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Villone rejects arbitration offer from Yanks

NEW YORK -- Ron Villone declined the Yankees' arbitration offer Thursday, leaving the left-hander available on the free-agent market.

Villone, who returned Thursday from a 12-day vacation in Italy, spoke with his agent, Scott Boras, before making his decision. Villone has drawn interest from five or six teams, several of which may be willing to give the reliever a two-year contract.

"To decline it was the best option I had," Villone said in a telephone interview. "Closing my doors too quickly on a possible multi-year deal didn't make sense."

Villone, who turns 37 in January, went 3-3 with a 5.04 ERA in 2006, his first season with the Yankees. A native of Upper Saddle River, N.J., Villone enjoyed playing so close to home.

"I love New York and want to play there again, but I'm not going to shut the door on playing someplace else," Villone said. "At this stage of my career, I have to do what's best for my family."

This rejection by Villone is a bit of a surprise considering that he really hadn't generated much interest from other clubs, even with a very limited market this off-season.  

However, as it turns out, the move by Cashman to offer him arbitration was a very smart one in hindsight because a team would now have to forfeit a draft-pick to the Yankees if Villone does indeed sign with another ballclub.  

That isn't likely to happen, but at least the Yanks will get a compensation draft-pick out of it and that is no small detail considering Cashman's strong commitment to rebuilding the Yankees farm system.