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Vazquez commits to the Yankees

Righthander signs four-year, $45m deal

Javier Vazquez and the New York Yankees agreed yesterday to a $45 million, four-year contract.

The 27-year-old righthander, acquired from Montreal Dec. 4, would have been eligible for free agency after next season, and the Yankees wanted a multiyear agreement.

Yankees general manager Brian Cashman and Vazquez's agents, Sam and Seth Levinson, worked Sunday and yesterday to finalize the deal.

New York sent first baseman Nick Johnson, outfielder Juan Rivera, and lefthander Randy Choate to the Expos for Vazquez. Right after the trade, the pitcher said he hoped to have a lengthy stay in New York.

Vazquez went 13-12 with a 3.24 ERA and 241 strikeouts last season.

He is part of the Yankees' new-look, all-righty rotation, a group that includes Mike Mussina, Kevin Brown, Jose Contreras, and Jon Lieber.

KC tracks Gonzalez The Kansas City Royals appear to have the inside track on signing Juan Gonzalez. His agent, Alan Nero, said Royals general manager Allard Baird had traveled to Phoenix to meet with the 34-year-old outfielder and that Royals manger Tony Pena had spoken with Gonzalez. If healthy, the two-time MVP could be the power-hitting outfielder Kansas City has been searching for since Raul Ibanez left as a free agent and signed with the Seattle Mariners . . . The Mariners have reached agreement to trade third baseman Jeff Cirillo to the San Diego Padres for pitcher Kevin Jarvis, catcher Wiki Gonzalez, and infielder Dave Hansen. The deal was to be announced today, according to a baseball source who spoke on condition of anonymity. Cirillo, who has struggled since joining the hometown Mariners, blocked a deal last month to the New York Mets. Cirillo, 34, is headed back to the National League, where he flourished with Milwaukee and Colorado, batting over .300 in four consecutive seasons . . . The Arizona Diamondbacks are close to signing 12-time All-Star second baseman Roberto Alomar, a team source said. The source, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said a deal could come as soon as today. Alomar, 35, has been working out in the Phoenix area for several weeks. Alomar, entering his 17th big-league season, became a free agent when the Chicago White Sox declined to offer him arbitration. A 10-time Gold Glove winner, he hit just .266 in 2002, after starting the season with the Mets.

Turnbow named The Los Angeles Times reported that Anaheim Angels pitcher Derrick Turnbow has become the first major leaguer publicly identified as testing positive for a banned steroid. According to the US Anti-Doping Agency, Turnbow, 25, was at a US national team and Olympic qualifying camp in Tempe, Ariz., when he tested positive last Oct. 7 for metabolites of a steroid banned by the International Olympic Committee and the World Anti-Doping Agency . . . Eric Young agreed to a $1 million, one-year contract with the Texas Rangers, where he will take on a utility role rather than being an everyday second baseman. Young played in 125 games last season for Milwaukee and San Francisco, and hit a combined .250 with 20 doubles, a career-high 15 homers, 34 RBIs, and 28 steals . . . Closer Danys Baez agreed to terms of a contract with the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, pending major league baseball's approval of language in the agreement with the former Cleveland Indians righthander. Baez went 2-9 with a 3.81 ERA and 25 saves in 2003. He also blew 10 saves and lost his closer's job to rookie David Riske late in the season . . . Reliever Braden Looper passed his physical with the Mets, who planned to formally announce his $6.75 million, two-year contract today. Looper, 29, had 28 saves for the World Series champion Florida Marlins last season. He was 6-4 with a 3.68 ERA, but he struggled in the second half.