Posada second-highest paid catcher in game

NEW YORK -- Jorge Posada became the second-highest paid
catcher in baseball Sunday when he signed a $51 million,
five-year contract with the New York Yankees.

Posada's annual average of $10.2 million is second among
catchers to the Mets' Mike Piazza, who averages $13 million in a
$91 million, seven-year deal that began in 1999. Pittsburgh catcher
Jason Kendall is third with a $10 million average under a six-year
deal that began last season.

Playing with a sore shoulder last season, Posada batted .277
with 22 homers -- including three grand slams -- and 95 RBI. He hit
.287 with 28 homers and 86 RBI after taking over from Joe Girardi
as the Yankees' top catcher following the 1999 season.

He had surgery after the 2001 season to repair a small labrum
tear in the right shoulder. The Yankees say that Posada should be
ready to play by Opening Day.

Posada can terminate the deal after receiving $21.5 million over
the first three years and become eligible for free agency after the
2004 season. The Yankees have an option for an additional season
that could make the contract worth $63 million.

The sides used Kendall's deal and Charles Johnson's $35 million,
five-year contract with Florida to evaluate Posada's worth. Ivan Rodriguez, heading into the final season of a $42.5 million,
five-year contract with Texas, figures to get the next big deal
among catchers, either as an extension or as a free agent after the

Posada's contract calls for a $15 million signing bonus -- $1.5
million payable this year, $2 million in 2003, $3 million in 2004,
$4 million in 2005 and $4.5 million in 2006.

Posada gets yearly salaries of $4 million in 2002, $5 million in
2003, $6 million in 2004, $8 million in 2005 and $9 million in

New York's 2007 option is at $12 million with a $4 million
buyout, and the salary would become guaranteed if Posada has a
combined 330 appearances at catcher during the 2004, 2005 and 2006
seasons. If the option is exercised, Posada would receive the
buyout in 2008.

The deal avoids a salary arbitration hearing. Posada, who made
$4.05 million last year, had asked for $7.75 million -- the highest
number submitted among the 42 players who exchanged figures with
their clubs on Jan. 18. The Yankees offered $6.7 million.

Shane Spencer remains the last New York player in arbitration,
and his hearing is set for Wednesday in Tampa, Fla. Spencer, who
made $320,000 last season, asked for $1.2 million and was offered

After missing the second half of the 2000 season because of knee
surgery, Spencer came back slowly last year, hitting .258 with 10
homers and 46 RBIs in 283 at-bats.

New York agreed Saturday to one-year deals with pitchers Orlando Hernandez ($3.2 million) and Ramiro Mendoza ($2.6 million). The
Yankees previously gave a $720,000, one-year contract to infielder
Enrique Wilson.