Mussina Signs With Yankees

Baseball’s most successful team is adding the most sought-after pitcher on the free-agent market.

Mike Mussina and the New York Yankees agreed today to an $88.5 million, six-year contract, The Associated Press learned.

The Yankees called a news conference but did not announce its subject.

“Things look promising,” Mussina’s agent, Arn Tellem, said early today upon his arrival in New York, without commenting on the substance of the talks.

Joins Stellar Pitching Staff

The sides then continued negotiations, agreeing on the final terms, a source with knowledge of the talks said on condition of anonymity.

Mussina was traveling from his home in Montoursville, Pa., to New York for the announcement, the source said.

Mussina, 32 on Dec. 8, joins a staff on the three-time defending World Series champions that already includes Roger Clemens, Orlando Hernandez and Andy Pettitte.

With a $14.75 million average annual value, the deal makes Mussina the second- or third-highest-paid pitcher in baseball, depending on how Clemens’ new contract is evaluated.

While Clemens and his agents consider his $30.9 million extension a two-year deal that averages $15.45 million, the Yankees say its a three-year contract that averages $10.3 million.

Mussina also trails Kevin Brown of Los Angeles, who averages $15 million under a $105 million, seven-year contract.

Led the American League

The only position players with higher average salaries are Toronto outfielder Carlos Delgado ($17 million) and Atlanta third baseman Chipper Jones ($15 million).

Mussina is 147-81 in his career after going 11-15 with a 3.79 ERA for the Orioles last season. He led the American League in innings pitched with 237 2-3 and was third in strikeouts with 210, trailing Boston’s Pedro Martinez (284) and Cleveland’s Bartolo Colon (212).

Mussina also was third in ERA, trailing Martinez (1.74) and Clemens (3.70).

Yankees owner George Steinbrenner and director of baseball operations Mark Newman monitored the talks by conference call from the Yankees’ minor league facility in Tampa, Fla.

Mussina did not return a telephone message left with his wife at his home. The Yankees declined comment, citing an order from Steinbrenner.