Nationals to pay Schneider $16M over four years

WASHINGTON -- Catcher Brian Schneider agreed to a $16 million, four-year contract with the Washington Nationals on Tuesday and first baseman Nick Johnson came to terms on a one-year deal.

Alfonso Soriano, acquired in a trade with the Texas Rangers, asked for $12 million, the highest amount among the 44 players who swapped arbitration figures with their teams. The Nationals offered $10 million to Soriano, a raise of $4.5 million.

"There's just a difference of opinion," Washington general manager Jim Bowden said. "There's kind of an agreement to disagree on where he falls."

Schneider led NL catchers by throwing out 38 percent of would-be base stealers last season; he topped the majors in that category the previous two seasons.

The 29-year-old Schneider hit .268 with 10 homers and 44 RBI last year, when he made $2 million.

"It's the only organization I've been with," Schneider said. "It's a great opportunity for baseball in D.C. I'd love to be a part of that. I've been here since Day 1, and I'd like to be here as long as possible."

In six seasons with Montreal and Washington, he's batted .256 with 94 doubles, 37 homers and 185 RBI in 504 games.

"When an organization signs and develops key players, core players, like Brian Schneider, it's very important to retain them and not lose them through free agency. When this club was in Montreal, they had to see a lot of their young players leave via free agency," Bowden said in a conference call.

"I'm a big believer in makeup and character and leadership, and Brian's a special person as well as a special player," Bowden added.

Schneider gets $2.7 million this year, $3.5 million in 2007 and $4.9 million in each of the final two years.

He had a physical Monday and everything checked out OK with his right shoulder, which bothered him late last season. Schneider sat out 14 of the team's final 16 games.

Bowden said team doctors determined there was "zero risk involved. ... We would not give a four-year commitment if we had any concerns whatsoever about his health."

Johnson batted .289 with 35 doubles, 15 homers, 74 RBI and a team-leading .408 on-base percentage in 131 games last season. His .996 fielding percentage ranked third among NL first basemen.

Soriano, who arrived in the December trade that sent Brad Wilkerson to Texas, played second base for the Rangers and has indicated he'd prefer not to switch to the outfield -- where the Nationals want him to play.

Bowden said that matter was separate from Soriano's contract talks.

"It's a very sensitive issue with Alfonso. We respect him and we respect his ability as a baseball player," Bowden said. "The position change and what's important to the team is something we'll continue to address appropriately. We don't want it to become a soap opera."