CINCINNATI (AP) All-Star catcher Devin Mesoraco agreed to a $28 million, four-year contract on Monday, leaving the Cincinnati Reds with two players in salary arbitration.
The Reds were trying to get deals with two other All-Stars, third baseman Todd Frazier and closer Aroldis Chapman. They haven't had a player go to an arbitration hearing since 2004.
Mesoraco's deal includes a $500,000 signing bonus and salaries of $2.4 million this year, $4.9 million in 2016, $7.2 million in 2017 and $13 million in 2018. The salary in the final year can increase by as much as $2 million.
''He's an example of a guy who has worked extremely hard and he's the kind of guy you want to build an organization around,'' general manager Walt Jocketty said.
The 26-year-old catcher was a first-round pick - the 15th overall - in the June 2007 draft. He started 84 games in 2013 and the Reds decided he was ready to become the full-time catcher last season, when he made $525,000. He surpassed their expectations on offense.
Mesoraco led all major league catchers in homers (25) and RBIs (80) while batting .273. His 24 homers while catching were the most by a Reds player since Johnny Bench in 1977.
''I think that before you do actually have success in this league, there is always a little bit of a question mark in your head just as far as if I can be successful,'' Mesoraco said Monday after the deal was announced. ''These are the toughest players in the world, so you have to actually go out there and do it, put up some numbers and produce out on the field before it's 100 percent in your mind.
''But I definitely wasn't lacking confidence going into last year and it showed.''
The four-deal deal establishes him as part of the club's core for the next few years. Starting pitcher Homer Bailey got a six-year, $105 million deal during spring training last year that runs through 2019. First baseman Joey Votto is playing under a 10-year, $225 million deal that runs through 2023. Right fielder Jay Bruce got a six-year, $51 million deal that runs through 2016.
Mesoraco recognized that the deal makes him ''someone that people and fans can count on for being part of the club and producing out on the field - me and Joey and Homer and guys like that, guys that the organization has committed to.''
Mesoraco had asked for $3.6 million in arbitration and the club had offered $2.45 million. Frazier is seeking $5.7 million and Chapman has asked for $8.7 million.
Mesoraco's 2018 salary would go up by $400,000 each time he reaches 502 plate appearances in the first three years of the deal. It also has award escalators for that year, capped at $800,000. The salary would rise by $150,000 each for making the All-Star game and winning a Gold Glove or Silver Slugger. It would go up by $200,000 if he's among the top five in MVP voting, $150,000 for sixth through 10th, $100,000 for 11th through 15th and $50,000 for 16th through 20th.
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