Joe Randa, the third baseman on the only Pirates team in 13 years to contend for a division title, is returning to Pittsburgh. The Pirates, who lost out on signing free agent Bill Mueller, were close to agreement Thursday on a $4 million, one-year contract with Randa. The team held off announcing the signing until it reviewed results of a physical Randa took Wednesday. Randa was a key member of the 1997 Pirates team that, despite having a $9 million opening-day payroll that was less than what Albert Belle of the Chicago White Sox made by himself, led the NL Central at the All-Star break and contended until the final week of the season. That team, widely predicted to lose 100 games before the season started, finished five games behind division-winning Houston with a 79-83 record. The Pirates then left Randa unprotected in the expansion draft, and he was chosen by Arizona before being dealt to Detroit. Randa, a career .285 hitter, has since played for the Tigers, Royals, Reds and Padres, spending six seasons in Kansas City from 1999 through 2004.