny Cedeno and Dennys Reyes.

Catalanotto was acquired from Detroit in the 1999 blockbuster trade involving Juan Gonzalez. He established himself in 2001 by batting .330 in 133 games, mostly as a leadoff hitter. Injuries limited him to 68 games last season and his average dropped to .269 with three homers and 23 RBI.

Although a solid hitter, Catalanotto never established himself at any position. He's most experienced at second base, but Michael Young has solidified that job.

Texas addressed a possible hole in center field by signing Doug Glanville on Thursday, and he's expected to take over the leadoff spot.

Cedeno was on the 60-day disabled list all last season. Reyes went 4-3 with a 6.38 ERA in 15 games for Texas, including five starts, after being acquired from Colorado at the trade deadline in a deal for outfielder Gabe Kapler.

Greene, who hit .268 with 10 homers in 42 games last season, and the recently acquired Einar Diaz are the only catchers on Texas' roster. As of now, it's up to them to replace Ivan Rodriguez.

M's don't tender three contract offers
SEATTLE -- The Seattle Mariners will not tender contract offers for next year to left-handed pitcher John Halama, and infielder-outfielders Charles Gipson and Desi Relaford.

That means the players become free agents automatically. Non-tendered players may negotiate with any Major League team.

"While we appreciate the contributions of Charles, John and Desi, as we continue to assemble the 2003 Mariners it became obvious that to get the roster and payroll flexibility we needed, these decisions had to be made,'' general manager Pat Gillick said Friday.

Halama, 30, has appeared in 130 games with Seattle, compiling a 41-31 record and a 4.46 ERA. This year, he was 6-5 with a 3.56 ERA in 31 games.

Relaford, 29, hit .267 last season with six home runs and 43 RBI in 112 games. He was acquired on Jan. 25, 2002, from San Francisco in exchange for David Bell.

Last season, Gipson, 30, batted .236 in 79 games, and was used primarily as a defensive replacement and pinch-runner.

Bennett, Elarton become free agents
DENVER -- Colorado Rockies catcher Gary Bennett and right-handed pitcher Scott Elarton became unrestricted free agents Friday night when the team declined to offer them contracts for 2003.

Bennett, 30, was acquired from the New York Mets in a trade on Aug. 23, 2001. He hit .265 with four homers and 26 RBIs in 90 games last season.

Elarton, 26, did not pitch last season after surgery on his right shoulder March 8. He was acquired from the Houston Astros in a trade on July 31, 2001.

Elarton is 32-23 in 124 career games, including 71 starts.

Oakland's Saenz, Venafro hit market
OAKLAND, Calif. -- The Oakland Athletics did not offer contracts to infielder Olmedo Saenz and left-hander Mike Venafro, making the two players free agents.

Saenz batted .276 with six homers and 18 RBI in 156 at-bats last season. He ruptured his right Achilles' tendon during the first round of the playoffs.

Venafro went 2-2 with a 4.62 ERA in 47 relief appearances this year. He allowed only 10 of 44 inherited runners to score against him -- the eighth best mark in the AL.

Friday was the deadline for teams to offer 2003 contracts to unsigned players on 40-man rosters.

O's make Singleton a free agent
BALTIMORE -- The Baltimore Orioles did not offer center fielder Chris Singleton a contract Friday, making him a free agent.

Singleton was eligible for salary arbitration and could have doubled the $1.4 million salary he made last year. He hit .262 last season with nine home runs and 50 RBI.

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