N E W Y O R K, Dec. 11, 2000 -- The New York Mets finally got their big namefree agent pitcher today when Kevin Appier agreed to a $42million, four-year deal to play for the NL champions.
“New York is a very exciting city,” Appier said from thewinter meetings in Dallas. “You can’t get a bigger stage than that. If we do great, that’s only better. I’m glad to have the opportunity.”
The Baltimore Orioles also wanted Appier, and seemed prepared tooffer even more than the Mets, but the right-hander chose New York.
The Mets zeroed in on Appier after finding out Friday that freeagent Mike Hampton had walked away from the team to take a record$121 million, eight-year contract with the Colorado Rockies. NewYork also lost out on Mike Mussina, who signed with the Yankees,and Denny Neagle, who went to Colorado.
Appier in the Mix
“Right from the beginning, we knew Kevin Appier would be rightin the mix of pitchers we were trying to pursue,” Mets generalmanager Steve Phillips said. “Obviously we had interest in theHampton and Mussina fronts, but those ran parallel with discussionswith Kevin. We feel fortunate to get a pitcher of his caliber.”
The Mets also acquired reliever Donne Wall from San Diego foroutfielder Bubba Trammell and signed Tsuyoshi Shinjo, a free agentoutfielder in Japan, to a $700,000, one-year contract.
Several other teams, including Boston, had pursued Appier, whoturned 33 on Wednesday. The New York Yankees showed early interestbefore signing Mussina.
Appier was 15-11 with a 4.52 ERA in 195 1-3 innings for AL Westchampion Oakland last season. He was traded to the Athletics in themiddle of the 1999 pennant race.
The Mets did not try to trade for Appier when he becameavailable in 1999, perhaps because of worries about his health.Once one of the AL’s top workhorses, he missed most of the 1998season because of surgery on his right shoulder.
Appier has been fine for two seasons, and the Mets’ concernsseemed to have diminished. In his 12-year career, Appier is 136-105with a 3.63 ERA.
Appier receives a $2 million signing bonus, with $1 million paidupon the approval of the contract and $1 million paid July 1, 2002.He will make $8 million this season, $9 million in 2002, $11million in 2003, and $12 million in 2004.
With Appier, the Mets still have one spot left to fill in theirrotation. Bobby J. Jones, who won 11 games for the Mets lastseason, is a free agent and recently was offered salaryarbitration.
The Mets have talked to free agent David Cone, cut loose lastweek by the Yankees. There also has been speculation the Mets mighttry to trade for a pitcher, perhaps Colorado’s Pedro Astacio orMontreal’s Dustin Hermanson.
Al Leiter, Rick Reed and Glendon Rusch form the rest of theMets’ rotation. Reed, a free agent, recently re-signed with theMets for three years and $21.75 million.
Supply and Demand Economics
Asked about the rising price of pitching, Phillips had ananswer.
“Every time somebody comes off the board, it reduces thesupply,” he said. “That makes people more aggressive.”
Shinjo becomes the 12th Japanese player to enter the majors. Theonly other Japanese position player is outfielder Ichiro Suzuki,the best hitter in Japanese baseball. He signed with Seattle lastmonth.
“I finally found a place where I can play baseball — it’s theNew York Mets,” the 28-year-old slugger for the Hanshin Tigerssaid at a news conference.
Shinjo receives a $300,000 signing bonus and will be paid$200,000 this season. The Mets have options for the 2002 and 2003with a $200,000 buyout. Shinjo can make an additional $500,000 nextseason in performance bonuses.
The right-handed batter hit .279 average this season with 139hits, 28 home runs and 83 RBIs.