Mets sign Jose Valentin, consider Julio Franco
General manager Omar Minaya said Valentin will be on the big league club next season. The minor league deal is just a technicality for now -- Valentin will get a one-year deal worth $912,500 when he's added to the 40-man roster.
"Veteran guy, he wanted to come here," Minaya said. "He can play anywhere in the field."
Minaya envisions the 36-year-old Valentin stepping into a role similar to the one filled last season by Marlon Anderson, who signed a $1.85 million, two-year contract with the Washington Nationals. Anderson excelled as a pinch-hitter for the Mets.
Valentin hit .170 with two homers and 14 RBI in 56 games with the Los Angeles Dodgers last season. He was sidelined from May 4 to July 31 with torn ligaments in his right knee after a collision at home plate with Washington catcher Brian Schneider.
Valentin is playing center field this winter for a team he owns in Puerto Rico, Minaya said.
A .241 career hitter with 228 homers and 736 RBI, Valentin hit at least 25 homers every season from 2000-04 with the Chicago White Sox.
Looking for depth on the bench, Minaya said he is talking to the agent for free-agent first baseman Julio Franco, who was not offered arbitration by the Atlanta Braves. Still a capable player at age 47, Franco hit .275 this year with nine homers and 42 RBI in 233 at-bats. A two-year deal worth about $2 million could be finalized as early as Friday.
"I know Julio for a while," Minaya said. "Pretty good numbers over the years."
Franco might fit well as a right-handed hitter who could occasionally spell new Mets first baseman Carlos Delgado, a left-handed swinging slugger.
The GM said the Mets have also heard from free agent Jeff Nelson, and the former Yankees reliever is interested in returning to New York.
Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press
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