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Mark Teixeira, Huston Street and Brad Lidge were among 22 players who avoided arbitration by agreeing to contracts Thursday, one day before teams and players swap figures.
Early today, in the hours before the exchange, Minnesota's Justin Morneau was one of six players reaching deals, agreeing to a $7.4 million, one-year contract. Tampa Bay first baseman Carlos Pena agreed to a $6 million, one-year deal and reached a preliminary agreement on a $24,125,000, three-year contract that is pending a physical.
Toronto reliever Scott Downs cashed in on a breakout season Thursday, getting a $10 million, three-year deal. The only other player to get a multiyear contract was Blue Jays infielder Marco Scutaro ($2.65 million for two years).
The biggest deal of Thursday went to Teixeira, Atlanta's slugging first baseman who is eligible for free agency after this season. He agreed to a $12.5 million contract, one of four Braves players who bypassed arbitration. The others were reliever Mike Gonzalez ($2,362,500), infielder Omar Infante ($1.4 million) and right-hander Tyler Yates ($800,000).
Street and the Oakland Athletics agreed at $3.3 million, a big raise from the $380,000 he made last year. The 2005 AL Rookie of the Year was limited to 48 outings in 2007 because of an irritated nerve in his right elbow that landed the closer on the disabled list for two months.
In all, 33 of the 110 players who filed for arbitration Tuesday have reached agreements. Ryan Howard, Miguel Cabrera, Matt Holliday and Francisco Rodriguez are among the big stars still in arbitration. Dozens more players were expected to reach deals before teams and players exchange figures today.
Hearings are scheduled for the first three weeks of February in St. Petersburg, Fla.
There was one free-agent deal Thursday: starting pitcher Jason Jennings and the Texas Rangers agreed to a one-year contract worth $4 million.
Morneau hit .271 with 31 home runs and 111 RBIs last year. He is not eligible for free agency until after the 2010 season.
Also agreeing to deals Friday were St. Louis outfielder Rick Ankiel ($900,000), Seattle pitcher Horacio Ramirez ($2.75 million), Florida pitcher Sergio Mitre ($1.2 million) and Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Jason Repko ($487,500).
Lidge ($6.35 million) and fellow Philadelphia reliever Ryan Madson ($1.4 million) settled Thursday. Acquired from Houston in November to assume the closer's role, Lidge went 5-3 with 19 saves and a 3.36 ERA in 66 games with the Astros last season.
In addition to Downs and Scutaro, the Blue Jays inked right-hander Jason Frasor ($1,125,000) and left-handers Gustavo Chacin ($725,000) and Brian Tallet ($640,000). All-Star outfielder Alex Rios is their last remaining player in arbitration.
Downs went 4-2 with a 2.17 ERA in 81 relief appearances last season, tied for the AL lead. He struck out 57 in 58 innings and walked just 24. The left-hander gets $2.25 million this year, $3.75 million next year and $4 million in 2010. He made $1.05 million last season.
Joe Crede and the Chicago White Sox agreed at $5.1 million. The third baseman played only 47 games last season before back surgery, batting .216 with four homers and 22 RBIs. He was a standout defensively and provided clutch hitting for the White Sox in 2005, when they won the World Series.
As of now, Chicago has two third basemen. Josh Fields was called up last season and batted .244 with 23 homers and 67 RBIs in 100 games.
Other players agreeing to terms were Milwaukee lefty Chris Capuano ($3.75 million), Los Angeles Angels outfielder Juan Rivera ($2,025,000), Pittsburgh third baseman Jose Bautista ($1.8 million), Kansas City pitcher Jimmy Gobble ($1,312,500), Minnesota outfielder Jason Kubel ($1.3 million), Tampa Bay outfielder Jonny Gomes ($1,275,000), Detroit outfielder Marcus Thames ($1,275,000), Washington pitcher Tim Redding ($1 million) and Florida catcher Matt Treanor ($705,000).
The 29-year-old Jennings, a Dallas native, can earn an additional $4 million in performance bonuses based on innings.
The 2002 NL Rookie of the Year with Colorado, Jennings is coming off an injury-plagued season in Houston. He was 2-9 with a career-worst 6.45 ERA in 19 games and missed three months because of elbow problems.
"I'm not the pitcher that everybody saw last year because that was not me," Jennings said. "Last year was so frustrating."
After two months on the disabled list early in the season with right elbow tendinitis, Jennings didn't pitch after Aug. 20 and had surgery to repair a torn flexor tendon.
"It's almost kind of a new life for me," he said. "Getting to play at home, a new team, an exciting team, an exciting environment and me feeling healthy. All things are good right now."
Atlanta's Mark Teixeira among 28 players who avoid arbitration by reaching new deals
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