Hampton Goes to Rockies With Record Contract

ByRonald Blum

D A L L A S, Dec. 9, 2000 -- Mike Hampton is getting baseball’s biggest

contract. Now he has to avoid what has been routine for his

Colorado Rockies’ predecessors: one of its highest ERAs.

The most coveted left-hander on the free-agent market, reached apreliminary agreement Friday on a $121 million, eight-year dealwith the Rockies.

The deal is contingent on Hampton passing a physical and otherminor details, according to two baseball officials who spoke oncondition they not be identified. It could be announced as early astoday.

Hampton, 28, went 15-10 for the New York Mets last season andMVP of the NL championship series. He is the second prominentleft-hander to sign with Colorado this week. Denny Neagle agreed toa $51.5 million, five-year deal on Monday.

Baseball’s Richest … For Now

In total dollars, the deal surpasses the previous high of $116.5million, a nine-year contract Ken Griffey Jr. agreed to with theCincinnati last February. The previous high for a pitcher had beenKevin Brown’s $105 million, seven-year contract with Los Angeles.

“It’s not a done deal,” Rockies spokesman Jay Alves said.“Serious negotiations are taking place, but it looks good.”

The highest total contract in sports is Kevin Garnett’s $126million, six-year deal with the NBA’s Minnesota Timberwolves, whichaverages $21 million. The highest average salary agreed to is $29.5million, which will be earned by Shaquille O’Neal of the LosAngeles Lakers in an $88.5 million, three-year extension thatstarts with the 2003-04 season.

Hampton’s contract, which includes a club option for 2009, isthe longest for a pitcher since Wayne Garland signed a 10-year dealwith Cleveland in 1977.

It calls for a $20 million signing bonus, $1 million payable tocharity and $19 million deferred without interest until after thecontract expires. The remaining money will be paid in 10 yearlyinstallments of $1.9 million, the money accruing 3 percentinterest.

Because of the deferred money, baseball officials calculate itsannual average value at just under $14 million in present-daydollars.

Hampton’s average salary of $15,125,000 becomes the first- orsecond-highest among pitchers, depending on how Roger Clemens’contract $30.9 million extension with the New York Yankees isevaluated.

Clemens considers it a two-year deal averaging $15.45 million,while the Yankees consider it a three-year contract averaging $10.3million.

Hampton has a lifetime 6.88 ERA at Coors Field.

St. Louis had been the other finalist to sign Hampton, andAtlanta, Texas and the Chicago Cubs were interested.

New York general manager Steve Phillips said all interestedteams offered $100 million or more.

“It didn’t come down to the last dollar,” Phillips said. “Allthe clubs were close enough. It came down to other issues, like thechance to win and quality of life for his family.”

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