Santana had asked for $6.8 million for '05

Updated: February 15, 2005, 11:19 AM ET
Associated Press

MINNEAPOLIS -- Less than two years ago, Johan Santana was in Minnesota's bullpen. Back home in Venezuela this winter, he had bodyguards.

Winning the AL Cy Young Award certainly heightened Santana's profile. It also raised his price -- to a $40 million, four-year contract he and the Twins agreed to on Monday.

Johan Santana
Santana

The deal, contingent on Santana passing a physical, marked the end of a whirlwind offseason for the 25-year-old left-hander.

"A lot of things happened to me," Santana said from Fort Myers, Fla., where he's preparing for spring training to start this weekend. "The good thing about it is they were all positive. As long as it's positive, you are fine. I think I can deal with all of that with no problems."

Santana, who had been scheduled for a salary arbitration hearing Tuesday, led the league with a 2.61 ERA and 265 strikeouts in 2004. He become the first Venezuelan to win the Cy Young and the first unanimous winner in the AL since Pedro Martinez in 2000.

After making $1.6 million last year, Santana, who would have been eligible for free agency after the 2006 season, had asked for a raise to $6.8 million and had been offered $5 million by the team.

Both sides were more than happy to avoid arbitration.

"Definitely, it's something that we were looking for," Santana said. "It's good to know that I'll be in a Twins uniform for four more years."

Though small-market Minnesota always has a low payroll, its stance has long been to pay the players who produce. After lengthy negotiations between assistant general manager Wayne Krivsky and Peter Greenberg, Santana's agent, the Twins were able to lock their young lefty in for the long term.

"They worked hard on this thing," general manager Terry Ryan said. "This hasn't just been a week or two. I've got to compliment those two guys to stay with it, because it's certainly a tedious process."

Santana set a Twins record by winning 13 consecutive games and didn't lose in 15 starts after the All-Star break, going 13-0 with a 1.21 ERA to help Minnesota win its third straight AL Central division title.

His stellar second half and the Cy Young thrust the easygoing Santana into the spotlight, both in the United States and in his native Venezuela. He's prepared, upon reporting to camp on Sunday, for that to happen again as he begins just his second season as a full-time starter.

"I guess it's going to be like that, but for me it's just going to be like another year," Santana said. "I'm not going to bring that up in my head. For me, I've just got to do my job and as long as you stay healthy it's fine."

Santana has had some injury concerns -- surgery to clean up bone chips in his elbow before last season and leg cramps that have limited him from time to time. But Ryan said there were no red flags, and Santana said his health is fine.

"You take everything into consideration," Ryan said. "He's a very professional young man. He's very humble. Obviously, he's going to get a lot more attention ... I just think this is one of those spots where Johan is ready to take on some of that responsibility."

Unrest in Venezuela made it important for Santana to seek protection in the mountain town of Tovar Merida after his Cy Young season.

Baseball players -- because of the sport's popularity and their known wealth -- have often been targeted by criminals in that country, so Santana hired five bodyguards for him and his family.

"Just to be protected," Santana said. "Also things were crazy, too. Everywhere you go, people would jump at you. They're all so happy and excited, but you can put yourself at risk."

After the season Santana had, the Twins' risk was to let him go another winter without a deal.

"With what he's accomplished on the field and the type of human being he is, on the field and off the field, I think he's ready for those types of responsibilities," Ryan said.


Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press

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