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Rangers avoid chance of arbitration

ARLINGTON, Texas -- The Texas Rangers signed All-Star closer
Francisco Cordero to an $8 million, two-year extension on Thursday,
avoiding the chance of arbitration this offseason and keeping him
off the free-agent market the following winter.

Cordero, who is making $2 million this season, received a
$250,000 bonus for signing a contract that will pay him $3.75
million next season and $4 million in 2006, said agent Bean
Stringfellow.

The Rangers also have an option for 2007 that calls for a $6
million salary if he's still the closer and $5 million if he's not.
If Texas doesn't pick up the option, Cordero would get a $500,000
buyout.

"This is my first time as a full-time closer and I made the
All-Star game, and now a multiyear contract," Cordero said. "I
can't ask for anything else. This is the best thing that could've
happened."

His signing guarantees the Rangers of having four of their five
All-Stars for at least the next two seasons. Michael Young and Hank
Blalock signed extensions in spring training and Alfonso Soriano
has several seasons to go before being eligible for free agency.

The exception is 39-year-old pitcher Kenny Rogers -- "and we
can't do a five-year deal with Kenny," team owner Tom Hicks said,
laughing.

The club also announced Thursday that assistant general manager
Grady Fuson is resigning after this season. Fuson had been
expecting to become GM next season, but Hicks recently said that
John Hart is keeping that job.

Hart said Fuson was asked to stay and would've been welcomed
back. Instead, he'll stick around long enough to help with the
changes his departure is creating.

Those moves include Dom Chiti going from special assistant to
head of player personnel, Jon Daniels going from director of
baseball operations to assistant GM and Ron Hopkins going from
scouting coordinator to scouting director.

Hart said the 26-year-old Daniels already has been his
right-hand man, even helping negotiate the Cordero deal. Hicks
praised Daniels as "one of the young, brainy types."

Chiti had worked with Hart when he was Cleveland's GM. Hopkins
had been with Fuson in Oakland.

"I know there are going to be some questions about (Hopkins)
being brought in by Grady. But this is not about Dom, Grady and
Ron. This is about the Texas Rangers," Hart said, adding that he
expects all the scouts -- including those picked by Fuson -- to
remain with the club.

Cordero's late-inning success has been a big reason why the
Rangers were leading the AL West going into Thursday night's game
against Oakland.

A hard-throwing right-hander known as "Coco," Cordero went
into the game with 30 saves in 32 chances. He's 2-0 with a 1.87
ERA, having allowed only 30 hits in 43 1-3 innings while striking
out 48 and walking 20.

Cordero came to the Rangers from Detroit in November 1999 as
part of the nine-player trade involving Juan Gonzalez. Only 22 at
the time, he was viewed as having closer's stuff.

His ascent was derailed in 2001 by a back injury that limited
him to just three games. He was a setup man the last two seasons,
then became the closer when Ugueth Urbina was traded to Florida
last July.

Cordero's popularity within the club was evident as many
teammates and coaches attended his pregame news conference.

Hart called Cordero "like a favorite son" of coaches, and
"the leader of our bullpen, a guy the others can look up to."

"All of those were factors in our decision," Hart said.