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VAUGHN GETS HEAVENLY DEAL WITH ANGELS; WILLIAMS STAYS WITH YANKEES

Even by baseball's megabucks standards, this was a big deal: Bernie Williams stayed with the New York Yankees for $87.5 million and Mo Vaughn moved to the Anaheim Angels for $80 million.

It all came in a flurry Wednesday night.

Vaughn, coming off a huge season for the Boston Red Sox, became the highest-paid player in the game when he agreed to a six-year contract with the Angels that averages $13.33 million per season.

"All I know is I'm just going to try and bring a winning attitude to this club," Vaughn said at his home outside Boston in Easton, Mass. "They've got a great bunch of guys. I kind of just want to fit in and help their team."

Only 45 minutes later, the World Series champion Yankees again won big. They outbid Boston at the last moment and agreed with Williams on a seven-year deal.

"I'm very happy the whole thing is over with," said Williams, who beat out Vaughn on the final day for the AL batting championship.

"It came down to the fact that I wanted to be a Yankee, I wanted to remain a Yankee for the rest of my career," he said.

And the free-agent frenzy isn't finished, either.

Next up is pitcher Randy Johnson, expected to decide by the end of the week between Texas, Arizona, Los Angeles or the Angels.

On deck behind the Big Unit are Albert Belle, with Boston and Baltimore are in the running, and Kevin Brown, who spent the day meeting with Colorado.

Vaughn's deal, which includes a club option for 2005, has an average annual value that tops the $13 million that Mike Piazza will average under his new $91 million, seven-year contract with the New York Mets.

If the option is exercised, Vaughn's deal would be worth $92 million for seven seasons.

"The market is what it is," Angels general manager Bill Bavasi said. "We are not here to spend money foolishly. We feel like we made a great deal today."

Vaughn, 31 next month, hit .337 this year with 40 homers and 115 RBIs. Boston broke off contract talks Nov. 11 after the popular first baseman rejecteda $62.5 million, five-year offer.

"It wasn't really important to me to be the highest paid," Vaughn said. "I just want a team to say, 'We want you.' "

With Vaughn, the Angels are expected to shift Darin Erstad from first base to the outfield. That could prompt Anaheim to trade either center fielder Jim Edmonds or right fielder Garret Anderson.

"The signing of Mo Vaughn is an extraordinary event for our ballclub," Anaheim manager Terry Collins said.

Having missed out on Williams, Boston's best option for offense is Belle. He must decide by Dec. 2 whether to remain a free agent or go back to the Chicago White Sox.

The Red Sox seemed on the verge of signing Williams until the Yankees overwhelmed their Gold Glove center fielder and cleanup hitter with a late offer. Williams hit .339 with 26 home runs and 97 RBIs.

"They were very aggressive," Williams said. "Obviously they showed I was the type of player they wanted to have on their team."

Williams' agent, Scott Boras, was pulled out of a meeting with Rockies chairman Jerry McMorris at Coors Field in Denver to take a telephone call from Yankees owner George Steinbrenner to finalize the deal.

On Wednesday morning, when Williams left for his home in Puerto Rico and Boras headed to Colorado to meet with the Rockies on Brown, Yankees general manager Brian Cashman thought there would be no deal.

"We thought it was dead and buried when they left here this morning," Cashman said.

Boston had made a seven-year offer to Williams, who also drew interest from Arizona and Baltimore. All along, the Yankees were speaking to Belle, just in case.

"We were talking to Bernie and talking to Albert simultaneously," Cashman said. "There were times I didn't think I'd get anything done with Bernie and I had to be serious in my conversations with Albert Belle."

Before Tuesday, New York's only offer to Williams since the World Series was a $60 million, five-year contract. Last winter, Williams rejected a $37.5 million, five-year offer and agreed to an $8.25 million, one-year contract.

"The bottom line is the Red Sox drove the price up," Cashman said. "It was a risk Mr. Steinbrenner was willing to take for the fans of New York to have an opportunity to witness what some say was one of the best teams ever to come back and try to do it again."

Also on Wednesday:

Right-handed pitcher Armando Reynoso agreed to terms on a two-year, guaranteed $5.5 million contract with Arizona.

Reynoso, 32, has a career record of 46-38 with Atlanta, Colorado and the New York Mets. He went 7-3 with a 3.82 earned run average in 11 starts for New York in 1998.

Former major-league reliever Dave Smith has replaced Dave Stewart as the San Diego Padres' pitching coach.

Smith has worked his way up the organizational ladder as a coach since 1994, the year after he retired as a player, and was the pitching coach at Triple-A Las Vegas last season.

Stewart left to take a job as assistant general manager of the Toronto Blue Jays.

Atlanta Braves backup catcher Eddie Perez, who hit .336 this season, agreed to a $1.2 million, two-year contract. Perez, 30, will get $550,000 in 1999 and $650,000 in 2000, up from $225,000 this year.

Perez caught 32 of Greg Maddux's 34 starts.

Greg Legg has been named manager of the New York-Penn League Batavia Muckdogs. Legg managed the Batavia franchise in 1997, then known as the Clippers, into the NY-P championship game where they lost to the Pittsfield Mets, two games to one.

Legg is a former minor league infielder with the parent Philadelphia Phillies and has been with the organization since he was drafted in 1982.

Joining Legg's staff will be coach Frank Klebe, pitching coach Ken Westray and trainer Carl Heldman.

RAISING THE BAR
Baseball contracts with average annual values of $9 million or more:

Player, Club YearsAvg. Salary
Mo Vaughn, Ana 1999-04$13,333,333
Mike Piazza, NYM 1999-05$13,000,000
Pedro Martinez, Bos 1998-03$12,500,000
Bernie Williams, NYY 1999-05$12,500,000
Greg Maddux, Atl 1998-02$11,500,000
Barry Bonds, SF 1999-00$11,450,000
Gary Sheffield, LA 1998-03$11,416,667
Albert Belle, CWS 1997-01$11,000,000
Sammy Sosa, Cubs 1998-01$10,625,000
Mark McGwire, StL 1998-00$ 9,500,000
Matt Williams, Ari 1999-03$ 9,000,000
Raul Mondesi, LA 1998-01$ 9,000,000

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