Rockies turn focus toward Helton, Perez
Denver Having secured two free-agent pitchers before the holidays, Rockies general manager Dan O'Dowd wants to begin the new year negotiating a long-term contract extension for first baseman Todd Helton.
With two seasons remaining on a $12 million, four-year contract, Helton might be one of baseball's best bargains. He hit .372 with 42 homers and 147 RBIs last season.
O'Dowd and Helton's agent, Mike Moye, have discussed a contract extension but put negotiations on hold while the Rockies focused on luring pitchers Denny Neagle and Mike Hampton to Colorado.
The going rate for top-tier first basemen is about $17 million per year. That's what Toronto gave Carlos Delgado in October, and Houston matched it Tuesday with a five-year contract extension for Jeff Bagwell. Helton had better overall numbers than both Bagwell and Delgado.
O'Dowd also hopes to reach a contract agreement with Gold Glove shortstop Neifi Perez, who is eligible to file for salary arbitration next month.
Rangers close to Cone
David Cone could be a Texas Ranger by the end of this week. Doug Melvin, the Rangers' GM, will be spending the last moments before Christmas weekend in Tampa, Fla., courting Cone. The veteran right-hander is 16 wins away from 200 for his career.
Larkin sprains shoulder
Cincinnati Cincinnati shortstop Barry Larkin sprained his throwing shoulder during a recent workout but is expected to be fully healed by spring training. Larkin had a magnetic resonance imaging test Monday that found no serious injury to the right shoulder. Dr. Timothy Kremchek said Larkin's left knee, which had arthroscopic surgery in September, is almost fully recovered.
Mets hire Hough, Engle; Hershiser bypassed
New York After clashing over coaches, Mets manager Bobby Valentine and GM Steve Phillips say they agree on a staff for next season.
Charlie Hough was hired Tuesday to replace Dave Wallace as pitching coach and Dave Engle took over from Tom Robson as hitting coach.
Randy Niemann replaced Al Jackson as bullpen coach, Bobby Floyd was hired as bench coach in place of John Stearns, who moved to third-base coach. Mookie Wilson remains as first-base coach.
The Mets bypassed Orel Hershiser, who wanted to become pitching coach.
Wallace left the Mets to become a special adviser to Dodgers GM Kevin Malone.
Robson will stay with the Mets as a scout.
Rangers institution Macko retires at 72
Arlington, Texas After 53 years in pro baseball, including the 29 years the Texas Rangers have been in Arlington, Joe Macko is retiring.
Macko, 72, is the last employee who has been with the Rangers since the franchise moved from Washington 29 years ago. He was a player-manager for the Cubs from 1961-64.
Wedge to manage Tribe's minor league affiliate
Cleveland Eric Wedge was hired Tuesday as manager of Triple-A Buffalo, the top farm team of the Indians. The Indians promoted Wedge from Double-A Akron to replace Joel Skinner, who left the Bisons to become Cleveland's third-base coach.
Cleveland also hired former Indians players Willie Upshaw and Chris Bando to manage in Akron and Mahoning Valley.
Two Cubans defect
Syracuse, N.Y. Pitcher Mayque Quintero and infielder Evel Bastida have defected from Cuba and plan to work out for major league teams, agent Joe Kehoskie said Tuesday. Quintero, 22, was 10-5 with a 1.90 ERA this season in his fourth year with the Havana Industriales.