Maddux leaves after 11 seasons

Updated: December 9, 2003, 8:18 AM ET
Associated Press

ATLANTA -- Greg Maddux's long run with the Atlanta Braves is over.

As expected, the Braves didn't offer arbitration to the four-time Cy Young Award winner by the midnight Sunday deadline, essentially ending his career in Atlanta.

"You can't expect to replace a Greg Maddux, either his ability to pitch or his impact on his fellow pitchers," Braves general manager John Schuerholz said Monday. "He's one of the best pitchers ever to toe the rubber in the history of the game."

The Braves also cut ties with Gary Sheffield and Javy Lopez, two sluggers whose salary demands were beyond the range of the payroll-cutting team.

Julio Franco was the only Atlanta free agent to be offered arbitration. The Braves would like to bring back the 45-year-old first baseman to platoon with rookie Adam LaRoche next season.

Players not offered arbitration can't re-sign with their old clubs until May 1. Maddux went 16-11 with a 3.96 ERA last season -- his 16th straight year with at least 15 wins -- but likely will have to take a significant pay cut in 2004.

Last season, Maddux made $14.75 million on a one-year deal with the Braves after accepting arbitration.

The right-hander spent 11 seasons with the Braves, winning the NL Cy Young Award his first three years in Atlanta. He began a streak of four in a row with the Chicago Cubs in 1992.

Scott Boras, Maddux's agent, said Sunday there were no negotiations over the weekend with the Braves, who are expected to cut their payroll by at least $20 million this season.

Even without Maddux, the Braves have a solid start on their 2004 rotation with Russ Ortiz (21-7), Mike Hampton (14-8) and Horacio Ramirez (12-4).

But their offense is taking a major blow without Sheffield (.330, 39 homers, 132 RBIs), Lopez (.328, 43, 109) and third baseman Vinny Castilla (.277, 22, 76), all headed elsewhere.

Sheffield is close to agreement on a $39 million, three-year contract with the New York Yankees.

The Braves also declined arbitration for pitchers Kent Mercker, Darren Holmes, Shane Reynolds and Roberto Hernandez; first basemen Matt Franco; and outfielder Darren Bragg.

Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press