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Tuesday, October 31, 2006
Updated: November 1, 3:20 AM ET
Zito, Maddux highlight Tuesday's free-agent filings

Associated Press

NEW YORK -- Oakland's Barry Zito, who could be the most sought-after pitcher in this year's free-agent market, filed for free agency Tuesday.

 Barry Zito

Zito, a 28-year-old left-hander with a coveted, looping curveball, was 16-10 with a 3.83 ERA in 34 starts this season. He never missed a start because of injury in his first seven major league seasons with the Athletics, who acknowledged before the 2006 season they probably wouldn't be able to afford the 2002 AL Cy Young award winner once he became a free agent.

Greg Maddux, the four-time Cy Young Award winner traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers by the Chicago Cubs in July, also filed. Injured Dodgers closer Eric Gagne filed provisionally -- the team has a $12 million option with a $1 million buyout. Even if it is exercised, Gagne can void the option and receive a $250,000 buyout.

Also filing was Jeff Weaver, who won the fifth and final game of the World Series for the St. Louis Cardinals last Friday and Detroit first baseman Sean Casey, who hit .529 with two homers in the World Series.

New York Yankees outfielder Bernie Williams, who isn't sure whether he wants to play next year, was among 21 players who filed.

A total of 143 players have filed for free agency, and about 50 more are potentially eligible to file by the Nov. 11 deadline.

As expected, Jeff Bagwell's $18 million option was declined by the Houston Astros, who will give the injured 38-year-old first baseman a $7 million buyout to complete an $85 million, five-year contract. Bagwell missed last season because of an arthritic right shoulder, and the Astros tried to recoup about $15.6 million in insurance.

Zito, who won a career-high 23 games in '02, is likely to attract interest from the New York Yankees and Mets, the San Diego Padres and perhaps the Dodgers.