Mets Boost Bullpen With K-Rod Deal

Rodriguez's deal worth reported $37 million

Francisco Rodriguez became the first top-tier free agent to reach an agreement when he decided to join the New York Mets.

The Mets agreed to terms with the record-setting closer at the Winter meetings on Tuesday, agreeing to a three-year, $37 million contract.

The sides still have to work out a written agreement and the pitcher must pass a physical, two people familiar with the negotiations said Tuesday. They spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the contract had not yet been completed.

"He's pretty special," said Los Angeles Dodgers manager Joe Torre, familiar with K-Rod from his days managing the New York Yankees. "You got tired of looking at him in October. I mean, he had a lot of success against us and he's certainly that dominant guy out there, and he's very durable."

Rodriguez's deal is unlikely to be finalized before next week.

"The way that we lost so many close games late, I think that was critical for us to -- theoretically -- address this thing here. We have addressed it very well," Mets manager Jerry Manuel said, laughing. "I mean, they say the word on the street is good. It's good. That's just the word on the street. We've got to get it written down."

K-Rod recorded 62 saves for the Los Angeles Angels this year, five more than the previous big league mark set by Bobby Thigpen of the Chicago White Sox in 1990, and then filed for free agency. His agent, Paul Kinzer, had hoped to get a five-year contract, possibly equaling the $15 million average salary Mariano Rivera is earning from the New York Yankees.
But with baseball executives worried about the national recession, Kinzer accepted a more modest deal.
With the agreement, the Mets are ceasing negotiations with Brian Fuentes and career saves leader Trevor Hoffman, two other free-agent closers, one of the people said. Rodriguez's contract will contain an option for 2012 that could become guaranteed based on his performance, the person said.
A three-time All-Star who turns 27 next month, Rodriguez was regarded as the top closer on the market. While some teams were worried about his violent pitching motion and drop in velocity last season, he developed an outstanding curveball to go along with his other pitches.
Rodriguez and Kinzer arrived in Las Vegas last weekend and dined Sunday night with general manager Omar Minaya, chief operating officer Jeff Wilpon and other team officials at a steakhouse.
In a slow free-agent market, Rodriguez was the first of the top-tier free agents to reach an agreement. Pitcher and A.J. Burnett, first baseman Mark Teixeira and outfielder Manny Ramirez are among the high-profile players still searching for deals.

Pitching prize CC Sabathia has reportedly agreed to a lucritive deal with the New York Yankees, according to the New York Post. Closer Kerry Wood is closing in on a deal with the Cleveland Indians.
The Mets were seeking a closer to replace Billy Wagner, who is likely will miss all of next season following elbow ligament-replacement surgery. Rodriguez's market value was depressed because several closers were free agents and most big-market teams were set with the back end of their bullpens.
New York, coming off its second straight last-September collapse, also got a boost as it prepares for its first season at Citi Field, an $800 million ballpark built adjacent to Shea Stadium.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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