Saturday, December 09, 2000

Hampton's $121M deal now baseball's richest

Passes Griffey's contract with Reds

The Associated Press

        DALLAS — Mike Hampton, the most coveted left-hander on this year's free agent market, reached a preliminary agreement Friday on a $121 million, eight-year deal with the Colorado Rockies, the largest contract in baseball history.

        The deal is contingent on Hampton passing a physical and other minor details, according to two baseball officials who spoke on the condition they not be identified.

        Hampton, who went 15-10 for the New York Mets last season, would be the second prominent left-hander to sign with Colorado. Denny Neagle agreed to a $51.5 million, five-year deal on Monday.

        In total dollars, the deal sur passes baseball's previous high, a $116.5 million, nine-year contract Ken Griffey Jr. agreed to with Cincinnati in February. The previous high for a pitcher had been Kevin 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 $126 million, six-year deal with the NBA's Minnesota Timberwolves, which averages $21 million.

        The highest average salary agreed to is $29.5 million, which will be earned by Shaquille O'Neal of the NBA's Los Angeles Lakers in an $88.5 million, three-year extension that starts with the 2003-04 season.

        The Denver Rocky Mountain News, which broke the news of the Rockies-Hampton agreement Friday on its Web site, said the deal includes an option for 2009. It is the longest contract for a pitcher since Wayne Garland signed a 10-year deal with Cleveland in 1977.

        Both sources said the deal contains substantial deferred money.

        Hampton has had moderate success at Coors Field, going 4-1 with a 6.49 ERA in five starts. He pitched into the seventh inning in four of those starts.

        St. Louis was the other finalist to sign Hampton, and Atlanta, Texas and the Chicago Cubs were interested. New York general manager Steve Phillips said those teams offered $100 million or more.

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


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