• Kyodo

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New York Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said Sunday he is eager to sign free agent Hideki Matsui as the American League team aims to regain its post as world champions.

Cashman, who is attending baseball’s winter meetings, told Japanese reporters unequivocally that he would like to see the 28-year-old outfielder in a Yankees uniform, suggesting that negotiations with Matsui’s agent Arn Tellem are progressing smoothly.

Tellem is reportedly nearing a deal that could earn Matsui $6 million to $8 million per year over the course of a four- to six-year contract.

Asked about what clubs are as interested in courting Matsui, Cashman said he has no accurate figure, but added it was only natural that many teams are in the hunt for the three-time Central League MVP.

Specifically, Cashman referred to the Los Angeles Dodgers, who he called a “tough competitor” in the international markets, but said he believes the Yankees are still the more successful of the two.

Matsui filed for free agency last month after a 10-year stint with the Yomiuri Giants, the 2002 Japan Series champions.

Nori talks continue

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (Kyodo) The New York Mets and Japanese free-agent slugger Norihiro Nakamura are groping for a compromise as talks continued at Major League Baseball’s winter meetings Sunday.

“The Mets told me that Nakamura is on top of their shortlist of third basemen and want him to retain the position throughout next season,” his agent Masami Shigeta said.

Shigeta indicated both sides have gradually narrowed their differences over terms on a possible deal for Nakamura since the Mets made their first offer two days ago.

Shigeta’s remarks came after the Newark Star-Ledger said in a story from Nashville earlier Sunday that the Mets, who are also interested in Hideki Matsui, are unwilling to give Nakamura his desired three-year deal.

Newsday reported the Mets “are expressing no great faith they’ll be able to lure either of two Japanese players.”

“The Mets originally were viewed as a serious player for Nakamura, but they do not plan to approach the $6 million salary he reportedly has been offered (by Japanese clubs) . . . The Mets view Nakamura as being worth $3 million to $4 million,” the daily said.

Angel in the outfield

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (Kyodo) The Nippon Ham Fighters on Sunday agreed to a deal with outfielder Angel Echevarria, who played for the Chicago Cubs in the 2002 season.

Echevarria, 31, hit .306 with three homers in 50 games for the Cubs this year.

In other news, the Lotte Marines have signed infielder Rick Short of the Anaheim Angels organization.

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