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Mets, K-Rod reach three-year deal

LAS VEGAS -- The Mets and star free-agent closer Francisco Rodriguez have agreed to a deal.

The deal, which is expected to be consummated very soon, is said to be for about $37 million over three years. The Mets may not announce the deal for a day or two because Rodriguez must pass a physical, which has been scheduled for Wednesday, that should be nothing more than a formality, as he has no history of injury.

The Mets badly needed a big-time closer to replace injured star Billy Wagner and anchor what was one of the worst bullpens ever attached to a contender. To accomplish their goal, they focused on K-Rod as their closer of choice over the past couple weeks.

The Mets showed K-Rod they meant business on Monday, the first official day of the Winter Meetings here, when they agreed to guarantee a third year after opening bidding Sunday night with a two-year deal for about $12 million a year, plus a vesting option for a third year. Not long after, they made it a three-year contract. And the very next day, they were on the verge of a deal. An optimistic picture for a deal was first painted in a story on the New York Post Web site early Tuesday morning.

The contract is a very reasonable one for the Mets in that Rodriguez will make only about $3 million more than he was offered by the Angels in spring training, before he set the single-season record for saves in a season with 62. It is also $6 million less over its term than the Mets paid to Wagner three winters ago.

K-Rod brings to New York a flair and a game that should fit in the big city. The pairing made sense from the start of the offseason, when it became clear that the Mets were the only major market team in search of a closer. The other teams looking for a closer -- the Indians, Rangers and Cardinals -- weren't going to be able to compete for such an expensive closer with a big-market team like the Mets.

The Mets used their advantage effectively, locking up the closer they badly wanted. Now they can look to further upgrade their bullpen by finding a set-up man to front Rodriguez, who was 2-3 with a 2.24 ERA to go along with his 62 saves. Still only 26, he has an unheard-of 206 career saves after breaking on the scene with a bang, as a World Series hero in 2002 for the Angels.

The deal makes sense for K-Rod, too, since he knew he couldn't top that type of deal in those smaller markets. He is also thought to want to be in a big market, anyway. His first choice appeared to be to go back to the Angels, but they have suitable replacements in Jose Arredondo and Scot Shields and put him way on the back burner while pursing top target, free-agent first baseman Mark Teixeira.

The contract reflected a diving closers market, as good options flooded free agency. The Mets met with Brian Fuentes and Trevor Hoffman here Monday afternoon but never made either an offer as they continued their pursuit of K-Rod instead.

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