Two-year deal worth $6.75 million

NEW YORK -- The New York Mets reached a preliminary
agreement with free-agent reliever Braden Looper on a $6.75
million, two-year contract.

The Mets would not confirm the deal Saturday but said they had
asked the durable right-hander to take a physical early next week,
usually the last step before finalizing a contract.

A baseball source, who spoke on the condition of anonymity,
confirmed the preliminary agreement.

"We look forward to providing further information following the
completion of the physical," the club said in a statement.

The Mets, who have finished last in the NL East the past two
seasons, had been looking for a closer since trading Armando
Benitez to the New York Yankees on July 16. They spoke last month
with Keith Foulke, who signed with Boston instead.

Looper, 29, had 28 saves for the World Series champion Florida
Marlins last season. He was 6-4 with a 3.68 ERA, but he struggled
in the second half and the team did not offer him a contract for

Looper did get some big outs in the World Series, escaping a
bases-loaded, one-out jam in the 11th inning of Game 4 against the
Yankees and eventually earning the win.

The Marlins let go of Looper after signing Benitez to a $3.5
million, one-year deal last month.

Looper spent five years in Florida, earning all 46 of his career
saves. He began his major league career with St. Louis in 1998 and
has appeared in at least 71 games each of the last five seasons.

The 6-foot-3, 220-pound Looper was drafted by the Cardinals with
the third overall pick in the 1996 amateur draft. His pending deal
with the Mets includes a club option for 2006.

New York also signed Japanese shortstop Kazuo Matsui and former
Mariners center fielder Mike Cameron this offseason.