Friday, February 1, 2008

Signing Johan Santana Is Proving More Difficult Than The New York Mets Thought

With millions of baseball fans on their seats awaiting to hear the biggest trade in the offseason, Johan Santana and the New York Mets are having a difficult time delivering the good news.

Major League Baseball has granted Johan Santana and the New York Mets an extra two hours to work on a contract extension Friday, pushing the deadline to 7 p.m. EST. The Mets and Santana's agents continued to negotiate furiously Friday, as the original 5 p.m. ET deadline to complete terms of a long-term contract came and went with no immediate resolution.

And as that 5 p.m. deadline passed, indications were that the key sticking point continued to be Santana's attempts to get the Mets to guarantee all six years of his contract extension, on top of the final year of his current contract. According to baseball sources who have been monitoring the negotiations, the Mets' best hope to resolve that disagreement would be to offer to guarantee the sixth season if Santana's side would agree to accept fewer dollars per year.

The Mets and the Minnesota Twins agreed to a tentative deal Tuesday pending the completion of an extension for Santana, a two-time Cy Young winner. In return, the Twins would receive center fielder Carlos Gomez and pitching prospects Phil Humber, Kevin Mulvey and Deolis Guerra. The buzz in the industry Friday was that Santana's agents, Peter and Ed Greenberg, initially asked for the $28 million per year listed in Roger Clemens' prorated contract with the Yankees last season -- which would have amounted to a six-year, $168 million extension. That amount would not have included either a signing bonus or the $13.25 million Santana is scheduled to earn this season. So his total package would have topped $190 million.

There were indications that the Greenbergs later lowered that request to $25 million a year -- which would have resulted in a six-year, $150 million extension and a total package (including this season) of more than $170 million. The Mets' initial offers, however, were all believed to be just five-year guarantees, plus a vesting option for 2014, in the range of $21 million a year. But there was rampant speculation in the industry Friday afternoon that the two sides were headed toward a compromise in which the Mets would guarantee the sixth season if Santana lowered his salary request to $22 million a year.

With a hefty signing bonus added to this year's salary, that figure would bring Santana's total package to about $152 million over seven years -- the largest contract ever awarded to any pitcher. The $22 million per year also would be a record for a pitcher on a multi-year contract -- and, in fact, would be the third-highest average annual salary in baseball history, behind only Alex Rodriguez's last two contracts ($27.5 million in the deal signed this winter, $25.2 million in the contract he signed with Texas in December 2000). But as of mid-afternoon Friday, the two sides hadn't agreed to those figures -- or any other figures.

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