Second baseman, team reach deal
PHOENIX -- Twelve-time All-Star Roberto Alomar agreed Tuesday to a $1 million, one-year contract with the Arizona Diamondbacks, saying he turned down higher offers for the chance to play with a contender.
The deal represents a huge salary cut for the free-agent second baseman, who has slumped badly in recent years. Alomar earned $8 million in 2003, the final season of a deal he signed with Cleveland in 1998 that was worth $37 million over five years.
Of the $1 million, $350,000 is deferred without interest until 2009. The deal doesn't contain any 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."
General manager Joe Garagiola Jr. credited Carlos Baerga, Alomar's former roommate with San Diego, with brokering the deal. Garagiola learned of Alomar's interest in the team during a telephone call from Baerga several weeks ago.
That progressed to talks that involved agent Jamie Torres; Arizona assistant GM Sandy Johnson, who knew Alomar from the American League; Garagiola and the player.
"It became more and more apparent that, even given the financial parameters that we were working within, this was a real possibility," Garagiola said. "Jamie and I talked several times over the holidays, and we were able to put it together."
Alomar, 35, split his 16th season between the New York Mets and the Chicago White Sox, who acquired him July 1. He began his career with the Padres and played for Toronto, Baltimore and Cleveland before the Indians sent him to the Mets as part of an eight-player trade in December 2001.
Alomar, a switch hitter, batted .336 with 20 homers and 100 RBI his last year with Cleveland.
But hit .266 in 2002, his lowest average since his rookie season in 1988. He batted .262 last year with the Mets and .253 in 67 games with the White Sox. He finished with an average under .300 in consecutive seasons for the first time since 1990 and 1991.
The 10-time Gold Glove winner has been working out at a high-tech health club in suburban Tempe for six weeks and said he was in better shape than before spring training either of the last two years.
"If I can get in good shape, I think I can play the way I used to play," Alomar said.
Arizona gave up Junior Spivey, last year's primary starter at second, Craig Counsell and four other players to acquire Sexson on Dec. 1. That allowed Arizona to shift Hillenbrand from first to third, his natural position.
The agreement with Alomar frees Matt Kata, who beat out Spivey near the end of the season, to replace Counsell as the utility infielder.
"If a younger player has any sense, and I like to think that our guys do, they will watch how a Roberto Alomar goes about his work," Garagiola said.
Alomar could wind up as the leadoff hitter for the Diamondbacks, who used seven players at the top of the order last year. Center fielder Steve Finley finished up leading off, and Alomar said he would gladly bat behind Finley after hitting second most of his career.
By coincidence, Finley and Alomar both wear No. 12. Alomar, who donned a generic Diamondbacks shirt at a news conference, said he might defer to Finley again. He explained that two is his father's favorite number, and he wouldn't mind a uniform emblazoned with No. 2.
Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press
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