Mets negotiating with Santana

Seeking 6- or 7-year deal for $120 million
January 31, 2008 8:17:14 AM PST
Johan Santana's agent and the New York Mets went to work on a contract extension Wednesday, the biggest step remaining for the team to complete its blockbuster trade with Minnesota.Mets officials met with agent Peter Greenberg in Manhattan, but neither side would divulge many details. The two-time Cy Young Award winner is likely seeking a deal worth more than $120 million over six or seven years. He and the Mets have until 5 p.m. EST Friday to reach an agreement.

If that happens, as expected, Santana and the other players in the trade would then have to pass physicals for the swap to be finalized.

"Every team in the division became stronger, but now with Santana we're the favorites again," Mets left fielder Moises Alou said in the Dominican Republic.

The Mets have a good relationship with Greenberg, who already represents two of their players: All-Star shortstop Jose Reyes and reserve outfielder Endy Chavez.

New York general manager Omar Minaya declined comment through club spokesman Jay Horwitz. Greenberg didn't return e-mails seeking comment.

The Mets made a big splash Tuesday by reaching a tentative agreement to acquire Santana from the Twins for four prospects: speedy outfielder Carlos Gomez, and pitchers Philip Humber, Kevin Mulvey and Deolis Guerra.

The news energized Mets fans who were still upset about the team's historic collapse last September, and Minaya was lauded by baseball analysts around the country. Many had thought New York would have to give up more to land the ace left-hander.

"I can't really comment because it's not done. All I can say is that the Twins did what they had to do," New York Yankees senior vice president Hank Steinbrenner said in Tampa, Fla. "I hope it works out well for them. The Mets made a good trade from their end. Hopefully it works out for both teams."

Earlier this offseason, the Yankees also pursued Santana. They offered pitcher Phil Hughes and center fielder Melky Cabrera as part of a package, then pulled out of talks during the winter meetings in December.

The World Series champion Boston Red Sox also made a bid for Santana, proposing a deal that would have included outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury or pitcher Jon Lester.

Santana, who turns 29 in March, can become a free agent after this year's World Series and the Twins don't have the budget to re-sign him. Minnesota offered him an $80 million, four-year extension this offseason, but he turned it down.

Even without Santana, the Mets already have sold 1.75 million tickets for their final season in Shea Stadium, up 100,000 from this point last year, when they finished at a team-record 3.85 million.

"To have one of those handful that I would call an ace is obviously special to a team that, offensively, we look good on paper," Mets third baseman David Wright said Tuesday. "And our pitching staff is very deep, especially with these young guys, and they're only going to get better. So obviously there's a lot of positive energy, if it's true, going into spring training."

Now, the Mets just need to finish the deal - something they couldn't do last season when Philadelphia roared from seven games back with 17 to play and won the NL East, leaving New York out of the playoffs.

Of course, giving a long-term contract to a pitcher can be risky. Only three have gotten deals worth more than $100 million: Barry Zito (San Francisco), Mike Hampton (Colorado) and Kevin Brown (Los Angeles Dodgers).

After helping the Mets reach their most recent World Series in 2000, Hampton bolted for a $121 million, eight-year contract with the Rockies. He went 53-48 over the next five years with Colorado and Atlanta and hasn't pitched in the majors since 2005 because of injuries.

While the Mets tried to lock up Santana, they also added depth to their bullpen Wednesday by claiming hometown pitcher Ruddy Lugo off waivers from Oakland.

Lugo was 6-0 with a 5.40 ERA in 38 relief appearances with the Athletics and Tampa Bay last season. Oakland claimed him off waivers in June, then designated him for assignment Friday after claiming outfielder Jeff Fiorentino off waivers from Cincinnati.

Lugo is 8-4 with a 4.39 ERA in 102 major league games. Control has been his biggest problem - he has 74 walks and 82 strikeouts in 133 1-3 innings.

Still, the 27-year-old right-hander has been effective for extended stretches. He pitched in 64 games for Tampa Bay in 2006, going 2-4 with a 3.81 ERA and allowing only four homers in 85 innings. He held opponents to a .210 batting average during his final 24 appearances last year, finishing 4-0 with a 2.86 ERA.

The younger brother of Boston shortstop Julio Lugo, Ruddy was selected by Milwaukee in the third round of the 1999 amateur draft.

He played at Xaverian High School in Brooklyn, leading the team to the 1999 Catholic High School Athletic Association championship by striking out 12 and scoring the winning run in the title game at Shea Stadium.