Mets keep El Duque with two-year, $12M deal

Updated: November 14, 2006, 10:53 PM ET
Associated Press

NEW YORK -- The New York Mets have so much confidence in 41-year-old Orlando Hernandez, they're ready to keep him for two more seasons.

Starting Pitcher
New York Mets

Profile
2006 SEASON STATISTICS
GM W L BB K ERA
29 11 11 61 164 4.66

Hernandez and the Mets agreed Tuesday to a $12 million, two-year contract, filling a spot in an aging New York rotation that was ravaged by injuries during the team's playoff run last season.

El Duque, acquired from Arizona in May, went 9-7 with a 4.09 ERA in 20 starts for the Mets. He was in line to start the team's playoff opener against the Los Angeles Dodgers before injuring his calf while jogging in the outfield.

Hernandez, who turned 41 last month, gets a $1 million signing bonus, $4.5 million next year and $6.5 million in 2008.

"There's a lot of guys out there right now close to his age that are pitching well," general manager Omar Minaya said at the GM meetings in Naples, Fla. "The way the marketplace is, I didn't think it would be realistic to sign Orlando Hernandez for one year. He stays in shape. He's a hard worker. If you wanted to get him, you were going to give him two years."

New York also finalized a $3.8 million, one-year contract with second baseman Jose Valentin. The deal includes a $4.3 million team option for 2008 that would become guaranteed if he has 400 plate appearances next year.

"We're happy to get both these guys. These guys were a big part of our team this year," Minaya said. "The fact that we have these two players on board, we pretty much have most of our team in tact going into next year."

Hernandez missed the division series and the NL Championship Series, but appeared ready to return for the World Series had the Mets advanced that far. New York lost the NLCS to St. Louis in seven games.

El Duque has an 81-60 career record with a 4.19 ERA in eight major league seasons with the Yankees, Chicago White Sox and Diamondbacks since leaving Cuba.

"It's always easier to sign a guy that you know already than to bring in a guy that you don't know already," Minaya said. "How many guys can come in there and you know he's going to perform in New York? And to me, that's huge. El Duque has proven that he can pitch in New York."

The Mets already know they'll be without Pedro Martinez for the first half of next season. The three-time Cy Young Award winner is recovering from shoulder surgery.

New York hopes to re-sign Tom Glavine, who hasn't decided whether to stay or try to return to Atlanta, his team from 1987-2002.

"It's going to have a lot of weight, being close to his family," Minaya acknowledged. "What we're building here, we want him to be part of it.

"I'm not rushing him to make this decision," Minaya said. "He's a future Hall of Famer. He's been a great citizen for this club. He's earned at least the right for us to be patient with him and give him time to make this decision."

Valentin is coming off a resurgent season, when he batted .271 with 18 homers and 62 RBI. His consistent production and steady defense made him a big surprise after he took over the everyday job at second base.

Minaya said he's comfortable going into next season with the 37-year-old Valentin as the team's starter at second again, but the GM said that wouldn't stop him from exploring the market for infielders. He said Valentin would get plenty of at-bats next season -- no matter where he plays.

"He gives me a lot of versatility," Minaya said. "He protects me up the middle. He protects me in other areas. I can go in the marketplace knowing that I don't have to do something."

Notes
Minaya said the Mets have spoken to the agents for free-agent outfielder Cliff Floyd and reliever Chad Bradford and presented verbal offers that are being considered. ... Minaya asked manager Willie Randolph to formulate a list of possible replacements for third-base coach Manny Acta, hired Tuesday to manage the Washington Nationals.


Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press

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