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FREE-WHEELIN’ TIMES IN BASEBALL

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Sixty-five free agents, including Roger Clemens, John Wettleland, Alex Fernandez and Moises Alou, face a Saturday midnight EST deadline to re-sign with their former teams unless they are offered salary arbitration.

With one day to go until the deadline, just three players had been offered arbitration: Jimmy Key by the Yankees, David Wells by the Orioles and Mark McLemore by the Rangers.Players not offered arbitration can't re-sign with their former teams until May 1. Players offered arbitration have until Jan. 8 to re-sign.

Greg Vaughn, Chris Bosio, Steve Avery and Mel Rojas also are among the group. The deadline does not apply to those who became free agents last month after teams waived the restriction against repeat free agency in a five-year span, a provision that disappears in the new labor agreement.

Three players facing the deadline agreed to new contracts Friday. Catcher Tom Pagnozzi got a $4 million, two-year deal to re-sign with the St. Louis Cardinals, infielder Craig Grebeck left the Florida Marlins and agreed to a $450,000, one-year contract with the Anaheim Angels, and infielder Rafael Belliard re-signed with the Atlanta Braves for a $250,000, one-year contract.

The 12 new free agents, a group that includes Fernandez, Key and Alou, can begin negotiating with all teams starting at 2 p.m. Saturday, according to an agreement reached Friday by the players' association and management's Player Relations Committee.

These players became eligible Thursday when the union's executive board ratified the new labor agreement, which restores service time for the 75 regular-season days during the 1994-95 strike.

Any players in this group offered salary arbitration by their former teams have until Jan. 2 to accept or reject the offers, rather than the usual deadline of Dec. 19.

Two players eligible for salary arbitration agreed to one-year contracts Friday: San Francisco catcher Rick Wilkins at $2 million and Chicago Cubs pitcher Frank Castillo at $1.4 million.