Rangers general manager Jon Daniels confirmed the reported
deadline in an e-mail to The Associated Press on Wednesday night.
Zito and his agent, Scott Boras, met with owner Tom Hicks,
Daniels and other Rangers officials in a visit to Texas on Nov. 30.
Zito and Boras have also met with the New York Mets, and the
Yankees could pursue the 2002 AL Cy Young Award winner if they
trade Randy Johnson.
Texas would still be interested in Zito after this weekend, but
its offer could change significantly.
When announcing the trade with the White Sox last weekend,
Daniels said he wasn't optimistic about Zito joining the Rangers.
Daniels also said the fifth spot in the rotation could be filled
from within, if necessary.
Daniels wouldn't be specific about the Zito situation then, but
said "be careful believing the rumors out there" -- including some
that the Rangers have offered the left-hander more than $100
million. Hicks has also said such reports were untrue.
Hicks told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram that the Rangers have
"made a very strong offer. If we don't have agreement with his
agent by this weekend, we will pursue other alternatives."
Boras negotiated the $252 million, 10-year deal
got from the Rangers in December 2000, and Texas' $65 million,
five-year contract for Chan Ho Park the next year. Millwood was
16-12 this season after being the team's key free-agent addition
last winter, when Boras got the right-hander a $60 million,
Zito is 102-63 in 222 career starts, including a 16-10 mark with
a 3.83 ERA in 34 starts this year before becoming a free agent.
The Rangers are still negotiating with Mark Mulder, one of
Zito's former teammates in Oakland who has pitched the last two
seasons in St. Louis. Mulder, who averaged 18 victories per season
from 2001-05, is coming off shoulder surgery that ended his 2006
season with the Cardinals and will keep him from pitching at the
start of 2007.