Perez, Mets finalize deal

Updated: February 3, 2009, 10:56 PM ET
Associated Press

NEW YORK -- Omar Minaya looked out the window at a snow-globe scene in midtown Manhattan. Flakes fluttered out of a slate sky, cabs hissed past on Sixth Avenue and office workers trudged by on wet sidewalks.

"Thank God baseball season is here," the Mets general manager said.

It is for Minaya, who brought back Oliver Perez with a $36 million, three-year contract Tuesday to complete his last major task of the offseason.

"Adding Oliver Perez to the rotation was a priority," Minaya said. "We've really accomplished what we set out to do."

Now that the talented, vexing lefty is signed, Minaya's ready to turn the Mets loose with a rotation that includes Johan Santana, Mike Pelfrey, Perez and John Maine, with Tim Redding, Freddy Garcia and Jon Niese likely in the mix for the fifth spot.

New York has not ruled out re-signing Pedro Martinez, who may pitch in the World Baseball Classic before deciding where to go. But Minaya seemed to indicate that adding free-agent slugger Manny Ramirez was unlikely.

The Mets' problem last season wasn't scoring runs, but preventing them. They were second in the league with 799 runs, but the 715 they allowed ranked 11th.

That's why Minaya added Francisco Rodriguez and J.J. Putz to the bullpen and signed Alex Cora for infield depth.

"Last year we lost a lot of games late in the game," outfielder Carlos Beltran said. "What we got with Francisco and J.J. Putz, and now adding Oliver, I do believe with the team that we have that we're good enough to win our division."

The Perez deal came together slowly but deliberately.

New York offered Derek Lowe -- another client of agent Scott Boras -- a $36 million, three-year contract, but Lowe accepted $60 million over four years from Atlanta. In addition to Lowe, the Mets also held talks with the agent for Randy Wolf, but agreed with Redding on a $2.25 million, one-year deal.

"Everybody knows this year is going to be very important because we've got a new stadium and a good bullpen," Perez said. "I want to have a championship with the Mets."

Perez became the 86th player who filed for free agency after the World Series to finalize an agreement -- meaning just over half of the 171 players who filed have deals.

Perez was 10-7 with a 4.22 ERA in 34 starts last year. He struck out 180, 12th-best in the NL, but walked 105 in 194 innings. His 4.87 walks per nine innings were fourth-highest in the majors behind only Barry Zito, Daisuke Matsuzaka and Ian Snell.

The Mets liked what they saw from Perez under pitching coach Dan Warthen, who took over in mid-June, and think the starter could continue to improve.

"Left-handers tend to develop a little bit later," Minaya said. "It takes time for guys to develop."

Warthen took over as pitching coach June 17, after manager Willie Randolph was replaced by Jerry Manuel. Perez was hit hard in his following two starts, but then dropped his ERA more than a run, from 5.29.

He will receive $12 million in each of the next three seasons, up from the $6.5 million he made last year after winning in salary arbitration.

Even so, Minaya has no qualms about his latest acquisition playing for Mexico in the World Baseball Classic next month.

"No, I love it," Minaya said. "We're big supporters of the WBC."

Next on Minaya's much-shorter to-do list will be adding a right-handed hitter and a left-handed reliever.

"That doesn't mean we have to get one, because we have some righties who can get lefties out," Minaya said, citing reliever Duaner Sanchez in particular.

Despite Minaya's demurral on Manny matters, Boras -- who attended the news conference at the Mets' network's street-level TV studio -- was more than willing to talk about both of his clients. Though reporters had their own priorities.

"I get two Oliver Perez questions and 31 Manny questions," Boras said.

Yep, it's baseball season.


Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press

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