While Jose Guillen waited to hear if the Mariners would pick up their end of the mutual option they have for the 2008 season, the hard-hitting outfielder focused his energy on helping victims of tropical storm Noel in his Dominican Republic homeland.

"A lot of people were left homeless by this," Guillen told the Seattle Times. "Many of them were very poor to begin with and didn't have much. But after the floods, they were left with nothing and are living in the street."

There have been 66 confirmed deaths and 27 listed as missing after three days of heavy rainfall. Guillen has bought food for those victimized by the floods and has offered to play in the Dominican Winter League for free if the Tigres de Licey will help in the relief effort.

"I'm just trying to do what I can," Guillen said. "My place was fine, but where my mother lives, over in San Cristobal, the bridge collapsed. Luckily, there was nobody on it at the time, but a lot of homes near there have been damaged. There are so many people who need something, and there isn't enough to go around."

If the Mariners decline the option, Guillen will receive a buyout from the club. If Seattle accepts its end of the mutual option, Guillen can also agree and return to the club on a one-year deal or decline and forfeit the buyout.

"I can tell you one thing," Guillen said. "I really want to come back. I've been saying that all along. Seattle is one place where I've really felt comfortable playing and I'd like to stay there a long time. But it's out of my hands now."

Ausmus back for another year with Astros: The Houston Astros and veteran catcher Brad Ausmus agreed to a one-year contract, allowing Ausmus to return to the team he has played for since 2001. Ausmus, who hit .235 with three home runs and 25 RBIs in 117 games last year, is the franchise's all-time leader in games and starts at catcher.

A three-time Gold Glove winner, the Astros wanted Ausmus back to help mentor young catcher J.R. Towles, who has the inside track to be the starting catcher next year with Ausmus serving as the backup.

"Brad has had a solid big-league career and, despite the fact that he's played for a couple of other teams, he considers himself to be a lifelong Astro," general manager Ed Wade told the Houston Chronicle. "We're very pleased to have him back for 2008. We know that he can make a significant contribution on the field, and we know the impact he has in our clubhouse. Additionally, he can help mentor a young catcher like J.R. Towles, which will make both J.R. and the Astros better."

Ausmus started his career with San Diego and played there from 1993-96. He also played in Detroit in 1996 and 1999-2000. He was with the Astros in 1997 and 1998 before coming back for a second stint. His 12,040 career putouts rank second all-time behind Ivan Rodriguez (12,504) of Detroit.

Rangers sign Benoit to two-year extension: The Texas Rangers signed pitcher Joaquin Benoit to a two-year extension. Benoit, 20, signed with the Rangers as a 19-year-old in 1996 and has never played for any other organization.

"It's something I really wanted to get done," Benoit told the Dallas Morning News by phone from the Dominican Republic. "This really means a lot to me to know that they want me. I'm excited to be here."

Benoit appeared in 70 games for Texas this past season, a career high. In 82 innings of work, he posted a 2.85 ERA. Benoit hopes to be given a shot at earning the closer's role next season, but his status is still uncertain as to what his specific role will be.

Schilling puts Brewers on list of prospects: Pitcher Curt Schilling has stated that he wants to return to Boston next season. But the veteran right-hander listed 12 other teams he would be willing to play for in 2008 on his Web site 38Pitches.com. One of the teams on the list in Milwaukee, and Brewers general manager Doug Melvin figures it won't hurt to call Schilling's agent, Ed Hayes, when he is allowed to.

"It's nice to see we're on the baseball map," Melvin told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. "We have players expressing interest in our club now. We're open to (talking to Schilling). I'm always open to someone who is interested in us. I'm not interested in players who aren't interested in us."

Schilling went 9-8 with a 3.87 ERA in 24 starts last season and went 3-0 in the postseason to help Boston win the World Series. While Melvin said he would probably contact Schilling, starting pitching is not high on the list of needs for the Brewers.

Jeff Suppan and Ben Sheets are locks to be in the starting rotation and Yovani Gallardo and Carlos Villanueva are likely to be starting next year as well. The Brewers also have starters Chris Capuano, Dave Bush, Claudio Vargas and Manny Parra to battle for the final spot.

"We have a lot of depth there," Melvin said. "You could say we have eight starters already."

Cook ready to stay in Colorado: Aaron Cook gave the Rockies an outstanding performance in Game 4 of the World Series. The outing only reassured Colorado officials that Cook is a player they want back in 2008.

The club picked up Cook's club option for next season and the team and Cook's agent, Joe Bick, are now working on a multi-year deal.

"We will be talking with them after everything settles down," Bick told the Denver Post.

Clark, Diamondback talks at a stalemate: Tony Clark would like to return to Arizona, but talks between Clark and the Diamondbacks are not going smoothly. Clark will file for free agency, giving Arizona a two-week window to negotiate with Clark before other teams can make offers.

Contract talks between the Diamondbacks and Tony Clark are at an impasse, Clark's agent said Monday, and the veteran first baseman will likely file for free agency.

"The Diamondbacks have offered what they think is fair," Clark's agent, John Boggs, told the Arizona Republic, "and they haven't convinced us of that."

Clark signed a two-year extension in 2005, allowing him to continue to play close to his West Valley home. Clark hit .249 with 17 home runs in 221 at-bats in 2007.

"You look at what he has produced when given the opportunity to produce," Boggs said. "You double his at-bats and you could make a good point that he could double his run production."

Lohse could be moving on: Kyle Lohse, who was brought in at the trade deadline when the Phillies were in need of starting pitching, has filed for free agency. He was 3-0 with a 4.72 ERA in 13 outings last season for Philadelphia.

"Kyle is going to be very good, because he's one of the few guys that are in that batch of 27- to 28-year-old arms," his agent, Scott Boras, told MLB.com. "There's not that many guys that fall into that class. The other thing about Kyle is he's been durable and he's pitched in the playoffs. He has a resume a lot of teams will look at, because he's been successful."

Lohse, despite having formally filed for free agency, is not opposed to coming back to the Phillies.

"I'm not excluding anyone who's going to be competitive," he said. "There's going to be a lot of interest, and if the Phillies are interested in bringing me back, we'll go over that stuff and see what's out there. They have a great lineup here that will score a lot of runs.

"If I go somewhere else, I hope I won't have to face them too often."

Reds pick up option on Hatteberg: Scott Hatteberg, who hit .310 with 10 home runs and 47 RBIs in 116 games in 2007, had his option picked up by the Reds. Up-and-comer Joey Votto may also be given playing time at first base in 2008 .

"These things take care of themselves," general manager Wayne Krivsky told MLB.com. "He's a professional. He has leadership qualities and he's a quality offensive player and a good defensive player. It gives (manager) Dusty (Baker) another weapon. You can't have enough good players."

Hatteberg, meanwhile, is excited about the prospect of coming back to the Reds and playing for Baker.

"I'm happy. It's always good to be wanted," said Hatteberg. "I had Dusty as a manager in the [Arizona] Fall League before he went to San Francisco. He's such a motivator and there's already respect there. He'll be a huge help."

And as for playing time, Hatteberg says he's not too worried.

"I can't imagine that I'd be brought back and not play," he said. "Having said that, I expect that Joey Votto will get to play. I can also be able to offer sage advice to younger players. I'd be happy to help anyone that wants to listen. I got great advice from older players. I can be a double threat, because I think I can still play. If you're playing well, you'll get a lot of playing time."

Hamilton loses mentor with Narron's departure: One of the best feel-good stories of the 2007 season was that of Josh Hamilton. After years of drug problems and the suspension that followed, Hamilton came back strong for the 2007 Reds -- both personally and professionally.

One of the more important people in Hamilton's life last season was Reds video instructor/scout Johnny Narron, who was also a mentor/confidant to Hamilton. This week, though, Narron was let go by the Reds -- a decision the team did not make without considering Hamilton.

"I talked to Josh at length toward the end of the season," general manager Wayne Krivsky told the Cincinnati Enquirer. "He made great strides not only as far as baseball but as a person. It's pretty amazing what he did.

"We'll continue to support him any way we can."

Mantei on a mission to play for Tigers: Former closer Matt Mantei -- the same Matt Mantei who saved 29 games for the 2003 Arizona Diamondbacks, says that he is feeling good and wants to come back to the Major Leagues after not having pitched since July 1, 2005. And if he does come back, he says, it will be for the hometown Detroit Tigers.

"I'm ready," Mantei told the Detroit Free Press. "I told my agent, 'I want to play for the Tigers and nobody else.'"

Mantei, now 34, had a failed comeback attempt with Detroit in 2006 after two shoulder surgeries and a painful elbow ligament-replacement sidetracked his career.

"I just didn't have it in me at the time," he said.

Mantei and Tigers president/general manager Dave Dombrowski have arranged for him to throw a bullpen session in January and then go from there.

"I'll play for the minimum," said Mantei, who also said that if needed, he would start the season at Triple-A Toledo. "I just really want to play again. I want to get another ring."

Dunn lands option with Reds: In a decision that didn't seem to take much thought, the Cincinnati Reds have picked up the option of outfielder Adam Dunn for the 2008 season, after seeing him post a .264 average last season with a team-leading 40 home runs and 106 RBIs.

Dunn, who was not available for comment as he enjoyed a fishing trip, was said to be happy with the deal.

"I spoke to him today. He's pleased and appreciative. His knee is doing fine," general manager Wayne Krivsky told the Cincainnti Post.

The possibility is there, added Krivsky, to add years to Dunn's deal -- but nothing of the sort has happened quite yet.

"Not at this point," Krivsky said Wednesday. "Our first step was to pick up his option, but I'm open-minded going forward."

Fogg, Torrealba file for free agency: Josh Fogg and catcher Yorvit Torrealba have both filed for free agency, though both players said they would like to return to the Rockies if possible.

"Josh would like to come back, but right now we don't know what the market is going to do. So we will take this step," agent Danny Horwits told the Denver Post.

Fogg went 10-9 with a 4.94 ERA for the Rockies in 2007. Torrealba hit eight home runs and drove in 47 runs to set new career highs in those categories. His agent, Melvin Roman, plans to talk with general manager Dan O'Dowd soon.

"Yorvit obviously likes it there. I talked with Dan and we will see what happens," Roman said of Torrealba.

Versatile Valentin back with Reds for another year: Catcher Javier Valentin, who during the 2007 season batted .276 with 34 RBIs as both a catcher and a pinch-hitter, has had his option picked up by the team for the 2008 season.

General manager Wayne Krivsky made it clear that Valentin brings a lot to the table and the team was pleased to bring him back for another year,

"He's a very valuable guy to have on the team," Krivsky told the Cincinnati Post. "He can do a lot of things for you. He can give you a lot of versatility. His throwing improved later in the season as he played more. He's a good guy to have on the team and in the clubhouse. He's a dangerous bat off the bench."

-- Red Line Editorial