Cleveland — Aaron Boone promises he's finished with basketball, and eager to help the Cleveland Indians rebuild. The free-agent infielder signed a two-year contract with an option for 2006 on Saturday, and said the Indians' prospects for a resurgence with a talented core of young players was a key factor in his decision.
"I originally told my agents I would like to stay out west," said Boone, who recently moved to Phoenix. "Then I had a lunch meeting with (general manager) Mark Shapiro and (manager) Eric Wedge and came away saying, 'I want to be an Indian.'
"Their reputations preceded them. When they explained their plan, I did my homework and found out all the talented young players they have coming up. That sold me."
The Indians signed Boone to a $3.6 million, two-year contract with a team option for 2006 that could turn into a three-year deal worth $11.1 million.
He gets $600,000 this year and $3 million in 2005, and has the chance to earn an additional $2 million in bonuses next year. Cleveland has a $4.5 million option for the third year, and Boone can earn an additional $1 million in bonuses that year. The contract also contains attendance bonuses.
Shapiro said Boone's off-field attributes were as attractive as his playing numbers.
"We believe we have added not only a championship-caliber player, but also a person who we deem fits our program and can take us to the next level."
Boone, whose 11th-inning homer in Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS put the New York Yankees in the World Series, hasn't played since injuring his left knee during a pickup basketball game in January.
"It's a little more than four months post-op and, knock on wood, I feel like I'll come out of this in the best shape I've ever been in," said Boone, who had reconstructive surgery Feb. 16.
"I feel good that's it is going to be a lot sooner than later now until I play. I'm fired up."
Boone will continue his rehab in Phoenix and join the Indians when he is cleared to resume baseball activities -- likely in early August.
"It's going to be like spring training for him," Shapiro said.