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Wednesday, January 22
Updated: March 13, 4:32 PM ET
Pudge: 'I am completely in good health'

Associated Press

MIAMI -- Ivan Rodriguez says he's healthy, and the Florida Marlins must agree.

Wed., Jan. 22
In a general sort of way, signing Pudge Rodriguez for one season -- with most of his $10 million salary deferred -- is a great move. He might not be able to play even 120 games, but there's an excellent chance that when he can play, he'll hit.

In a specific sort of way, signing Pudge Rodriguez to a one-year contract -- with a no-trade clause -- for $10 million seems like something of a strange move for the Marlins. They apparently have designs on the National League East, and it's certainly true that stranger things have happened; after all, the Angels just won a World Series. But unless Florida's rotation suddenly emulates Oakland's rotation -- and Pudge has never been known for his brilliant work with pitchers -- the Marlins aren't going to win anything. Not with Alex Gonzalez at shortstop and one of the least productive outfields in the game.

The cost-conscious Marlins expanded their payroll Wednesday by signing the 10-time All-Star catcher to a $10 million, one-year contract.

"It was clear to me that this was a special opportunity. It was close to being a no-brainer," Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria said. "When you're dealing with a great and special opportunity and a special player, there are no parameters."

Rodriguez played 1,479 games with the Texas Rangers, hitting .303 with 215 homers and 829 RBI and developing a reputation as one of the best catchers in baseball.

The Rangers refused to offer the 31-year-old Rodriguez salary arbitration last December in a payroll-slashing moving. Rodriguez received a $2 million severance payment from the team as the end of his previous contract.

Florida will pay Rodriguez $3 million this year, with the remainder deferred without interest. The Marlins will pay him $3 million on June 1, 2004, and $2 million each on June 1 in the following two years.

His deal with the Marlins also includes a no-trade clause and an agreement that the Marlins will not offer him salary arbitration after the season.

"If everything down the road goes well, I would like to stay with the Marlins," Rodriguez said.

Rodriguez missed nearly two months early last season because of a herniated disk in his back, but hit .314 with 19 homers and 60 RBI in 108 games.

He replaces sluggers Cliff Floyd and Preston Wilson in the middle of the lineup and will help develop Florida's young and talented starting rotation that includes right-handers A.J. Burnett, Brad Penny and Josh Beckett.

"He can do it all," Marlins manager Jeff Torborg said. "This guy will make our lineup look so different because he is exceptional player. I am amazed what he can do, both offensively and defensively."

The Marlins traded catcher Charles Johnson to Colorado in November as part of a six-player deal that brought left-hander Mike Hampton and outfielder Juan Pierre to Florida. Hampton was then traded to Atlanta.

Jim Beattie, Baltimore's executive vice president of baseball operations, had been trying to sign Rodriguez.

Ivan Rodriguez
Florida Marlins
108 408 67 19 60 .314

"I thought Ivan was a very good fit for us, playing in the AL, where he could be a designated hitter when he wasn't catching," Beattie said. "But he lives in Miami, and I'm sure those were among his considerations. We spent most of the day talking about a three-year deal, but I guess he wanted to go with more money and a shorter term. I would have been discouraged if we paid more money than we were comfortable with. The offer we made was what we thought was an appropriate amount of money."

Jeff Moorad, who represents Rodriguez, said Florida didn't become involved until last week.

"I spent the last two days in Baltimore working on a possible deal with the Orioles," Moorad said. "The Orioles had been the most consistently interested team from the beginning. Pudge and I felt we owed them every opportunity to conclude a deal. Jim Beattie has his perspective, we had ours.

"The Marlins were a late arrival but nonetheless came in with a strong point a view that Pudge would fit the organization perfectly as both a proven All-Star as well as a resident of Miami Beach. We're excited to conclude the process and look forward to a one-year opportunity in Florida."

Rodriguez made his major league debut as a 19-year-old kid midway through the 1991 season.

He won 10 straight Gold Gloves, started nine consecutive All-Star games from 1993 to 2001 and was voted AL MVP in 1999.

Since his MVP season, when he was the first catcher since Thurman Munson in 1976 to win that award, Rodriguez has been hampered by injuries. He also missed the end of the 2000 and 2001 seasons, and has missed 176 games in three seasons after missing just 153 the previous nine years.

Rodriguez was hitting .347 with 27 homers and 83 RBIs through 91 games in 2000 when a broken thumb ended his season. In 2001, he played 111 games (.308, 25 homers, 65 RBI) before having knee surgery for tendinitis.

"My back is great, my knee is fine and I want everybody to know that I'm healthy," said Rodriguez, who will get to play his former team June 13-15 in Texas. "I'm back and I feel great.

"I am completely in good health and that's my main thing right now, and the Marlins are going to see it."

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