The Mets signed Cuban defector Alay Soler yesterday, giving the pitcher a three-year deal worth $2.8 million.

Soler, 24, was an ace for the Cuban national team last year, going 10-4 with a 2.01 ERA in 18 games. He defected last November with three other players.

Soler had been working out at the Mets' complex in the Dominican Republic while paperwork was completed on his contract. When he gets his visa, he will travel to the United States and join the Mets' instructional league Sept. 19 in Port St. Lucie, Fla.

While in Cuba, Soler pitched on a team with Chicago White Sox RHP Jose Contreras.

"We played on the same team for about eight years. He throws 95-96 mph and he is a good pitcher," Contreras said in Cleveland through a translator.

* ERICKSON CUT: RHP Scott Erickson was designated for assignment by the Rangers, and has agreed to report to Class AAA Oklahoma if he clears waivers.

Erickson (1-3, 6.16 ERA), a former Oriole, has made four starts for the Rangers since being acquired from the Mets in a trade July 31. He is still trying to come back from two operations on his right arm.

* DEAL: The Astros acquired RHP Dan Wheeler from the Mets for minor league OF Adam Seuss. Wheeler, 26, is 3-1 with a 4.80 ERA in 502/3 innings this season.

-- From News Services