Long-awaited deal nearly complete

Updated: January 6, 2005, 7:25 PM ET
Associated Press

CLEVELAND -- Free agent right-hander Kevin Millwood and the Cleveland Indians are a phone call or two away from agreement on a $7 million, one-year contract.

Indians general manager Mark Shapiro said Thursday that he and Millwood's agent, Scott Boras, have made significant progress in negotiations over the past 48 hours as they work toward finalizing a deal.

"I feel optimistic about it,'' Shapiro said.

Boras also said he was confident a deal would be completed soon.

Talks between the sides have dragged on for weeks, slowed by medical tests the Indians required of Millwood, personal matters and Boras being tied up with other high-profile free agent clients.

As long as there are no further delays, the Indians are likely to announce the signing in the next two days. The deal would contain $1 million in performance bonuses, with Millwood earning the full amount if he makes 34 starts or pitches 210 innings.

Cleveland also has had preliminary talks with outfielder Juan Gonzalez on a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training. Gonzalez, who had one of the best seasons of his career for the Indians in 2000, was limited to just 33 games last season with the Kansas City Royals because of lower back problems.

Gonzalez made $4.5 million in 2004, but would have to settle for an incentive-based contract with the Indians if he makes their roster. In his only season with Cleveland, Gonzalez batted .325 with 35 homers and 140 RBI.

Adding a quality pitcher to their rotation has been an offseason priority for the Indians, who have offered multiyear deals to Jon Lieber and Matt Clement and a one-year package to David Wells only to be outbid by other teams.

Before they turned their focus on Millwood, the Indians put the 30-year-old through some lengthy medical exams. Millwood strained an elbow ligament last season for Philadelphia, an injury that limited him to 25 starts and 141 innings -- the second fewest of his major league career.

Millwood had two 18-win seasons and went 75-41 in six seasons with the Atlanta Braves, who traded him to the Phillies in 2002. Millwood, who has pitched more than 200 innings four times, went 14-12 with a 4.01 ERA in '03 and 9-6 with a 4.85 ERA last season.


Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press