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Posted: Monday February 11, 2008 4:58PM; Updated: Monday February 11, 2008 7:12PM
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Mets make two great deals

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The Mets had to sign Johan Santana after trading four young players for him. There was no way they could let him return to the Twins. To lose him would have been unthinkable. Under those conditions, they didn't do too terribly to get Santana under contract for a deal that will guarantee him $137.5 million and more than likely pay him $150.75 million. While the deal wouldn't be categorized as a bargain, it was a necessity.

Once the trade went down for outfielder Carlos Gomez plus pitchers Kevin Mulvey, Phil Humber and Deolis Guerra, the mandate came from the top: Sign him.

By doing so, the Mets moved from possible contender to obvious favorite in the National League. They also bought a story more compelling than last year's collapse.

(Had they failed to sign him, the Mets would have acquired another story, even worse than the one about the collapse -- this one would have been about losing the game's greatest pitcher after they had acquired him in trade for what was perceived as a song.)

The compromise they worked out was fair. Santana got a record contract for a pitcher, as everyone knew he would. But the deal was right for both sides.

Santana is way better than San Francisco's Barry Zito, or even Carlos Zambrano of the Cubs, two other starters who recently signed mega deals, and there's a decent chance Santana could have squeezed out a $175-million deal as a free agent next winter. With $5 million a year deferred at 1.25 percent interest, the actual value of the contract may be computed to be between $120-130 million (the players union is calling $120 million). Plus, the Mets can even claim they stuck to their five-year limit for pitchers since they added five guaranteed years to the one Santana already had on his Twins contract.

The seventh year of Santana's new contract will vest as a player option at $18.75 million if he finishes in the top two in Cy Young voting twice in six years, provided he wins the award once, or if he finishes either first, second or third three times. It also will vest if he pitches 220 innings the final year, 440 innings the last two years or 630 innings the last three years. If he turns down the seventh option year, the Mets can pick it up at $25 million.

That's all great for Santana, whose agents, the Greenberg brothers, did well to help him get out of Minnesota and away from their longtime cheapskate owner Carl Pohlad. Their client gets at least $57.5 million more than the Twins offered to pay him, and probably more than that. Plus, he gets to a team that's trying to compete.

News and Notes

• The Phillies could be a possibility for free agent starter Kyle Lohse, who pitched for them the second half of last year. The Mets appeared primed to go for Lohse before acquiring Santana, but Mets GM Omar Minaya is indicating now that he may be done doing big dealing.

You could form a decent back end of a rotation out of what's left on the free-agent market, what with Lohse joined by Livan Hernandez and Jeff Weaver as pitchers still available.

Don Mattingly did the right thing as usual by choosing his family over the Dodgers' hitting coach job, and many believe that he also cut his playing career a few years short for similar family reasons. That decision may have cost him being a part of the Yankees' late-90s dynasty as well as possible entrance into the Hall of Fame, but Mattingly has never said a thing about it publicly.

• The Dodgers must be expecting a lot out of new P.R. whiz Dr. Charles Steinberg, who came from Boston, where they got a lot of great publicity after winning two World Series titles. Word is they are paying Steinberg, who used to be a dentist, ballplayer money ... close to $1 million a year.

Ryan Howard's $10 million arbitration request looks a little high from here. But after renewing him last year at $900,000, the Phillies should try to avoid any acrimony by steeling near the $8.5 million midpoint figure.

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