Mets, Orioles lose out on first baseman

MIAMI -- Carlos Delgado wanted to play for a contender, and
the Florida Marlins look like one now.

Delgado agreed Tuesday to a $52 million, four-year contract. The
deal, which includes an option year making it potentially worth $64
million over five seasons, is contingent on the Delgado passing a
physical Wednesday.

"I feel Florida offers me a real opportunity to win a
championship, which is what I'm looking for at this stage of my
career," Delgado told a Puerto Rican newspaper, El Vocero. "This
is a very talented team, very aggresive at the plate. They have a
good combination of speed and power."

With the addition of the free-agent first baseman, Florida
becomes perhaps the team to beat in the NL East.

"It's a spectacular day for the franchise," owner Jeffrey
Loria said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press.
"I'm going to spring training tomorrow. I'm not waiting."

The Marlins won the World Series in 1997 and 2003 but still are
seeking their first division title. They also want to win support
for a new ballpark.

"We're about trying to be a very competitive ballclub, and the
stadium will take care of itself in due time," Loria said. "But Carlos
certainly is not going to hurt that effort."

The Marlins landed the most formidable left-handed power hitter
in their 12-season history, and it took the franchise's richest
per-season deal to do it. Florida won out over the New York Mets,
Texas and Baltimore.

The Mets also made a $52 million, four-year offer, of which $2
million was the buyout of a fifth-year option.

"You can't win them all," Mets general manager Omar Minaya
said. "You don't like losing, but those things happen."

Delgado's side calculated that in present-day value, New York's offer was worth $30,000 more than Florida's.

"From day one, we have told everyone that Carlos would make his
choice based on where he felt he had the best chance to win a World
Series," wrote his agent, David Sloane, in an e-mail. "I'm proud
to say that is exactly why he made the choice he made."

Delgado receives just $4 million this year but makes $13.5
million in 2006, $14.5 million in 2007 and $16 million in 2008,
according to terms obtained by the AP. The agreement includes a $16
million option for 2009 that would become guaranteed based on how
Delgado does in MVP voting and whether he earns postseason MVP

Normally, vesting options are based on games played or plate appearances. However, Delgado can guarantee his fifth year based only on a creative point system.

He would get 10 points for winning the NL MVP award and nine for finishing
second and so on under a formula that gives him one point for
finishing 10th. He would get 20 points if he's the World Series MVP
and 10 if he's the league championship series MVP.

His MVP clause is also unique. According to ESPN.com Jayson Stark, Delgado would earn a $100,000 bonus if he wins an MVP award. But according to a source familiar with the contract, he also can earn $50,000 if he finishes second to the guy who wins this award every year -- Barry Bonds. If he finishes second to anyone else, he would not collect that bonus.

If the option year doesn't become guaranteed, Florida would have
the right to exercise a $12 million option. If the option is
declined, Delgado would get a $4 million buyout.

The contract's structure is also unusual. You don't see many $52-million contracts in which the salary in the first season is only $4 million. But the Marlins needed to backload the deal because they owe Pudge Rodriguez and Mike Hampton a combined $13 million this year not to play for them. They'll be out from under those I.O.U.'s in 2006.

Delgado also received several other, more standard, award bonuses: $25,000 if he wins a Gold Glove; $25,000 if he wins a Silver Slugger award; $25,000 for making the all-star team; $50,000 for winning a World Series MVP award, and $100,000 for winning an LCS MVP award.

According to sources who had spoken with the Mets, the Mets offered Delgado a full no-trade clause (something the Marlins have declined to give to any player), along with more up-front money, a luxury suite in the stadium and a larger award-bonus package, Stark reports.

The Mets had offered Delgado a much more lucrative MVP clause than the Marlins: $500,000 for one MVP award, $1 million if he won two, $1.5 million if he won three.

Delgado's agent, David Sloane, told Stark that while those added perks meant Delgado "left a lot of potential money on the table," this wasn't about perks and dollars.

The Marlins made an initial offer of $35 million for three
years, then went even higher to win the bidding. The contract will
push their payroll above $56 million for the first time.

Delgado, 32, batted .269 with 32 homers and 99 RBI last season.
He also drew attention for protesting the U.S.-Iraq war by refusing
to stand when "God Bless America" was played at ballparks across
the majors.

He hit at least 30 homers each of the past eight seasons, all
with Toronto.

"He's got numbers that are quite spectacular," Loria said.
"It's always 30 to 40-something home runs, always 100-plus RBIss,
and it's a presence and a kind of person we like to have on this

The Marlins were 11th in the NL in runs and 12th in homers last
year. Their top left-handed hitter, Juan Pierre, totaled three home

Even so, Florida was in the race for a wild-card berth until
mid-September, finishing 83-79, 13 games behind division winner
Atlanta. The team lost ace Carl Pavano and closer Armando Benitez
to free agency but added veteran left-hander Al Leiter and has
slotted Guillermo Mota to be the closer.

The lineup will include Pierre, Luis Castillo, All-Stars Miguel Cabrera, Mike Lowell and Paul Lo Duca -- and now Delgado. A news
conference was tentatively set for Thursday.

Florida sealed the deal 10 days after Delgado flew from his
native Puerto Rico to Miami and spent 5½ hours with team officials,
including Loria.

Texas withdrew its $48 million, four-year offer on Sunday. The
Orioles also offered $48 million over four years.

"We went above and beyond where we felt comfortable to push it
to a resolution in our favor," Orioles executive vice president
Jim Beattie said. "We're disappointed. People will classify this
as a failure, but it's not for lack of effort."

Sloane was happy all the negotiations were over.

"If I was going to have a book written about this, it would be
tough to choose the author between Hunter S. Thompson and Dr.
Seuss," he said.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.