|Saturday, December 7
Giants sign two former All-Stars, offer Kent arbitration
ESPN.com news services
SAN FRANCISCO -- Jeff Kent was offered arbitration on Saturday by the San Francisco Giants -- but just in case things don't work out with the former MVP, they also signed two players who might help replace him.
Second baseman Ray Durham and outfielder Marquis Grissom joined the NL champions -- and in a mildly surprising move, the Giants agreed to keep negotiating with Kent, their star second baseman and Barry Bonds' most dependable teammate.
Durham crossed the Bay from Oakland to sign a $20.1 million, three-year contract with a $7 million player option for a fourth season. Grissom left the Los Angeles Dodgers for a $4.25 million, two-year contract with a club option for 2005.
''It's been nonstop, because usually you don't have as many tangible alternatives as we did,'' general manager Brian Sabean said. ''You don't have sands shift from hour to hour. Fortunately, we had the right people targeted, and with (Kent), we have at least a couple of weeks to see where that's going.''
Instead of shying away from the possibility of a huge arbitration settlement, Sabean kept every option open in his ongoing negotiations with Kent, who has driven in at least 101 runs in each of his six seasons in San Francisco. By offering arbitration, the Giants are free to continue talking about a contract with Kent's agent, Jeffrey Klein, until Jan. 8.
Though Durham would be a capable replacement for Kent at second base, Durham also understands that he might play the outfield in San Francisco.
''I am open to the outfield,'' Durham said. ''That was one of the big questions coming into my free agent year: Will he be willing to go play center field? And my answer was yes. Wherever the team needs me, that's where I'll go. Wherever they need me.''
The Giants also declined arbitration for outfielders Kenny Lofton, Reggie Sanders and Tom Goodwin, third baseman Bill Mueller and infielder Shawon Dunston, continuing a huge offseason shakeup for the pennant-winners who came within one victory of a World Series title.
Manager Dusty Baker signed with the Chicago Cubs last month and was replaced by Felipe Alou, while third baseman David Bell signed with Philadelphia as a free agent.
Even if the Giants are able to re-sign Kent, they'll need to do plenty of creative roster shuffling to keep their payroll near $75 million, Sabean said.
Still, free agent outfielder Steve Finley turned down a $13 million offer from the Giants earlier this week, agent Tommy Tanzer said. Sabean instead signed a pair of two-time All-Stars whose roles might not be defined until spring training. Whatever positions they play, Durham and Grissom will add a fleet-footed dimension to the speed-starved Giants.
Durham, a dependable run-producer and the Giants' likely leadoff hitter, got a $3.6 million signing bonus. He will make $4 million next season, $6 million in 2004, and $6.5 million in 2005.
He hit .289 with 114 runs, 15 homers, 70 RBI and 26 steals in 150 games last season for the White Sox and the Athletics, who acquired him in a trade last July 25.
''I'm looking forward to getting on base in front of Barry, and hopefully he can drive me home a bunch of times,'' Durham said. ''The San Francisco Giants have been in the playoffs and at least given the guys a chance to go and try to win a World Series. I just hope we can keep the tradition going and try to get Barry that elusive World Series ring.''
Grissom, a four-time Gold Glove with a .270 career batting average, is a veteran of 14 major league seasons with five clubs, including Montreal -- where he played for Alou, the Giants' new manager.
With the departures of Sanders and Lofton, Grissom almost certainly will start for the Giants. San Francisco has been searching for veteran outfield depth since dropping Tsuyoshi Shinjo last month.
''In my 14th season, I'm kind of happy to become an everyday starter once again,'' Grissom said. ''I think I'm in the prime of my career, and healthy. My main interest in going to any team was to get out there and play every day. I think I've got a lot left. I'm nowhere near a fourth outfielder on nobody's team.''
Grissom played 111 games last season, batting .277 with 17 home runs and 60 RBI. He gets a $250,000 signing bonus, $1.75 million in 2003 and $2 million in 2004. The Giants have a $2.5 million option for 2005 with a $250,000 buyout.
Kent, a three-time All-Star, hit .313 with 37 homers and 108 RBI last season as the Giants won the NL pennant for the first time since 1989.
The Giants and Kent's representatives worked on a deal for several days before the deadline. Kent feels he deserves a big contract after six years of phenomenal numbers, but he acknowledged last summer that the market might be limited for a middle infielder who will turn 35 in spring training.
''In my conversations with Klein, they are dead-set on a long-term, multiyear deal,'' assistant general manager Ned Colletti said. ''He's going to get a multiyear deal, and if it's not with us, then it's going to be with someone else.''
The Cubs are interested in Kent, while NL West rivals Los Angeles and Colorado might enter the bidding for the right price.
Bonds has said he hoped the Giants would re-sign Kent, even though the sluggers have had a rocky relationship that included a shoving match in the dugout in San Diego last season.
''What's satisfying about today is we got business done,'' Sabean said, ''we addressed some needs and we bought ourselves some time, which is maybe even more valuable.''