Now that the New York Mets have Mike Piazza for the next seven years, they need someone to throw to him.
Two days after signing the All-Star catcher to a record $91 million, seven-year contract, they announced Wednesday that staff ace Al Leiter has agreed to a $32 million, four-year deal.
"I'm playing for a team I truly rooted for growing up," Leiter said. "I grew up on the Jersey shore, I'm playing for my team."
Leiter, a 33-year-old left-hander, came to the Mets before the season as part of the Florida Marlins' payroll purge. He immediately became the best pitcher on the team, going 17-6 with a 2.47 ERA, the most wins on the Mets and the top ERA in the NL among starters.
"The highlight of my dream for this upcoming season is for New York to have another ticker tape parade, but with the team from Queens doing the partying," Leiter said.
New York also signed a player Tuesday, and it got his name on the dotted line for a lot less than it took to keep Piazza.
Infielder Luis Lopez, who would have been eligible for salary arbitration this winter, agreed on a $1.35 million, two-year contract.
Lopez, 28, hit .252 in 266 at-bats this season with two homers and 22 RBIs. He made $375,000.
Lopez gets $575,000 next season and $775,000 and 2000. He can earn $200,000 in performance bonuses duing the second year of the deal.
Seven Mets remain eligible for arbitration: Edgardo Alfonzo, Butch Huskey, Jason Isringhausen, Hideo Nomo, Rey Ordonez, Todd Pratt and Turk Wendell - although it's likely several in this group will be told to sign in December or get cut loose on the Dec. 20 deadline to offer 1999 contracts to players on 40-man rosters.
New York also is discussing a trade that would sent reliever Mel Rojas to the Dodgers for outfielder Bobby Bonilla and possibly second baseman Eric Young. Mets general manager Steve Phillips also called the agent for free-agent outfielder Brian Jordan to express interest.
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