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Expiring contracts will free up cash

by Tracy Ringolsby
September 23, 2004

DENVERBaseball has become a game of resource allocation, as evidenced by teams more looking to shed contracts than acquire young talent when dealing veterans. However, nothing speaks to budget tee-totaling more than the Red Sox placing Manny Ramirez and his $20 million annual salary on waivers last offseason. Well, maybe the fact that no one claimed him does.

And when the season ends, so will some major financial commitments that have hamstrung teams.

The Angels went on a shopping spree last winter, and owner Arte Moreno might feel he can afford to do it again because he has a chance to cut nearly $26 million from his payroll. Third baseman Troy Glaus ($9.95 million), righthander Aaron Sele ($8.5 million) and righthander Troy Percival ($7.5 million) all become free agents.

The Red Sox most likely will say goodbye to righthander Derek Lowe, who has struggled while making $4.5 million this year but showed he was serious about a major offseason push when he signed with agent Scott Boras.

The Mariners already began cleaning house with the releases of first baseman John Olerud and shortstop Rich Aurilia, and the trades of righthander Freddy Garcia, pinch-hitter Dave Hansen and lefthander Mike Myers. Those moves, with the pending retirement of Edgar Martinez, will open up more than $22 million of payroll for the offseason. They also have a $9 million optionor $1 million buyouton second baseman Bret Boone. That decision could hinge on whether the Mariners feel they can rebound into a contender next year.

The Marlins added righthander Guillermo Mota in the July 31 trade with the Dodgers, which pretty well ensures that closer Armando Benitez won't be back in 2005. That opens up $3.5 million in salary, which becomes significant because of a lengthy list of potential arbitration cases that includes catcher Paul Lo Duca and righthanders Josh Beckett and A.J. Burnett, along with Mota. The Dodgers, meanwhile, cleared nearly $11.5 million in payroll with that trade and the deal that sent lefthander Tom Martin to the Braves. They get another $8 million off the books when righthander Hideo Nomo's contract expires at season's end.

The Astros won't hesitate in paying $700,000 to get out of $9 million option on second baseman Jeff Kent.

Dollars On The DL

The Orioles can celebrate the season's end because it means they are finally done with the $28 million, four-year deal with first baseman/DH David Segui, who has had 674 at-bats in 193 games during the deal.

The Giants will be out of their deal with righthander Rob Nen, who hasn't thrown a pitch the last two years but did earn $17.6 million in the final two years of a four-year, $32.5 million deal.

The Indians figure to decline the $5 million option on righthander Bob Wickman, but would like to bring him back at a lower price. Wickman, who has missed the better part of two years of his three-year, $16.5 million deal because of Tommy John surgery, has said he feels he owes the team for what happened. Cleveland is also likely to decline a $5 million option on shortstop Omar Vizquel.

The Diamondbacks will be out from under the contract of righthander Matt Mantei, who has earned $21 million over last four years despite making just 101 appearances and pitching 99 innings. They also can clear the books of the $1 million they paid Shane Reynolds for pitching two innings.

Management Issues

Good luck to whoever is desperate enough to manage the Mets that he'll take a job even with owner's son Jeff Wilpon showing that being born rich doesn't mean you know how to deal with people.

How big a mess are the Mets? Wilpon is into hero worship and meets regularly with pitchers Tom Glavine and Al Leiter and catcher Mike Piazza to evaluate the team. It's really worked well. Art Howe is the luckiest man at Shea Stadium. He gets around $4.7 million the next two years and never has to be insulted by the rich kid again.

Two strong rumors surrounding the Blue Jays managerial job: Either interim skipper John Gibbons gets a chance at the job on a permanent basis, or general manager J.P. Ricciardi moves down to the dugout and trusted aide Tony LaCava handles the technical issues in the front office.

Tracy Ringolsby is the national baseball writer for the Rocky Mountain News in Denver. You can contact him by sending e-mail to tracyringolsby@baseballamerica.com.

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