NEW YORK (WFAN/AP) — When Jonathon Niese strides to the mound Sunday for his first start of the year, he will do so with a new sense of confidence and a carefree attitude.
That’s what a $25.5 million contract can do for someone.
Though Mets general manager Sandy Alderson wouldn’t confirm the extension while on air with WFAN’s Joe Benigno and Evan Roberts on Thursday, the southpaw starter wasn’t shy about it after New York’s Opening Day win.
Niese was smiling, a day after agreeing to a five-year deal with the Mets that could keep him in New York through 2018.
“It means a lot. It’s a relief. It’s just a burden off my shoulders,” the 25-year-old said after the Mets beat the Atlanta Braves 1-0. “It’s something that I don’t have to think about. When I go out there to pitch I can just go out there, pitch, have fun, help my team win.”
The deal, expected to be finalized within a few days, was the first big move by the Mets since resolving the lawsuit by the trustee in the Bernard Madoff Ponzi scheme and securing $240 million from a dozen minority investors to help shore up their finances.
It also gives the Mets a bit of cost certainty as they try to rebuild a ballclub that has missed the playoffs every season since 2006. They slashed $43.4 million off last year’s opening-day payroll, believed to be the largest one-year drop in baseball history. Texas cut by $38.7 million from the start of 2003 to opening day in 2004.
Niese’s deal is similar to the one signed by another 25-year-old lefty, Texas Rangers pitcher Derek Holland. He agreed to a $28.5 million, five-year contract almost three weeks ago.
Niese said it took about a week for the sides to work out the details of the contract and all that’s left is for him to take a physical Friday. The deal is worth $25,519,500.
Niese gets a $250,000 signing bonus and a $769,500 salary this year – up from the $519,500 he would have received in the majors under the one-year contract he agreed to in March. He receives $3 million next year, $5 million in 2014, $7 million in 2015 and $9 million in 2016. The Mets have a $10 million option for 2017 with a $500,000 buyout. If that’s exercised, New York gets a $10.5 million option for 2018 with a $500,000 buyout.
“I’m not really surprised because they wanted to do it and they expressed interest,” Niese said. “I think both sides wanted to get it done fairly quickly before the season started.”
Niese went 11-11 with a 4.40 ERA last season. He made his last start on Aug. 23 at Philadelphia then finished the year on the disabled list with a ribcage injury. Over parts of four seasons, Niese is 22-23 with a 4.39 ERA. He would have been eligible for salary arbitration after the season.
All-Star outfielder Carlos Beltran, then with the Mets, offered last summer to pay for Niese to have surgery to correct a deviated septum. Niese had the operation in October and said last month that he’s been breathing easier now that the right nostril no longer is blocked. Niese said Beltran had paid the $10,000 bill.
Asked whether he would pay Beltran back, Niese said, “Yeah, right!”
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