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Mets retain Trachsel but let Alfonzo walk

Compiled from Times wires

© St. Petersburg Times, published December 9, 2002

NEW YORK -- The Mets signed right-handed starter Steve Trachsel to a two-year contract but decided not to offer salary arbitration to infielder Edgardo Alfonzo, ending his stay in New York.

Trachsel will earn $8-million over the next two years, $3-million next season and $5-million in 2004. There also is a vesting option for a third year at $5-million that would kick in if Trachsel pitches 360 combined innings, including 180 in 2004.

Trachsel and the Mets agreed on a two-year deal Saturday a short time before a midnight deadline for the Mets to keep him.

"It came down to the final half-hour, and we were able to hammer it out," Trachsel said. "There were definitely some times I didn't think it would get done."

Trachsel's agents, Sam and Seth Levinson, closed out the negotiations. Friday, Trachsel said he'd heard it didn't look good for a deal.

"I had to prepare myself" for the possibility of playing elsewhere, he said.

Trachsel, a former Devil Ray, was 22-24 in his first two seasons with the Mets, pitching 1732/3 innings in each after he signed as a free agent before the 2001 season. Trachsel rejoins a rotation now led by Tom Glavine and including Al Leiter and Pedro Astacio.

The Diamondbacks, Braves, Phillies, Rangers, Orioles, Astros and Brewers had called the Levinsons to inquire about Trachsel.

After batting .313 with 52 homers combined in 1999 and 2000 and helping the Mets reach the postseason both times, Alfonzo injured his back and slumped to .243 with 17 homers in 2001. He bounced back to bat .308 with a .391 on-base percentage last season, though his 16 homers were his fewest since 1997.

The 28-year-old manned shortstop, second base and third base in 12 years in the organization.

New York also declined to offer arbitration to right-handers Jeff D'Amico and Steve Reed, left-hander Mark Guthrie, and infielder John Valentin.

BRAVES: John Smoltz relished his first full season as closer. Now, he's wondering who'll be setting up games for him. After a tumultuous week in which Atlanta lost three key members of its pitching staff, including Glavine, Smoltz still is trying to figure out what it means for the perennial division champs. "It's not going to sink in for a while," he said.

CUBS: Chicago didn't offer right-hander Jon Lieber arbitration, and the sides failed to agree on a deal. Lieber, 32, went 48-36 in four seasons with the team and was the opening day starter the past three. He was 6-8 with a 3.70 ERA last season when his season was cut short Aug. 3 by elbow ligament replacement surgery. He is not expected to pitch until late in the 2003 season, if at all, while he rehabs his elbow.

YANKEES: Left-handed reliever Mike Stanton said he was shocked when the team demanded he accept a pay cut. New York, which is looking to trim its $135-million payroll, let him become a free agent after he turned down a $4.6-million, two-year deal. "I don't think I've done anything to take a pay cut," Stanton said. "The way they rang it down, it was a shock."

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