San Francisco Giants ace Tim Lincecum asked for $13 million in salary arbitration, a record for a player eligible for the first time, and Seattle pitcher Felix Hernandez closed in on a five-year contract with the Mariners worth about $78 million.
NEW YORK — San Francisco Giants ace Tim Lincecum asked for $13 million in salary arbitration, a record for a player eligible for the first time, and Seattle pitcher Felix Hernandez closed in on a five-year contract with the Mariners worth about $78 million.
On the busiest day of baseball's offseason, 71 players eligible for arbitration reached agreements on contracts, leaving just 38 still on track for hearings next month. That's a fraction of the more than 200 players eligible for arbitration in November, the 128 who filed on Friday and the 46 who swapped figures with their teams earlier Tuesday.
Boston Red Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon agreed to a $9.35 million, one-year deal, the highest salary for a reliever with at least four years of major league service. The agreement surpassed Mariano Rivera's $7.25 million contract after the 2000 season and was halfway between the $10.25 million Papelbon asked for and the $8.45 million the Red Sox offered.
Colorado reached a preliminary agreement on a $22.5 million, three-year contract with closer Huston Street and a $7.55 million, two-year deal with setup man Rafael Betancourt, two other people said separately, also on condition of anonymity because the agreements were not yet final.
Lincecum is seeking the richest contract ever awarded in arbitration, surpassing the $10 million that Alfonso Soriano (2006) and Francisco Rodriguez (2008) received in losses and Ryan Howard won at a hearing in 2008. Howard's request had been the highest ever for a player in his first year of eligibility.
San Francisco offered $8 million to Lincecum, 40-17 with a 2.90 ERA since he was brought up early in the 2007 season. He won the NL Cy Young Award in his each of first two full seasons, becoming the first repeat winner since Randy Johnson from 1999-02. Lincecum was a bargain for the Giants last year, when he made $650,000.
Also on Tuesday, Lincecum agreed to pay $513 to resolve marijuana charges against him in Washington state. He originally faced two misdemeanor charges of marijuana and drug paraphernalia possession stemming from a traffic stop on Oct. 30. The charges were reduced to a civil infraction.
Hernandez asked for the second-highest figure in arbitration, $11.5 million, and the Mariners offered $7.2 million. The value of his agreement was confirmed by a person with knowledge of the deal, also on condition of anonymity because the contract was not yet finished.
Tampa Bay and pitcher Matt Garza both filed at $3.35 million, an unusual occurrence. Not surprisingly, they also agreed at that figure.
Lincecum's $5 million difference with the Giants is the largest among cases that could be decided by three-person panels of arbitrators. Other large gaps also involved pitchers: Joe Blanton and Philadelphia ($10.25 million vs. $7.5 million), Justin Verlander and Detroit ($8.5 million and $6.9 million) and Wandy Rodriguez and Houston ($7 million and $5 million).
Among free agents, the Tigers finalized their $14 million, two-year contract with Jose Valverde, who will become their closer.
Bengie Molina opted to stay with the San Francisco Giants, agreeing to a one-year deal that guarantees the catcher $4.5 million and allows him to earn $1.5 million more based on games started, two people familiar with those talks said. They spoke on condition of anonymity because that agreement wasn't announced.
Molina turned down a proposal from the New York Mets that would have guaranteed $5.5 million and included a vesting option for 2011.
AP Sports Writers Gregg Bell in Seattle and Josh Dubow in San Francisco contributed to this report.