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Friday, February 1, 2008
Santana agrees to $137.5M, 6-year contract with Mets

Associated Press

NEW YORK -- Johan Santana is a money pitcher, and the New York Mets are paying for it.

Santana and the Mets agreed Friday to a $137.5 million, six-year contract extension, a record for a pitcher and the last major step needed to complete the team's blockbuster trade with Minnesota.

After the sides were granted an extra two hours to work on a deal, the Mets announced about 30 minutes before the new 7 p.m. EST deadline that negotiations had concluded. The two-time Cy Young Award winner was scheduled to take a physical Saturday.

Terms of the agreement were disclosed by a baseball official with knowledge of the talks who spoke on condition of anonymity because no announcement had been made. The deal includes deferred money and a club option for 2014 with a $5.5 million buyout that could make the contract worth about $150 million over seven seasons. Depending on Santana's performance, the option could become guaranteed.

The acquisition of Santana for four prospects gives New York the durable ace it has sorely lacked while chasing a pennant the past two years.

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The Mets came within one win of the World Series in 2006 despite an injury-depleted pitching staff, then missed the playoffs last season after blowing a seven-game lead in the NL East with 17 to play.

Now, New York is a National League favorite again. As long as players in the trade pass physicals, Santana will lead a rotation that includes three-time Cy Young Award winner Pedro Martinez, crafty right-hander Orlando Hernandez and a pair of 15-game winners from last season: John Maine and Oliver Perez.

The lineup includes 2007 All-Stars David Wright, Jose Reyes and Carlos Beltran, plus veteran sluggers Carlos Delgado and Moises Alou. Hard-throwing closer Billy Wagner anchors the bullpen.

Santana is 93-44 with a 3.22 ERA in eight major league seasons, winning the AL Cy Young Award in 2004 and 2006 with the Twins. He has been less successful in the playoffs, going 1-3 with a 3.97 ERA.

The left-hander slipped a bit last year, finishing with a 15-13 record that included marks of 0-5 against AL Central champion Cleveland and 1-3 vs. Detroit. He dropped seven of his final 11 decisions as his ERA rose from 2.60 to 3.33 ERA, his highest since 2001. He also allowed a career-high 33 homers -- most in the AL.

"He's good but he's not unbeatable. He got hit around last year," said pitcher Tim Hudson of the Atlanta Braves, one of the Mets' chief rivals in the NL East along with Philadelphia. "We've just got to be concerned about ourselves. We can't be consumed by what anyone else does."

Santana's contract topped the previous mark for pitchers, set when Barry Zito received a $126 million, seven-year deal from the San Francisco Giants last offseason. Santana was due $13.25 million in the final year of his contract with the Twins, and would have been eligible for free agency after the World Series.

The only players with larger packages are New York Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez ($275 million), Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter ($189 million), Boston outfielder Manny Ramirez ($160 million) and Colorado first baseman Todd Helton ($141.5 million).

Santana's average annual salary of $22.92 million is second only to A-Rod's $27.5 million. Among pitchers with multiyear contracts, it topped the $18.3 million of the Chicago Cubs' Carlos Zambrano.

The Twins agreed Tuesday to swap Santana for speedy outfielder Carlos Gomez and right-handers Philip Humber, Kevin Mulvey and Deolis Guerra.

Santana and the Mets were then given until 5 p.m. EST Friday to negotiate a contract. For the deal to become official, the left-hander must formally waive the no-trade provision in his current contract.

Mets officials met with Santana's agent, Peter Greenberg, in Manhattan for the third straight day Friday as the sides worked on a long-term deal.

With talks ongoing, the Mets asked Minnesota for two extra hours to work on an agreement, a request that was granted by the Twins and approved by the commissioner's office.

Without a new deal, Santana, who will turn 29 next month, could have become a free agent after the World Series. Minnesota offered him an $80 million, four-year extension this offseason, but he turned it down.

"I just know he's 29 years old and he's got two Cy Young Awards. I know he's elite," Braves catcher Brian McCann said. "We've got guys who are elite, too. You're going to have to go out and play it out. It's going to be fun."

The Mets also agreed to a $1,025,000, one-year deal with left-handed reliever Pedro Feliciano that avoided an arbitration hearing. A key member of the bullpen, Feliciano was 2-2 with a 3.09 ERA and two saves in 78 appearances last season. He asked for $1.2 million in arbitration and the Mets offered $880,000.

The Mets have three players remaining in arbitration: Perez, right-hander Jorge Sosa and outfielder Ryan Church.