Mike Piazza is staying put, and it took the richest deal in baseball history to keep him with the New York Mets.
The All-Star catcher agreed to a $91 million, seven-year contract, which was announced Monday at Shea Stadium. Piazza's deal, which averages $13 million a season, tops the $75 million, six-year contract pitcher Pedro Martinez agreed to with Boston last December.
Piazza, 30, could have become a free agent but opted instead to stay with the Mets, who competed for the NL wild-card berth until the final weekend of the season.
"The Mets showed incredible commitment to me," Piazza said. "If I'm so fortunate as to go into the Hall of Fame someday it definitely will be in a Mets uniform."
He hit .329 this year with 32 home runs and 111 RBI, getting $8 million in the final season of a $15 million, two-year deal. After the Dodgers failed to sign him to a multiyear deal last spring, he was traded from Los Angeles to Florida in May. The Marlins traded him to the Mets a week later.
"I definitely had some growing pains coming here," Piazza said. "Once I went through the ups and downs of New York I definitely wanted to finish my career here."
Piazza gets a $7.5 million signing bonus, $4 million payable on Feb. 1 and the rest on Dec. 15, 2002. The Mets will pay him salaries of $6 million in 1999, $11 million in 2000, $12.5 million in 2001, $9.5 million in 2002, $14.5 million in 2003 and $15 million in both 2004 and 2005.
In adition, the Mets agreed to give him a suite on all road trips and use of a luxury box for all games at Shea Stadium. If the Mets move to a new ballpark during the term of the contract, he would get a luxury box for 40 regular-season home games and all postseason home games.
Piazza would get bonuses of $50,000 for making the All-Star team, $50,000 for a Gold Glove, $50,000 for a Silver Bat, $100,000 for the World Series MVP award, $50,000 for the league championship MVP and $25,000 for the division series MVP -- an award that currently doesn't exist.
He also would get $125,000 if he's voted the NL MVP, $100,000 for finishing second, $75,000 for third, $50,000 for fourth and $25,000 for fifth.
Piazza said it was just a matter of timing that he got baseball's richest deal.
"I'm sure it will be surpassed, probably soon," he said.
In addition, he gets a limited no-trade clause, although there is a dispute whether gets a total no-trade in May 2003 -- all 10-year veterans who have been with a team for five seasons have the right to veto trades under baseball's labor agreement.
The deal is a clear signal the Mets will attempt to trade catcher Todd Hundley, who is to be paid $5.2 million next season and $6 million in 2000 as part of a $21 million, four-year contract.
New York also is close to signing pitcher Al Leiter to a four-year contract worth $32 million. Leiter, traded from Florida to the Mets before the start of the 1998 season, went 17-6 with a 2.47 ERA and has said he wants to stay with the Mets.
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