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Tigers Sign Free-Agent Palmer

The Detroit Tigers signed their first significant free agent in years, agreeing Wednesday to a $36 million, five-year contract with Dean Palmer.

Palmer, who turns 30 next month, hit .278 this year for Kansas City, leading the Royals in both homers (34) and RBIs (119). He was acquired by Kansas City from Texas on July 25, 1997, for Tom Goodwin.

"Dean Palmer is one of the top third-basemen in the major leagues in terms of run production, and he will provide a tremendous boost to the offensive potential of our lineup," Tigers general manager Randy Smith said.

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Palmer, who made $5.75 million this season, turned down a $4.75 million player option and became a free agent following the World Series. He gets a $10 million signing bonus that is payable over five years, $3 million in 1999, $5 million in 2000, $5.5 million in 2001, $6 million in 2002 and $6.5 million in 2003.

Detroit also made an offer to Ken Caminiti, another free-agent third baseman, but he turned it down. Caminiti has said he hopes to sign with the Houston Astros, with whom he formerly played.

The Tigers, getting ready to move into a new ballpark in 2000, have said they plan to upgrade their payroll next season in an effort to get competitive before the move.

"When we looked to add a quality free agent, we not only wanted a run producer but someone who could raise the level of play of our younger players, and we believe Dean will do that as well," Smith said.

The Tigers were last in the AL Central this season at 65-97, 24 games behind first-place Cleveland. They have had five straight losing seasons for the first time in their history.

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