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Tribe interested in free agent Boone
Friday, June 18, 2004
Plain Dealer Reporter
New York- General Manager Mark Shapiro's short trip to the West Coast in early June could carry some long-range implications for the Indians.
Shapiro met with free-agent third baseman Aaron Boone and his agent, Adam Katz, during a frantic 24 to 30 hours in California. Boone, recovering from surgery on his left knee, is entertaining offers from several teams.
"We're one of about seven or eight teams that are interested in Boone," said Shapiro. "Aaron wanted to meet every club face to face."
Shapiro kept the meeting quiet until recently. "Some teams advertised that they were talking to him," said Shapiro.
"I didn't think that would help the Indians."
Los Angeles, Anaheim, Boston and Atlanta reportedly are interested in Boone. "There are some legitimate big-market clubs involved," said Shapiro. "That's usually not good news for the Indians."
Shapiro accompanied the Indians to Anaheim, Calif., for a four-game series against the Angels on June 2. He met with Boone, 31, the next day and took a red-eye flight back to Cleveland that night to prepare for the amateur draft.
"Boone is an intriguing player," said Shapiro. "He's interested in us. He thinks we're a club on the come."
Shapiro, however, isn't kidding himself.
Until getting traded to the Yankees last season, Boone has spent his whole career with Cincinnati in the National League.
The Indians assume he would like to return to the National League and play in his native California.
"If we don't get him, we'll move on to the next guy," said Shapiro.
Boone's home run in Game 7 of the American League Championship Series against Boston put the Yankees in the World Series last year. But he injured his knee playing basketball in the off-season and the Yankees, under terms of his contract, voided the $5.75 million deal and made him a free agent.
The Yankees filled the hole at third base by trading for Alex Rodriguez.
Shapiro thinks the Indians' chances of signing Boone would improve if he didn't sign until joining next winter's free-agent class. "But he sounds like he wants to sign soon," said Shapiro.
In the near future, Shapiro will have to rebuild the Tribe's infield. Shortstop Omar Vizquel is in the last year of his contract. Second baseman Ronnie Belliard is on a one-year contract and eligible for free agency at the end of the year. First baseman Ben Broussard has hit just one home run in 52 games.
The Indians have potential replacements for the middle of the infield in Jhonny Peralta and Brandon Phillips at Class AAA Buffalo. Travis Hafner, who has turned into a dangerous hitter at DH, could move to first.
The one spot where Shapiro has little protection is third base. Casey Blake has given the Indians consistent play there since last year, but Shapiro is looking for more production from the corner infield spots.
Boone, a right-handed hitter with a .270 lifetime average, isn't a power hitter. His best season came in 2002 when he batted .241 with 26 homers, 87 runs batted in and 32 steals. He's versatile, however, playing third, short and second.
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