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Rays may look to bring Everett home

MARC TOPKIN
Published December 8, 2003

ST. PETERSBURG - Carl Everett may get the first chance to fill the hole in the middle of the Devil Rays lineup.

Team officials are planning to meet today with Everett, one of three free-agent outfielders they are interested in. They are also considering Jose Cruz and Juan Gonzalez and could strike a deal before Friday's opening of the winter meetings in New Orleans.

"We'd like to do at least one more thing before we go to the meetings," manager Lou Piniella said Sunday. "We've done all our homework and we're ready. We know the areas we need to improve and we've got a definite plan. It's just a question of getting the people in here we want. If not, we'll go on and get other people."

Everett, a 32-year-old Tampa native, is a switch-hitter who batted .287 with 28 homers and 92 RBIs for the Rangers and White Sox last season.

The Rays did not plan to offer arbitration by Sunday's midnight deadline to any of their free agents, Ben Grieve, Travis Lee, Al Martin, Rey Ordonez and Terry Shumpert, though they still were negotiating with Ordonez.

They were watching closely to see what decisions other teams made to find out what free agents could be signed without requiring draft pick compensation. They want to sign another middle infielder (Pokey Reese, Rey Sanchez, Tony Graffanino and incumbents Ordonez and Marlon Anderson are among the possibilities), an experienced reliever (Mark Guthrie, Kent Mercker and Scott Sullivan, among others), and a backup catcher (Keith Osik and Eddie Perez, among others).

Saturday's two-year deal with reserve infielder/outfielder Eduardo Perez will be finalized this week after he takes a physical.

Pudge hits market

NEW YORK - Ivan "Pudge" Rodriguez said goodbye to Florida and Greg Maddux appeared set to depart Atlanta.

Rodriguez and the World Series champion Marlins failed to agree to a contract. The catcher's previous contract prevented Florida from offering salary arbitration to the 10-time All-Star, which would have extended the negotiating period through Jan. 8.

Friday, Rodriguez asked for a $40-million, four-year deal. He made $10-million last season.

"I tried my best to remain a Marlin by not requesting a salary increase," Rodriguez said in a statement issued by his agent, Scott Boras. "To my knowledge, I'm the only major-leaguer in recent times who won the World Series and received a postseason MVP award, and yet his club did not offer a higher salary."

Boras also represents Maddux, who spent the past 11 seasons with the Braves, helping them to the playoffs each year. It appeared unlikely Atlanta would offer arbitration.

The Phillies offered arbitration to Kevin Millwood, but it's uncertain if they'll keep the right-hander after getting Eric Milton from Minnesota last week.

The A's offered arbitration to star shortstop Miguel Tejada, leaving open the remote possibility they could re-sign the 2002 AL MVP. The Yankees offered arbitration to left-handers Andy Pettitte and David Wells and re-signed outfielder Ruben Sierra to a $1-million, one-year deal.

Among those not offered arbitration were Montreal outfielder Vladimir Guerrero, Texas first baseman Rafael Palmeiro, Cubs outfielder Kenny Lofton and Seattle outfielder Mike Cameron.

MATSUI, METS CLOSE: Japanese shortstop Kazuo Matsui has decided to join the Mets, according to Tokyo media reports. Matsui is expected to announce his decision at a news conference today.

A-ROD TALKS: Texas general manager John Hart would like to know by the end of the winter meetings Dec. 16 whether AL MVP Alex Rodriguez will remain with the Rangers for next season. The Rangers have been discussing a trade that would send the shortstop to Boston for outfielder Manny Ramirez.

CUBS: Second baseman Mark Grudzielanek agreed to a $2.5-million, one-year deal that includes a club option for 2005.

DODGERS: Third baseman Robin Ventura agreed to a $1.2-million, one-year contract.

GIANTS: First baseman J.T. Snow agreed to a one-year contract with a team option for 2005 that guarantees him $1.75-million, and outfielder Michael Tucker agreed to a $3.5-million, two-year deal.

MARINERS: Right-handed reliever Shigetoshi Hasegawa agreed to a $6.3-million, two-year deal.

TWINS: Outfielder Shannon Stewart agreed to an $18-million, three-year deal.

- Information from Times wires was used in this report.

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