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Mets have option for 2006; Aybar designated

NEW YORK -- After four days of negotiations, the New York
Mets completed a contract with former Cincinnati Reds closer Danny Graves on Saturday and added him to their bullpen.

To make room for Graves, the Mets designated reliever Manny Aybar for assignment.

Graves has 182 saves, including 10 this year, in 10 major league
seasons. But he struggled with a 7.76 ERA and was designated for
assignment by the Reds on May 23, a day after making an obscene
gesture at a fan who was heckling him.

He arrived in New York for workouts this week and was in limbo
as his agent negotiated a contract. The team had a jersey with his
name and number on it and Graves had settled into a corner locker
well before the contract was finalized. Each day, he would leave
the ballpark before the game.

"It's been strange," he said.

Graves, 31, is in the final year of a $17.25 million deal which
pays him $6.25 million this year. The Mets are responsible for a
prorated portion of the contract. There is a team option for next
year with a buyout clause.

"We were negotiating what the number of that option would be,"
Mets general manager Omar Minaya said. "It was pretty much done a
day or so ago."

Graves said the 2006 option was important.

"Other teams I talked to pretty much made it clear it was for
the rest of this year," he said. "I'm not at the point in my
career to bounce around."

He called his signing with the Mets "a new chapter, not a
second chance."

"I don't think I was on the way out of the major leagues," he
said. "I just got off to a bad start."

Minaya said he thought Graves was worth a look.

"In our situation, with our bullpen, it was worth the risk to
bring him on," Minaya said. "We hope things straighten out for
him. It is a team option. We hope next year we can consider picking
up the option. Danny's always been a command, control guy. Maybe he
needed a change of scenery. We felt it was worth bringing him on
board."

Graves said players told him he was tipping his pitches and that
he thought he could correct that problem. He said he'd be happy
with any role with the Mets.

"Closing is not important," he said. "I've had my time as a
closer. If I never close again, I'm OK with that."

Aybar, 32, appeared in 22 games with the Mets, his seventh major
league team. He was 0-0 with a 6.04 ERA and sealed his fate when he
gave up two hits, three walks and five runs in one inning in Friday
night's 12-2 loss to the Los Angeles Angels.