Martinez, Yanks finalize 1-year, $3M deal

Updated: December 31, 2004, 9:33 PM ET
Associated Press

NEW YORK -- Tino Martinez is headed back to the Bronx.

Tino Martinez
First Base
Tampa Bay Devil Rays
138 23 76 63 3 .262

The popular first baseman and the New York Yankees finalized a $3 million, one-year contract Friday, a deal that gives manager Joe Torre a familiar option if Jason Giambi's health problems keep him out of the lineup again.

Martinez, 37, played for New York between 1996 and 2001, helping the Yankees win five AL pennants and four World Series titles. A close friend of Derek Jeter, Martinez hit .262 with 23 homers and 76 RBI for Tampa Bay last season.

"The Florida Marlins probably were my other choice," Martinez said. "If the Yankees had any interest at all, whatsoever, it's where I wanted to be, where I wanted to finish my career."

Giambi, who replaced Martinez as New York's first baseman in 2002, missed much of last season because of a variety of illnesses, the most significant a benign tumor. He was ineffective at the plate when he returned late in the year, and New York did not include him on its postseason roster. Giambi, the 2000 AL MVP with Oakland, wound up hitting .208 with 12 homers and 40 RBI.

During the offseason, the San Francisco Chronicle reported that Giambi told a federal grand jury in 2003 that he used steroids, and the Yankees have been investigating whether they can void his contract, which has $82 million and four years remaining.

"At this stage, we have not made any decisions on things like that," general manager Brian Cashman said. "I expect him to be in camp with us, 100 percent healthy and ready to contribute to the 2005 Yanks."

While no top Yankees officials have spoken with Giambi since the end of the season, he's been in contact with the medical and training staff.

"It is a strange situation," Martinez said. "I spoke to Joe Torre last night. He gave me a call. I told him I'm willing to do whatever role he wants me to be in."

Tony Clark and John Olerud, who played first base in Giambi's absence, both became free agents.

Martinez has 322 homers, 18th among active players, and he has played in 95 postseason games, fourth on the career list. He gets $2.75 million next season, and New York has a $3 million option for 2006 with a $250,000 buyout.

He signed a $21 million, three-year deal with St. Louis in December 2001, then was traded by the Cardinals to Tampa Bay in November 2003. The Devil Rays declined an $8 million option, allowing him to become a free agent.

Martinez said the Yankees will be the final team he plays for. New York hasn't won the World Series since Martinez left and Paul O'Neill and Scott Brosius retired.

"When you accept big money from Mr. Steinbrenner, you have to win."

Martinez knows how Yankees fans view last season's team, which was an inning away from sweeping Boston in the AL Championship Series only to become the first major league team to squander a 3-0 lead in a best-of-seven series.

"They came up short, they failed," Martinez said bluntly. "They have to win a world championship. That's what they're there for."

Meanwhile on Friday, New York and Arizona finalized paperwork Friday for the Randy Johnson trade and plan to submit it Monday to commissioner Bud Selig for approval. The Yankees are sending the Diamondbacks pitcher Javier Vazquez, prospects Brad Halsey and Dioner Navarro and $9 million. As part of the deal, they want a 72-hour window to discuss a contract extension for Johnson, a 41-year-old left-hander who has won five Cy Young Awards.

Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press