Yankees offer closer Rivera $45M, 3-year deal

NEW YORK -- Mariano Rivera was offered a $45 million,
three-year contract to stay with the New York Yankees. Now, the
team is waiting to hear back from its star closer.

"He'd be by $4 million a year the highest-paid relief
pitcher," Yankees senior vice president Hank Steinbrenner said
Tuesday. "To say that's a strong offer would be an

On Monday, the Yankees retained catcher Jorge Posada when they
upped their offer to $52.4 million for four years. Posada is due to
take a physical Wednesday, another step toward finalizing that

Rivera, the next step in the team's offseason plan, was allowed
to start discussing money with other teams Tuesday. Steinbrenner
confirmed the $45 million offer, which was made several days ago
and was first reported by The New York Times.

"The ball's in their court," Steinbrenner said. "If they
still want to look for more somewhere else, that's up to them."

Rivera's agent, Fernando Cuza, did not return telephone

Mets closer Billy Wagner is the highest-paid reliever, averaging
$10.75 million during his $43 million, four-year contract. Only
four pitchers are signed for next year at higher average salaries
than the Yankees' proposal to Rivera: Carlos Zambrano ($18.3
million), Barry Zito ($18 million), Jason Schmidt ($15.7 million)
and Atlanta's Mike Hampton ($15.1 million).

In addition, the Yankees have a standing $16 million offer to
Andy Pettitte, who hasn't decided whether to pitch or retire.

Yankees general manager Brian Cashman was more guarded in his
comments about Rivera than Steinbrenner was.

"He's a free agent and he's fielding offers from other clubs.
He's certainly received offers from us," Cashman said.

Posada decided not to test the free-agent market and accepted a
deal averaging $13.1 million, the most for a catcher in baseball
history. Before Monday, the Yankees had offered a three-year
contract to the 36-year-old catcher.

Steinbrenner wasn't concerned that Posada will be 40 when the
deal expires.

"He's a catcher, but he can also later on be a DH,"
Steinbrenner said. "I'm fine with keeping his bat another four
years. And as far as the salary is concerned, he was pretty
logical. You can't argue with that. He didn't go nuts with what he
asked for."

Steinbrenner said it was too early to evaluate the trade market.
Florida is dangling third baseman Miguel Cabrera, and teams are
waiting for the Minnesota Twins to determine if they can re-sign
ace Johan Santana. If not, they might listen to offers for the
two-time Cy Young Award winner.

"Everybody is just probing, including Brian," Steinbrenner
said. "The only probing we've done thus far is on Cabrera.
Obviously, there will be an interest in Santana. Everything with
Santana and Cabrera is very preliminary right now."