New addition Nunez might platoon at third with Bell
PHILADELPHIA -- The Philadelphia Phillies got the infielder they wanted, one day after losing the closer they hoped to keep.
|Abraham O. Nunez|
Free-agent infielder Abraham Nunez and the Phillies agreed Tuesday to a $3.35 million, two-year contract. Meanwhile, All-Star Billy Wagner finalized his deal with the New York Mets, leaving a big void in Philadelphia's bullpen.
The 29-year-old Nunez started 77 games at third base for St. Louis last season, becoming the regular when Scott Rolen was sidelined for the year with a shoulder injury. Nunez hit .285 with five home runs and 44 RBI in 139 games. He also started at second base and shortstop.
"He's a versatile player who can play many positions. It's important to have guys on your team who can play multiple positions," Phillies general manager Pat Gillick said.
The contract includes a club option for 2008 and performance bonuses.
A native of the Dominican Republic, Nunez will likely platoon at third with David Bell, who hit just .199 against right-handers last season. Nunez hit .277 against right-handers last year.
For his career, Nunez has hit .248 with 16 homers and 161 RBI in eight seasons with the Pittsburgh Pirates and one with the Cardinals.
"It's a good fit for me here. I really liked going somewhere with a chance to win a championship," Nunez said, adding he turned down two other offers. "I've been around this game a long time and winning is everything. I felt like I had a chance to win by coming here. Winning is sometimes more important than other things."
Gillick has been busy since replacing Ed Wade, who was fired after failing to lead the Phillies to the playoffs in eight seasons on the job.
Last week, Gillick traded slugger Jim Thome to the Chicago White Sox for center fielder Aaron Rowand and two prospects. The move cleared the way for NL rookie of the year Ryan Howard to play first base every day.
With Wagner gone, Gillick is focused on getting a new closer and improving the bullpen. The Phillies also need a setup man because they aren't re-signing Ugueth Urbina. Gillick said the Phillies are close to signing another reliever who isn't a closer.
"I don't think internally that we have the key to solve the situation," Gillick said. "We'll have to go outside the organization. There are some guys we're looking at. I've found in all my experience that you don't have to be a premier closer to do the job."
Wagner, who saved 38 games for Philadelphia last season, got a $43 million, four-year contract from the Mets and a complete no-trade clause. The Phillies had offered just more than $30 million over three years, and Wagner said they were willing to include a prohibition against trades for only the first two seasons.
Philadelphia finished 88-74 this year, one game behind Houston for the NL wild card.
Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press