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Yankees, Indians Get Stove Heated in Biggest Deals : Baseball: Angels retain negotiating rights to Abbott and Finley. Tino Martinez goes to New York.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

On one of the first major deadlines of baseball’s free-agent signing season, the Angels retained negotiating rights to pitchers Jim Abbott and Chuck Finley on Thursday, but Jack McDowell, Rickey Henderson, Shawon Dunston, Rick Aguilera and Benito Santiago were among those forced to seek employment with new teams.

As the clubs sorted out their economic priorities, money proved to be no obstacle to the Cleveland Indians, who spent $20.2 million signing four players, and New York Yankees, who completed a five-player trade with the Seattle Mariners by getting new first baseman Tino Martinez to consent to a five-year, $20.5-million contract as Don Mattingly’s successor.

“My head is spinning. This is probably one of the greatest days of my life,” said Martinez, who celebrated his 28th birthday by welcoming a new daughter, Victoria, and securing his financial future.

A hectic day in the winter market, including the Boston Red Sox’s late-night re-signing of free agent Jose Canseco for two years at $9 million with a shot at another $1 million in incentives each year, stemmed primarily from a midnight deadline forcing clubs to offer arbitration to their own free agents or lose bargaining rights until May 1.

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A player offered arbitration can either accept it by Dec. 19--in which case he is deemed under contract for 1996--or reject it, leaving the club with negotiating rights until Jan. 8.

At a time when clubs have shown some ability to cope with the system by not tendering contracts to expensive fringe players, avoiding arbitration at all costs and flooding the market with free agents, affecting supply and demand, only 17 free agents by informal count were offered arbitration by their current clubs and another 60 or so were not.

The latter group included McDowell, the Yankee pitcher who made $5.4 million last year and was deemed financially expendable in the wake of the club’s acquisition of Martinez and interest in re-signing David Cone; Oakland outfielder Henderson, Chicago Cub shortstop Dunston, Boston reliever Aguilera and Cincinnati catcher Santiago.

Among those who were offered arbitration: Toronto’s Roberto Alomar and Houston’s Craig Biggio, the two most coveted players in this year’s market.

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The Dodgers had only one decision Thursday, and it was no surprise. They did not offer arbitration to outfielder Roberto Kelly.

The Angels offered arbitration to Abbott, Finley and outfielder Dave Gallagher, but not infielders Tony Phillips and Rene Gonzalez, pitchers Bob Patterson, Mike Bielecki and John Habayan or catcher Greg Myers.

Both Abbott and Finley have expressed a desire to stay with the Angels, but their respective agents, Scott Boras for Abbott and Alan Hendricks for Finley, said Thursday they were beginning to think club management has been left in financial limbo and they doubted substantive negotiations would take place before Disney’s purchase of controlling interest is approved by major league owners.

Approval is expected during an owners meeting here Jan. 16-18, but that’s a week after the Angels would lose negotiating rights, if Abbott and/or Finley are still unsigned on Jan. 8. Both could extend negotiating rights by opting for arbitration, but that would prevent talks with other clubs.

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General Manager Bill Bavasi acknowledged that the ownership situation complicates his course in that he has to “try and do what’s right” for the current owners while trying to “improve the assets” for the future owners.

Bavasi said he hopes to sign both Abbott and Finley to multiyear contracts but, if successful in that, thought it unlikely he would then be able to sign a high-priced right-handed pitcher, one of his winter goals.

In other highlights Thursday:

--The Indians did not offer arbitration to free-agent pitcher Ken Hill but did sign free agent Julio Franco, re-signed free agent Eddie Murray, extended the contract of Orel Hershiser and signed out fielder Manny Ramirez to a four-year, $10.15-million package.

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Ramirez isn’t eligible for arbitration until after the 1996 season, but the deal is consistent with club policy. The Indians have maintained their nucleus and controlled their payroll by signing the best of their young players to multiyear contracts, buying out their initial years of arbitration and free agent eligibility.

Franco, returning from a year in Japan, agreed to a two-year, $5-million contract and will play first base, replacing a platoon of Herbert Perry and Paul Sorrento, who will not be tendered a 1996 contract. Franco, a former second baseman who served as a designated hitter with the Chicago White Sox in 1994, won a Gold Glove award playing first base in Japan.

Murray returned as Cleveland’s designated hitter with a one-year, $2 million contract--$1 million less than he made in 1995--and Hershiser was extended through 1997 at $2.7 million. The Indians had already exercised a $1.5-million option on Hershiser for 1996 and will add any bonuses he receives in ’96--he can make $100,000 after 195, 205 and 215 innings--to that $2.7-million base in ’97.

The Indians, coming off their American League pennant, are already assured of a sellout for every home game in 1996, and General Manager John Hart said:

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“Of all the clubs in baseball at this time, we feel we are extremely fortunate to have such stability and continuity in our team. Last year was very special and we want to continue that.”

--The Yankees and Mariners finally completed the trade that hinged on Martinez, who made $1 million while hitting 31 homers and driving in 111 runs in 1995, agreeing to a new contract with the Yankees. It didn’t take much arm twisting.

Reliever Jeff Nelson and minor league pitcher Jim Mecir also go to New York, while Seattle gets pitcher Sterling Hitchcock and the long-touted third base prospect, Russ Davis, who will replace Mike Blowers, recently traded to the Dodgers.

“While all of us here wish we could keep the entire club intact, it is just not possible under the current economic system,” Seattle General Manager Woody Woodward said of the loss of Martinez and Blowers from the team that won the American League West.

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Said Bob Watson, the Yankees’ new general manager: “It isn’t easy to replace Don Mattingly, but Tino Martinez is one of the brightest young first baseman in baseball,”

--The Toronto Blue Jays signed free agent Otis Nixon to a two-year, $4.4-million contract to replace center fielder Devon White, who recently signed with the Florida Marlins; the Kansas City Royals re-signed free-agent pitcher Mark Gubicza for two years at $3.2 million; the St. Louis Cardinals retained free-agent pitcher Mike Morgan for a year at $1.25 million; the Milwaukee Brewers-resigned free-agent infielder Kevin Seitzer for a year at $1 million; the Detroit Tigers signed free-agent outfielder Phil Plantier for a year at $500,000 with another $500,000 in incentives, and the San Diego Padres re-signed a veteran southpaw named Fernando Valenzuela with the same deal.

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

Moving On

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Angel and Dodger players who were not offered arbitration Thursday, meaning the teams are prohibited from signing them until May 1.

* ANGELS--Pitchers Bob Patterson, Mike Bielecki and John Habyan, infielders Rene Gonzales and Tony Phillips, and catcher Greg Myers.

* DODGERS--Outfielder Roberto Kelly.

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

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The Major Moves

TRADE

* The Seattle Mariners sent first baseman Tino Martinez and pitchers Jeff Nelson and Jim Mecir to the New York Yankees for third baseman Russ Davis and pitcher Sterling Hitchcock.

SIGNINGS

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* The Cleveland Indians signed infielder Julio Franco to a two-year contract, re-signed first baseman Eddie Murray (one year), outfielder Manny Ramirez (four years) and gave pitcher Orel Hershiser a one-year extension.

* Outfielder Otis Nixon with the Toronto Blue Jays.

* Outfielder Jose Canseco to a two-year contract with the Boston Red Sox.

* Pitcher Fernando Valenzuela to a one-year contract with the San Diego Padres.

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* Outfielder Phil Plantier to a one-year contract with the Detroit Tigers.

NEW FREE AGENTS

* Pitchers--Rick Aguilera, Andy Benes, David Cone, Ken Hill, Jack McDowell, Randy Myers.

* Catchers--Benito Santiago, Mickey Tettleton.

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* Infielders--Shawon Dunston, Gary Gaetti, Mark Grace, Tony Phillips.

* Outfielders--Harold Baines, Rickey Henderson, Roberto Kelly.


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