LAS VEGAS — Closing pitcher Francisco Rodriguez became the first top-tier free agent to join a new club in winter trade meetings, agreeing to join the New York Mets on Tuesday in a $37 million, three-year deal.
In other free agent developments Tuesday, former Chicago Cubs ace pitcher Kerry Wood was close to a deal with the Cleveland Indians and New York Yankees general manager Brian Cashman traveled to California to meet again with pitcher C.C. Sabathia.
Coming off a record 62 saves for the Los Angeles Angels, Rodriguez was signed as a cure to the Mets' notoriously shaky bullpen.
The sides still have to work out a written agreement and the pitcher must pass a physical, two people familiar with the negotiations said Tuesday. They spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the contract had not been completed.
Rodriguez's deal is unlikely to be finalized before next week.
"The way that we lost so many close games late, that was critical for us to — theoretically — address this thing here. We have addressed it very well," Mets manager Jerry Manuel said.
Cleveland was closing in on a two-year contract with Wood, the former Cubs starter-turned-reliever, a person familiar with that deal said on condition of anonymity because the sides were working on the details. Wood, who has had many injury problems, also needs to pass a physical.
The Yankees made a six-year offer to Sabathia on Nov. 14 worth about $140 million and met with him on Sunday and Monday.
Cashman's trip to California was disclosed by a baseball official who spoke on condition of anonymity because the team didn't say where he had gone. Cashman traveled after being invited by Sabathia, the official said.
Pitchers A.J. Burnett and Derek Lowe likely will wait for Sabathia to make a decision before striking deals of their own. Deals for sluggers Mark Teixeira and Manny Ramirez also could become lengthy negotiations.
In the second trade of the four-day winter trade meeting, the Cincinnati Reds acquired catcher Ramon Hernandez and cash from the Baltimore Orioles for utilityman Ryan Freel and two minor leaguers.
"Ramon is a guy we put high on our list and stayed with it," Reds general manager Walt Jocketty said. "We set our offseason objectives and one of the big things for us was to try to acquire a quality catcher. We felt there was something that we were lacking last year."
The Los Angeles Dodgers completed a $17.5 million, three-year contract with third baseman Casey Blake and reached a preliminary agreement on a one-year deal with infielder Mark Loretta, pending a physical.
This offseason has shown teams to be more cautious about spending money on players.
"I would suspect that it has mostly to do with the economy and both sides trying to gauge what impact that should have on the market," San Diego Padres chief executive officer Sandy Alderson said. "We are more mindful of the economy than we have been in the past."
The Yankees spoke with the agents for Burnett, saying they were prepared to exceed $60 million over four years, and they examined the medical records of Milwaukee Brewers pitcher Ben Sheets.