Yankees, Red Sox are likely suitors

Updated: November 4, 2004, 7:20 PM ET
Associated Press

NEW YORK -- Carl Pavano became a free agent Wednesday after meeting with Florida Marlins management and telling the team he wanted to test the market.

Carl Pavano

A 28-year-old right-hander who went a career-best 18-8 with a 3.00 ERA this season, Pavano is likely to be among the most coveted free agents, which could put him in the middle of a bidding war between the World Series champion Boston Red Sox and the New York Yankees, baseball's biggest spenders.

Pavano met for about an hour in Miami with Marlins president David Samson and general manager Larry Beinfest.

"They expressed their desire to have Carl back, and Carl expressed his appreciation for everything the ownership group has done, in Montreal and in Florida," said the pitcher's agent, Scott Shapiro. "We're going to keep open communication. Carl has a lot of emotional ties to the Marlins, but he is committed to testing the market. Whether they have the resources to compete with some other organizations for Carl's services is the question at hand."

Other free-agent pitchers include Pedro Martinez, Brad Radke, Russ Ortiz, Eric Milton, Matt Morris, Derek Lowe and Kevin Millwood. Players can start negotiating money terms with all teams starting Nov. 12.

Pavano has a 57-58 record in seven seasons with the Expos and Marlins. He was drafted by Boston in 1994 and was sent to Montreal after the 1997 season with Tony Armas Jr. for Martinez.

He had surgery to remove elbow chips in 2000 but has been healthy since. Pavano allowed one run in nine innings against the Yankees in the 2003 World Series and went 2-0 with a 1.40 ERA in two postseason starts and six relief appearances.

Pavano, a first-time All-Star in 2004, earned $3,925,000 this year.

"We're not going to comment on any discussions," Marlins general manager Larry Beinfest said. "We're going to keep everything in-house."

The Yankees are looking to rebuild a starting rotation that struggled most of the season and collapsed against Boston in Game 7 of the AL Championship Series, while the Red Sox are facing the possible loss of Martinez and Lowe.

Shapiro lives within walking distance of the hotel in Key Biscayne, Fla., where general managers will meet next week and will probably talk with some teams then. He said negotiations will probably take quite a while.

"I know that Carl's main concern is that he wants to go to an organization that's committed to winning," Shapiro said. "He is going to want to meet the personnel. He's going to evaluate the defense and the run support he would have on a particular team."

Pavano was among 11 players who became free agents Wednesday, raising the total to 190. Chicago White Sox second baseman Roberto Alomar and St. Louis outfielder John Mabry also filed.

San Francisco exercised its club options on center fielder Marquis Grissom, starting pitcher Brett Tomko and first baseman J.T. Snow.

The Giants also signed shortstop Deivi Cruz, the starter for most of last season, to an $800,000, one-year contract with $300,000 in possible performance bonuses. They declined their $3.25 million option on left-handed reliever Jason Christiansen and instead will pay him a $300,000 buyout.

Grissom's option is for $2.75 million, and he would have received a $500,000 buyout. Snow will earn $2 million and had a $250,000 buyout. Tomko's 2005 salary will be $2.5 million, and he had a $300,000 buyout.

Sabean said the day after the season ended that he planned to establish some continuity on the roster and specifically pointed to Snow's solid season and Tomko's improvement in the second half.

San Francisco missed the playoffs but was in the thick of the NL West race until the final weekend.

"Being able to bring the likes of Marquis, J.T., Brett and Deivi back into the fold certainly strengthens our roster for 2005," Sabean said. "All of these guys were major reasons why we competed until the last day of the season with their professionalism both on the field and in the clubhouse."

Sabean expects to have a payroll of around $80 million again next season, and "we're in the 60-plus range now," he said. He still wants to make utilityman Pedro Feliz an everyday player in 2005 and will focus on finding a shortstop and center fielder of the future -- and has made that known to Cruz and Grissom.

Also Wednesday, the Reds declined left-hander Gabe White's $1,925,000 mutual option, and the reliever filed for free agency.

White, 32, went 1-3 with one save and a 6.94 ERA in 64 appearances last season for the New York Yankees and the Reds, who acquired him June 18 for left-hander Charlie Manning. White, who made $1,925,000 this year, is owed a $200,000 buyout.

The Reds also released right-hander Josh Hall, 23, who missed last season while recovering from two operations on his shoulder.

Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press