Mets sign Boone, invite him to spring training

Updated: January 4, 2006, 8:25 PM ET
Associated Press

NEW YORK -- The New York Mets agreed Wednesday to a minor-league contract with Bret Boone, a move that could mean Kazuo Matsui's hold on second base is tenuous.

Second Base
Minnesota Twins

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A three-time All-Star and four-time Gold Glove winner, Boone's career has plummeted since the 2003 season. He was cut by the Seattle Mariners on July 3, dealt to Minnesota eight days later, then released by the Twins on Aug 1. He batted .221 with seven homers and 37 RBI in 326 plate appearances.

"I don't know if he could rebound, but to bring in a guy with his history on a minor-league contract, I figured what is there to lose?" Mets general manager Omar Minaya said. "There's something about Bret that I've always liked. He wants to prove that last year was not his year."

If added to the 40-man roster, the 36-year-old Boone would get a $1 million salary and the chance to make $500,000 in performance bonuses, a fraction of the $9.25 million he earned last year.

"I look at this as a tremendous opportunity," Boone said in a statement released by the Mets. "Last year was a season I'd like to forget. The Mets have given me a chance to revive my career and I plan to make the most of it."

Matsui has had two subpar seasons with the Mets, hitting .255 with three homers and 24 RBI. He was on the disabled list from mid-June to Aug. 9 because of a bruised left knee, and there has been repeated speculation that New York will trade him. He is owed $8 million this year, complicating any trade talks.

Boone hit 19 or more homers in seven straight seasons through 2003 and topped 100 RBI from 2001-03, driving in a career-high 141 runs in 2001, when he hit 37 homers.

Minaya said manager Willie Randolph will decide on the starter.

"Matsui's got to go out there and play. It's not that Matsui has the job won," Minaya said. "You try to say that Matsui last year had an off year. He was injured part of the year, and I think if you ask Willie today, there's a competition out there."

Minaya also said Pedro Martinez's right toe still is bothering him but hasn't prevented him from working out in preparation for spring training next month.

"My understanding is that Pedro has started to throw," he said. "There is some discomfort. He is going to have to need a special shoe."

Minaya said the Mets would not stop Martinez from pitching for the Dominican Republic in the World Baseball Classic.

New York also boosted its bullpen Wednesday by acquiring right-handed relievers Duaner Sanchez and Steve Schmoll from the Los Angeles Dodgers for right-hander Jae Seo and left-handed reliever Tim Hamulack.

Sanchez joins Aaron Heilman and Chad Bradford as setup men for new closer Billy Wagner. It was unclear whether the Mets were still trying to acquire Danys Baez from Tampa Bay.

"I pursued other things, but this one was in front of me," Minaya said. "The others that were out there never came to fruition. I had to make a choice: either wait for something else or get something that we've liked all along."

Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press