MINNEAPOLIS – J.C. Romero got what he asked for.

Saying he felt “disrespected” during his last few seasons with the Minnesota Twins, Romero wanted to be traded. The Twins accommodated him on Friday, dealing the left-handed reliever to the Los Angeles Angels for minor league infielder Alexi Casilla.

The 29-year-old Romero was 4-3 with a 3.47 ERA and had 48 strikeouts in 57 innings last season, but clashed with manager Ron Gardenhire and struggled to keep inherited runners from scoring.

Mets, Franco agree to $2.2M, 2-year contract

NEW YORK – General manager Omar Minaya and the New York Mets wanted Julio Franco so badly they gave a 47-year-old backup a two-year contract.

The Mets agreed to a $2.2 million, two-year deal with Franco on Friday, luring baseball’s oldest player away from NL East rival Atlanta and giving them a, well … “mature’ backup for new first baseman Carlos Delgado.

Most free agents in their mid-to-late 30s can’t attract a multiyear offer.

Franco has one at age 47 – and he wants to keep playing until he’s at least 50.

“I think age is a stereotype, I always say that,” said Franco, who keeps his body in incredible shape all year. “The only thing that matters is if you can play or you can’t.”

Franco hit .275 last season with nine homers and 42 RBIs in 233 at-bats for the Braves, and he was surprised when they didn’t offer him arbitration after four-plus years in Atlanta.

That gave the Mets a better opportunity to land him, something Minaya tried to do last year. After taking over as GM, he said acquiring Franco was one of the first thoughts that entered his mind in trying to build a winning environment.

Next season, Franco could fit well as a right-handed hitter who can occasionally spell Delgado, a left-handed swinging slugger.

Franco, who will turn 48 next August, would like to become a major league manager when his playing career is finally over, and he believes Minaya can help him do that.

“I’ve told Julio that as long as I’m in the organization I think I want Julio Franco to be part of my organization,” said Minaya, who is about 2 months younger than Franco and has known him since his own playing days more than 20 years ago. “When Julio Franco sets a goal, he usually gets his goal.”

With his next homer, Franco would become the oldest major leaguer to hit one. He already is the oldest player to hit a grand slam and a pinch-hit homer.

One of Franco’s first jobs will be to set an example for New York’s young players, especially shortstop Jose Reyes and third baseman David Wright. In fact, Franco is old enough to be their father – he’s even older than Hall of Famer Ryne Sandberg.

That kind of maturity and experience is what Minaya had in mind when putting together a bench that also includes 36-year-old Jose Valentin, who agreed to a $912,500, one-year deal on Thursday.

“There’s a plan in place here. What you have here is a couple of young guys who have to learn how to play the game,” Minaya said. “Our bench can pick us up. … What these guys bring to the party I think is important.”

A three-time All-Star and 1991 AL batting champion with Texas, Franco was released by Cleveland in August 1997 despite his .284 average. He spent the rest of the season with Milwaukee, then headed overseas.

He had one at-bat with Tampa Bay in 1999 and spent about 31/2 years in Japan, South Korea and Mexico before Atlanta acquired him on Aug. 31, 2001. Since then, he’s been a reliable player in a part-time role with the Braves, who have won 14 consecutive division titles.

“He has a situation where he’s been very productive with Bobby Cox and he’s been a big part of their team in helping develop their young players. They win,” Minaya said. “If I was him, why would I leave for one year?”

Franco said he learned a lot about training while he was in Japan. He does a lot of cardiovascular work, plus swimming, weights and yoga. He also does plenty of stretching.

“I don’t work out and train and eat like this because I play baseball, I do this because I’ve got one life to live,” Franco said during a conference call from the Dominican Republic. “When I stop playing baseball, I’m going to continue to do this. I think everybody should take care of their body. It’s your best investment.”

Notes: The Mets also dealt minor league pitcher Gaby Hernandez and outfielder Dante Brinkley to Florida, completing this week’s trade that sent catcher Paul Lo Duca to New York.


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.