02/02/08 8:00 PM ET
Welcome to the Big Apple, Johan
Santana passes physical, signs six-year extension with Mets
By Marty Noble / MLB.com
Completion of the deal was announced on Saturday afternoon.
"Coming into the winter, we looked for the No. 1 starter and I think we accomplished our goal for the offseason," Mets general manager Omar Minaya said Saturday during a conference call.
"It was unbelievable the work that went into this," he added. "It's a historic day."
In less than two weeks, Santana will slip into the Mets' future in a more tangible way when he slips into a new uniform -- presumably No. 57 -- in Port St. Lucie, Fla., and participates in Spring Training drills.
The contractual agreement reached on Friday and his passing the physical Saturday essentially changed everything for the Mets. An offseason that had been all about who wasn't on their roster now has executed an about-face and become critical and celebrated because of who is. Santana is the starting pitcher the Mets desperately had needed, as well as the wealthiest pitcher in the game.
A contract secured the latter distinction. The Mets and Santana's representatives struck a deal on Friday, more than 90 minutes after the original 5 p.m. ET deadline imposed by the league office on Tuesday.
"It took 74 hours of hard work, pretty much 24-7," said Santana's agent, Peter Greenberg. "We got creative. We tried to work together to make this happen. This was something that both sides wanted."
Santana is signed through 2013, an option exists for '14, and is guaranteed $137.5 million, more than any pitcher has received in terms of overall value and average annual value. His deal has come 13 months after Barry Zito established a highwater mark for pitchers when he signed with the Giants for seven years and $126 million.
Santana also is the highest-paid Mets player. Carlos Beltran had held that distinction for slightly more than three years because of his seven-year, $119 million contract. The only contracts worth more are those signed by Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez ($275 million), Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter ($189 million), Red Sox outfielder Manny Ramirez ($160 million) and Rockies first baseman Todd Helton ($141.5 million). But exactly where Santana's contract ranks is difficult to say because much of his guaranteed pay is deferred at a relatively low interest rate which reduces the present-day value.
At one point during negotiations, the two sides stood $5 million apart and were nearly at an impasse, with the Mets offering $135 million and the Santana camp looking for $140 million. At that point they met in the middle at $137.5 million.
The Mets had hoped to limit the length of contract to five years. The existence of an option year suggests either Santana's agent, Peter Greenberg, sought a seven-year deal or the Mets proposed it as a means of reducing the guarantee.
Salary breakdown for Santana's contract
|2008 -- $19 million|
|2009 -- $20 million|
|2010 -- $21 million|
|2011 -- $22.5 million|
|2012 -- $24 million|
|2013 -- $25.5 million|
|2014 -- $25 million, if he vests option OR 5.5 million buyout|
"It's either pay him now or pay him next year [when Santana could have been a free agent]," Minaya said. "But there's no guarantee he'll be available next year."
The sides agreed to eliminate the remaining year, 2008, on the contract Santana had with the Twins and the $13.25 million obligation. But the new contract probably will guarantee him more money in his first season as a Met. The $137.5 million figure would reflect annual salaries averaging $22,916,667.
The option year, which would pay Santana $18,750,000, vests on Cy Young Awards, placement in Cy Young voting and/or innings pitched.
The deal features no signing bonus.
"He's extremely happy. We're all very happy," Greenberg said. "We're still kind of pinching ourselves to make sure this is really true. This is a match made in heaven."
The physical had been the final hurdle before the Mets could link the Super Bowl and Super Tuesday with the addition of a superlative athlete who, they hope, will lead them in the World Series. If not produce a World Series appearance, the trade with the Twins -- fleet outfielder Carlos Gomez and three pitching prospects -- at least has recast projections for the 2008 National League East race and restored the Mets' image as a genuine contender.
"It's not like we've jumped ahead of everybody else in the division by leaps and bounds," Mets closer Billy Wagner said on Friday night. "But we are a very good and dangerous team again -- a very legit contender."
Wagner's friend and now former teammate Tom Glavine expressed a similar sense.
"Obviously, this is a huge lift for them," Glavine said. "The guy is arguably the best pitcher in the game right now. They have every reason to be excited about that and optimistic about their season, but so do we. I think we addressed our needs really well and I think we all feel good about our chances. ... When Randy Johnson went to the Yankees, everybody was ready to hand them the World Series trophy and it never happened. ... That's why you play the games. You just don't know what's going to happen."
Until the Mets' offer -- Gomez, Philip Humber, Kevin Mulvey and Deolis Guerra -- was accepted on Tuesday, their offseason had been consistent with the final days of their 2007 season -- a series of attempts that didn't accomplish the primary objective. Efforts to obtain a No. 1 starter were unsuccessful, and the public seemed to focus more on the departures of Lastings Milledge and Paul Lo Duca than on the acquisitions of their respective replacements -- Ryan Church and Brian Schneider.
Now, because of weeks of perseverance and the Wilpon treasury, the club's horizon is noticeably brighter, and its players and fan base are energized.
The Mets sensed the excitement caused by the agreement with the Twins -- even though neither club publicly acknowledged the trade -- and spent the better part of three days negotiating in Manhattan, where Greenberg maintains an office. The Mets used the offices of their SNY network as their headquarters, with owner Fred Wilpon, COO Jeff Wilpon, general manager Omar Minaya and his assistants Tony Bernazard and John Ricco involved at various times. None of the people in negotiations returned phone calls on Friday night.
Guerra was in the Mets' original offer for Santana last December, removed from the table, then added back to the package again on Sunday, when the Twins asked for their final offer.
The acquisition of the two-time American League Cy Young Award winner is comparable in overall impact to any move the Mets have made in their 47-year history, a powerful booster shot to their image, as the club sells tickets for the 2008 season -- with an eye toward '09 -- and advertising on its network and prepares to move to Citi Field next year. The on-field performance of the team will determine whether this acquisition eventually will be seen as equivalent to the deals that imported Rusty Staub in 1972, Keith Hernandez in '83 and Mike Piazza in '98 and led to the Mets' three most recent World Series appearances.
Santana can have that level of impact. As Tom Seaver and, briefly, Dwight Gooden and David Cone did in their primary seasons with the Mets, he can dominate opponents on a regular basis and thereby alter the team dynamic. If the trade is finalized, Santana will begin his Mets tour at age 29 with every chance to displace Jerry Koosman as the primary left-handed pitcher in franchise history and perhaps eclipse Gooden's shooting-star achievements.
For the 2014 option year to vest, Johan Santana must satisfy one of the following:
|-- Win one Cy Young Award and finish in top three of Cy Young Award voting one other year|
|-- Finish in the top three in Cy Young Award voting three times in the six guaranteed years|
|-- Pitch 215 innings in 2013|
|-- Average 210 innings in the last two or three guaranteed years|
|-- Be on an active roster on Sept. 1, 2013|
Armed with a world-class changeup, Santana already has produced two seasons (2004 and '06) comparable to or better than what Koosman ('68), Seaver ('69, '71, '73 and '75), Gooden ('85), Cone ('88) and Bret Saberhagen ('94) produced.
Santana has been a strikeout pitcher, innings-eater and prototypical No. 1 starter for the Twins, winning 71 percent of his most recent 122 starts, while his team prevailed in a slightly higher percentage of his starts and produced a record five games under .500 in the other 469 games.
His presence as a bona fide stopper is apt to affect all facets of the Mets' performance, reducing the physical burden on the bullpen and the psychological burden on other members of the rotation, helping the defense -- Santana won a Gold Glove last season -- and even the offense on days he pitches. His career batting average, albeit in 31 at-bats, is .258.
Santana, a native of rural Venezuela, joins an organization that promotes itself in the Hispanic community as Los Mets. When it became apparent to him last season that he probably wouldn't sign a contract extension with the Twins, he told other members of his team of his desire to play in New York and a preference for the NL.
While Santana has prospered in the AL -- his winning percentage in 151 starts in the league is .658 -- he has an .800 winning percentage in 24 starts against NL teams.
Marty Noble is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.