Mets bring back El Duque, Valentin

NEW YORK – The Mets completed their first official free agency moves in compiling the 2007 roster Tuesday, re-signing Orlando Hernandez and Jose Valentin.

Hernandez agreed to terms on a two-year, $12 million deal to return to the team's starting rotation, while Valentin accepted a one-year, $3.8 million offer with a vesting option for 2008.

"We're happy to get both of these guys," Mets general manager Omar Minaya said. "Both of these guys were a big part of our team last year, and we feel real comfortable as we go into this free agency or trade season (that) we can fill our other needs. It gives me a comfort zone that we can still explore the market."

Hernandez, who claims to be 36 but has reported to be as old as 41, was one of the Mets' key second-half contributors in 2006.

After being acquired from the Arizona Diamondbacks on May 24 for pitcher Jorge Julio, Hernandez went 9-7 with a 4.09 ERA in 20 starts for New York and would have been the team's starter in Game 1 of the NL Division Series.

Hernandez tore his right calf jogging in the outfield the day before his scheduled appearance against the Los Angeles Dodgers, but would have been the Mets' starting pitcher in Game 1 of the World Series, had they made it that far.

"This was a great place for me last year," Hernandez said in a statement. "I felt badly that I couldn't pitch in the playoffs. I came back here because I wanted to get another chance this year. I'm close to Omar and Willie [Randolph] and I want to do it for them."

Minaya said that he had no concerns about giving Hernandez a two-year deal considering his age or health going forward, saying that the hurler "stays in shape (and) is a hard worker."

"El Duque had a very good season last year," Minaya said. "The way the marketplace is, I don't think it would have been realistic to sign Orlando Hernandez for one year, with the need of pitching that is out there (among) clubs."

Valentin, 37, was one of the biggest surprises of the Mets' 2006 season. Breaking out of a utility role during a May trip to Milwaukee, Valentin finished the year as New York's starting second baseman, batting .271 with 18 home runs and 62 RBI in 137 games.

Though Valentin said he would prefer to return in a starting role – a $4.3 million option for the 2008 season would vest if Valentin compiles 400 at-bats – Minaya said he would continue to explore trades and free agency to upgrade the team's second base position.

Minaya said he would be comfortable going forward with Valentin as the Mets' 2007 second baseman.

"It's fair to say right now that Valentin is our second baseman," Minaya said. "Of course, if somebody comes to us with a trade or anything like that, we'll explore it. But when it's all said and done, we're going to give Valentin playing time."

  • Glavine update: Minaya said that he still has not heard one way or the other from free agent LHP Tom Glavine, who continues to discuss a complicated family situation near Atlanta.

    The Mets hold a team option on Glavine for 2007 worth $14 million, which must be triggered by Nov. 20. Minaya said that the Mets would discuss internally whether that was an option worth using.

    "I know Tom is trying to give us an answer," Minaya said. "I'm not rushing him to make that decision. We're going to give him the time to talk things over with his family."

  • Elsewhere in free agency: Minaya said that he has spoken with the agents for both OF Cliff Floyd and RHP Chad Bradford. … The Mets apparently thought highly enough of RHP Daisuke Matsuzaka to post a $38 million bid for the Japanese hurler, according to the New York Daily News. The Boston Red Sox won the Matsuzaka sweepstakes with a $51.1 million bid.

  • Amazin Clubhouse Top Stories