Diamondbacks agree to contract extension with Webb

PHOENIX -- Arizona's No. 1 starter has a new contract.

Brandon Webb and the Diamondbacks agreed to a $19.5 million, four-year deal on Friday, locking up the sinkerball specialist through his arbitration years.

The 26-year-old right-hander set a career high with 14 wins last season, his third in the big leagues. He finished 14-12 with a 3.54 ERA and 172 strikeouts in 229 innings.

"Brandon has certainly earned this contract," Arizona general manager Josh Byrnes said. "His three years thus far have been tremendous. He's really one of the more unheralded elite pitchers in baseball."

The deal includes an $8.5 million club option for 2010 with a $500,000 buyout. The buyout would increase by $500,000 each time Webb finishes in the top five of the NL Cy Young voting during the first four years of the contract.

Webb, who earned $715,000 last season, gets $2.5 million this year, $4.5 million in 2007, $5.5 million in 2008 and $6.5 million in 2009. Under his old contract, Webb would have made $2.5 million this year, and the Diamondbacks had an option for 2007.

In line to be Arizona's Opening Day starter next season, Webb has a 31-37 career record with a solid 3.35 ERA. He welcomed the chance to be the No. 1 guy on manager Bob Melvin's staff.

"I've worked with the pitching staff and the coaching staff and really honed in on what kind of pitcher I am," Webb said. "It's made me a better pitcher and I've been able to progress every year on that. Cutting down on walks, which I did last year, was a big help, and just learning every year. I just feel I can progress every year and get better."

Webb was an eighth-round selection in the 2000 draft out of the University of Kentucky and quickly advanced through the minors. As a rookie in 2003, he went 10-9 with a 2.84 ERA. In 2003, when the Diamondbacks lost 111 games, Webb was 7-16 with a 3.59 ERA and led the National League in walks.

Webb relies on groundball outs, and with an awful defense that season, he admittedly worked too hard to throw strikes. Last year, with a vastly improved defense, he lowered his walks to 59. He expects the defense to be even better with the addition of Gold Glove second baseman Orlando Hudson.

"This is the type of contract a club doesn't have to do," Byrnes said. "We had Brandon under control through arbitration for four more years, but it is something we wanted to do."

Byrnes, hired last October, said it's important to get long-term deals in place for a team's core players to give them security and the club some cost certainty.

"It really helps accelerate the decision-making process and the building process," Byrnes said.

Melvin said there is no doubt that Webb will be the staff's No. 1 starter and, as long as he's healthy, will take the mound in the season opener April 3 at Colorado.

"We're proud of what he's done and we're proud of where he's going," Melvin said. "To lock up a guy like this, not only a great pitcher and an outstanding individual, we're elated."

Webb said that while he welcomes the No. 1 role, he won't dwell on it.

"I recognize it, but thinking about it just adds pressure to me that I don't need," he said. "But I think I'm up to the challenge."

The Diamondbacks also agreed to a one-year deal with reliever Luis Vizcaino, avoiding arbitration. The 31-year-old right-hander was acquired in the trade that sent starter Javier Vazquez to the Chicago White Sox. Vizcaino was 6-5 with a 3.73 ERA in 70 innings with the White Sox last year. He has pitched in parts of seven major-league seasons, going 21-17 with a 4.36 ERA.