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Royals gamble on slugger Gonzalez's health

By wire services
Published January 7, 2004

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - Two-time American League MVP Juan Gonzalez agreed Tuesday to a one-year contract with the Royals that guarantees him $4.5-million.

Kansas City gained a proven power hitter, if he can stay healthy. Injuries limited Gonzalez to 152 games the past two seasons, but Royals general manager Allard Baird said the team is not worried about the durability of the outfielder, 34.

"I went out to Arizona and watched him work out for two days," Baird said. "I think he's in great shape ... and I feel very comfortable with him being ready to go."

The free agent gets $4-million next season, and the deal includes a mutual option for 2005 at $7-million. If the Royals decline the option, Gonzalez would receive a $500,000 buyout.

In addition, he can earn $2-million in performance bonuses this year and $1.5-million in 2005.

Gonzalez broke into the majors with Texas in 1989. He played there until 1999, then returned in 2002 after a season in Detroit and another in Cleveland.

Last season, Gonzalez played in 82 games, hitting .294 with 24 homers and 70 RBIs before a calf injury ended his season.

"At the major-league level, numbers don't lie," Baird said. "What he did in half a season last year is pretty impressive."

The three-time All-Star has a .296 career average with 429 homers and 1,387 RBIs.

Gonzalez has five seasons with at least 40 homers, leading the AL with 43 in 1992 and 46 in 1993.

"We wanted a run-producing bat," Baird said. "That's the key for us. If he stays healthy, he could have a 120-, 130-(RBI) year."

BIG CUT FOR ALOMAR: Twelve-time All-Star Roberto Alomar agreed to a $1-million, one-year contract with the Diamondbacks.

The deal represents a huge salary cut for the free-agent second baseman, who has slumped badly recently. Alomar earned $8-million in 2003, the final season of a $37-million, five-year deal he signed with Cleveland in 1998.

Of the $1-million, $350,000 is deferred without interest until 2009. The deal doesn't contain performance bonuses but does have award bonuses.

"Money wasn't the issue," Alomar said. "If money would have been the issue, then I would go someplace else. I just wanted to be in a good environment, with good people and with a good team that has a chance to win. I think the Diamondbacks were the answer."

Alomar, a switch-hitter, batted .336 with 20 homers and 100 RBIs in 2001 with Cleveland before being traded to the Mets.

But hit .266 in 2002, his worst since his rookie season in 1988. He batted .262 last season with the Mets and .253 in 67 games with the White Sox. He finished under .300 in consecutive seasons for the first time since 1990 and 1991.

McGRAW SERVICE: Tug McGraw's family plans to honor him at a private memorial service Saturday.

McGraw, one of baseball's most colorful relievers, died Monday at age 59 after battling brain cancer. McGraw helped the Mets and Phillies win their first World Series titles.

STEROID TEST: Angels reliever Derrick Turnbow, the first major-leaguer to test positive for a banned steroid, faces a two-year ban from international competition but will not face sanctions from Major League Baseball.

Turnbow flunked the test during a U.S. Olympic training camp in October. He told his agent, Jeff Borris, that the positive test was the result of an over-the-counter dietary supplement.

CIRILLO TO PADRES: Jeff Cirillo became a $6.6-million "super utility" infielder for San Diego after it completed a six-player trade with the Mariners.

The Padres also acquired right-handed pitcher Brian Sweeney and $4,775,000, payable in 2005, in exchange for right-hander Kevin Jarvis, catcher Wiki Gonzalez, infielder Dave Hansen and minor-league outfielder Vince Faison.

EXPOS: Shortstop Orlando Cabrera agreed to a $6-million, one-year contract, avoiding arbitration.

METS: Right-hander Braden Looper attended minicamp at Port St. Lucie a day after agreeing to a $6.75-million, two-year deal.

ROCKIES: Infielders Royce Clayton, Damian Jackson and Mark Sweeney agreed to minor-league contracts.

OBITUARY: Leon Wagner, a former outfielder who hit 211 home runs in a 12-year career, died Saturday in Los Angeles. He was 69.

[Last modified January 7, 2004, 01:33:45]


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