First baseman likely to play elsewhere

Updated: December 8, 2003, 10:07 AM ET
Associated Press

ARLINGTON, Texas -- Rafael Palmeiro was refused salary arbitration Sunday by the Texas Rangers, which almost certainly means he will hit his next home run for another team.

While Palmeiro last season became just the 19th player with 500 career homers, the 39-year-old first baseman didn't fit into the plans of a team committed to young players and reducing payroll. He made $9 million last season.

General manager John Hart said there were several conversations with Palmeiro's agent, and that owner Tom Hicks spoke with Palmeiro on Saturday night and "made the best offer we could." He didn't elaborate or disclose numbers.

Palmeiro's agent, Pat Rooney, didn't return a telephone call seeking comment.

"The system pretty much controlled this as to what we could do," Hart said. "Raffy has done great things here, and we didn't necessarily want to see it come to this conclusion."

exas did offer arbitration to John Thomson, even though Hart said he was pessimistic about working out a deal to keep the right-hander.

Thomson was 13-14 with a 4.85 ERA in 35 starts, including 9-5 with a 3.89 ERA the last 18. If Thomson ends up signing with another team, the Rangers would be compensated with a future draft pick.

"Right now, I'm not overly optimistic we are going to retain John," Hart said. "The alternative here for us is a nice draft pick. That is small solace for the present, but could be very nice for the future. Right now, it's 50-50."

Texas also didn't offer arbitration to two-time AL MVP Juan Gonzalez or right-hander Ismael Valdes, but team officials had made it clear before the season ended they wouldn't return.

The Rangers attempted to trade Gonzalez, who didn't play after July 20 because of a right calf injury. Valdes made his last start Sept. 2, and didn't pitch after being moved to the bullpen.

Palmeiro turned down a trade in July to the Chicago Cubs, the team he started his career with. Had he gone to Chicago, the Rangers wouldn't have been under tight time constraints to work out a deal with him during the offseason.

Free agents not offered arbitration by Sunday can't re-sign with their former teams until May 1.

Palmeiro finished the season with 38 homers, pushing his career total to 528, 13th on the career list and third among active players behind Barry Bonds (658) and Sammy Sosa (539). He also had 112 RBIs while hitting .260, the second-lowest average in his career.

Palmeiro spent 10 seasons in two five-year stints with Texas, separated by five seasons in Baltimore.

Of his 150 starts this season, 95 were as the designated hitter, including 54 of his last 56 while rookie Mark Teixeira evolved into the everyday first baseman.

Thomson signed to a $1.3 million, one-year contract last year as a free agent, and became the team's most consistent starter in his first American League season. His 13 wins, and 14 losses, were the most on the team.

Gonzalez, whose MVP awards came for division champions in Texas in 1996 and 1998, played just 152 games in two seasons since returning as a free agent. He played just 82 games this year, hitting .294 with 24 homers and 70 RBIs.

Valdes was traded from Texas to Seattle at the end of the 2002 season, but returned as a free agent. He went 8-8 with a 6.10 ERA in 22 starts before being taking out of the rotation.

Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press