Mets told Vlad has committed elsewhere

Updated: January 11, 2004, 8:57 AM ET
Associated Press

NEW YORK -- Vladimir Guerrero rejected a three-year contract offer from the New York Mets, and several reports said the free-agent outfielder agreed to terms with the Anaheim Angels.

Reports in New York and Los Angeles said Guerrero was set to sign a $70 million, five-year contract with Anaheim as long as he passed a physical. But the Angels would not confirm a deal Saturday night.

"As a matter of policy, we don't comment on speculation," Angels vice president of communications Tim Mead told The Associated Press.

Mets general manager Jim Duquette said Saturday he was informed by Guerrero's agent, Arn Tellem, that the former Montreal Expos star would sign a multiyear deal with another team.

The Baltimore Orioles are thought to have offered Guerrero at least $65 million over five years. It was unclear which other teams were still pursuing Guerrero.

"I can't comment about what the Mets have said," Orioles vice president Jim Beattie said. "When we have an announcement to make, we will make an announcement. Until that time, we remain in negotiations."

The Angels went 77-85 and missed the playoffs last season, one year after winning the World Series. But they've been busy this offseason under new owner Arte Moreno, signing free-agent pitchers Bartolo Colon and Kelvim Escobar along with outfielder Jose Guillen.

Colon got a $51 million, four-year contract last month after Escobar received $18.75 million over three years in November.

Angels general manager Bill Stoneman said then, "We had our sights set on pitching and I think we accomplished that. I would say that, conservatively, we're not finished yet."

Guillen signed a $6 million, two-year contract in December.

Guerrero, who turns 28 next month, was on the disabled list from June 6 to July 21 last season, missing 39 games because of a herniated disc in his back. He hit .330 with 25 home runs and 79 RBIs for Montreal.

The cash-strapped Expos, owned by the other 29 major league clubs, let him go in December, declining to offer salary arbitration.

Concerned about the back injury that forced him to miss nearly two months last season, the Mets made Guerrero an offer Thursday that only guaranteed three years.

Duquette said his understanding was that no team would be able to get insurance for Guerrero's back.

But Duquette said if Guerrero stayed healthy, he would certainly have reached incentives that would automatically make the proposed deal with the Mets worth $71 million over five years.

"We weren't willing to make a guaranteed five-year offer, that was based on the advice of our doctors," Duquette said. "Our offer was predicated on the health concern."

Still, Duquette said he was optimistic the past few days.

"Our feeling was we had a chance, we had a legitimate chance to sign the guy. It's obvious the type of player he is. It was a serious offer," he said.

The Mets were cautious in part because they've been burned by injuries to players with big contracts recently, most notably first baseman Mo Vaughn.

Guerrero, a four-time All-Star, is a .323 career hitter. He had at least 34 homers and 108 RBIs every year from 1998-2002. He also has one of the strongest arms in baseball.

"I understand the disappointment of the fans," Duquette said. "The organization is disappointed, too. We made a legitimate run and we thought we had a chance to get him. We missed out on this guy unfortunately, but we're going to go forward with our plan."

Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press