Benson, Mets agree on three

Kris Benson and the Mets will be an item through the next few years, pending the results of a physical on Monday.

After lengthy negotiations that stretched past midnight Friday, the Mets finally locked up Benson, who was considered to be one of the club's top priorities this winter. The deal guarantees the right-hander just under $23 million over the next three years, with a club option for 2008 that could bring the contract's value as high as $30 million.

The Mets did not disclose the financial terms, which were widely reported by the mainstream media. Instead, the club simply termed the negotiations "productive" in a statement and said that it looked forward to providing more information following the physical.

Benson was just 4-4 with a 4.50 ERA in 11 starts for New York following a July 30 trade with the Pittsburgh Pirates, but he showed flashes of brilliance. The Mets are banking more performances like Benson's complete game shutout of the Atlanta Braves at Shea Stadium on Sept. 14, in which he scattered four hits, walking none and striking out seven.

As it was, Benson never really considered other locales in his free agency hunt. He made no secret of the fact that he wanted to stay in New York -- he and his wife, Anna, went apartment shopping late in the season -- and the couple may open a Manhattan retail establishment in the coming months.

Still unresolved is the issue of whether the Mets will also bring back rotation mate Al Leiter, who continues to dangle on the market as a free agent.

Leiter, 39, was among the National League's ERA leaders for much of the 2004 season, but he ran into frustratingly high pitch counts in most of his starts – the end result of nibbling to pitch against runs. The Mets declined a $10.2 million option on Leiter last week, instead buying out the contract for $2.1 million.

The New York Yankees are said to be interested in Leiter – the New York Daily News reported that Leiter met with Yankees GM Brian Cashman on Saturday – and at least some within the Mets organization have been considering a possible run at free agent Pedro Martinez instead.

The Boston Red Sox, Florida Marlins and Philadelphia Phillies have also been mentioned as possible destinations for Leiter, who was 10-8 with a 3.21 ERA in 30 starts this year.

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