Gonzalez Signs With Texas, Reunites With Hart

By JAIME ARON, AP Sports Writer

ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) - Juan Gonzalez (pictured, right) agreed Tuesday night to a $24 million, two-year contract with the Texas Rangers.

Gonzalez, who turned down two-year offers from the New York Mets and Baltimore, rejoins the team he started his major league career with.

The deal with Texas calls for a $2 million signing bonus, $10 million this year and $12 million in 2003. The Rangers will defer $4 million of his salary this year and $6.5 million next season.

Gonzalez turned down a $25 million, two-year offer from the Mets, who up until Tuesday night thought they had a chance to land the free-agent outfielder.

"We still think we have the best offer on the table," Mets co-owner Fred Wilpon said. "We wish him luck in Texas. I think he would have been great with the Mets."

Texas said the deal is contingent on Gonzalez passing a physical, an exam expected to take place in the next few days.

The Rangers' offer to Gonzalez was comparable to the bid by the Mets because Texas does not have a state income tax.

Gonzalez, 32, won the AL MVP award with the Rangers in 1996 and 1998, then was traded to Detroit in November 1999. Following a down year with the Tigers in which his back bothered him, Gonzalez rebounded to hit .325 for Cleveland last year with 35 homers and a team-high 140 RBIs.

Two years ago, Gonzalez turned down a $143 million, eight-year extension offered by the Tigers. Gonzalez switched agents after the season and John Hart, then Cleveland's general manager, signed the outfielder to a $10 million, one-year contract.

Hart left the Indians after the 2001 season to become GM of the Rangers.

(Copyright 2002 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)