D A L L A S, Dec. 9 -- 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.