Reports: Leiter heading to Florida

Al Leiter's time in New York may soon be up. <P> According to reports published by <I></I> and the <I>Miami Herald</i>, the 39-year-old lefthander is close to accepting a one-year contract offer from the Florida Marlins, officially ending his seven-year stay with the Mets.

Leiter's chances of returning to Shea Stadium for the 2005 season had appeared to fade in recent weeks. The Mets were not expected to pick up Leiter's $10.2 million option for the 2005 season, but both sides appeared hopeful that they would find common ground on a reduced deal that would have allowed Leiter to end his 16-year major league career in a Mets uniform.

That came crumbling down just before Thanksgiving, however, when GM Omar Minaya and Leiter reached an impasse in negotiations on a proposed one-year, $4 million deal. The two sides mutually agreed to step away from the negotiating table just before Thanksgiving and to explore other options, which for the Mets meant Pedro Martinez.

For Leiter, it could mean a return to Miami, where he spent the 1996 and 1997 seasons while helping Florida to its first World Championship. The Marlins were reportedly the highest bidder all along for Leiter's services, offering up an original $6 million deal for next year that trumped the Mets' deal.

Leiter's seven years with the Mets were memorable. He compiled a 95-67 record over 213 starts, averaging a 3.42 ERA over those seasons, and ranks high among many of the Mets' career pitching leaders – Leiter is sixth in games started, sixth in victories and seventh in strikeouts (1,106).

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