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Thursday, December 8, 2005
Mets sign Jose Valentin, consider Julio Franco

Associated Press

DALLAS -- Jose Valentin joined the New York Mets in a reserve role Thursday, agreeing to a minor league contract with an invite to spring training.

General manager Omar Minaya said Valentin will be on the big league club next season. The minor league deal is just a technicality for now -- Valentin will get a one-year deal worth $912,500 when he's added to the 40-man roster.

"Veteran guy, he wanted to come here," Minaya said. "He can play anywhere in the field."

Minaya envisions the 36-year-old Valentin stepping into a role similar to the one filled last season by Marlon Anderson, who signed a $1.85 million, two-year contract with the Washington Nationals. Anderson excelled as a pinch-hitter for the Mets.

Valentin hit .170 with two homers and 14 RBI in 56 games with the Los Angeles Dodgers last season. He was sidelined from May 4 to July 31 with torn ligaments in his right knee after a collision at home plate with Washington catcher Brian Schneider.

Valentin is playing center field this winter for a team he owns in Puerto Rico, Minaya said.

A .241 career hitter with 228 homers and 736 RBI, Valentin hit at least 25 homers every season from 2000-04 with the Chicago White Sox.

Looking for depth on the bench, Minaya said he is talking to the agent for free-agent first baseman Julio Franco, who was not offered arbitration by the Atlanta Braves. Still a capable player at age 47, Franco hit .275 this year with nine homers and 42 RBI in 233 at-bats. A two-year deal worth about $2 million could be finalized as early as Friday.

"I know Julio for a while," Minaya said. "Pretty good numbers over the years."

Franco might fit well as a right-handed hitter who could occasionally spell new Mets first baseman Carlos Delgado, a left-handed swinging slugger.

The GM said the Mets have also heard from free agent Jeff Nelson, and the former Yankees reliever is interested in returning to New York.