Mets keep El Duque with two-year, $12M deal

NEW YORK -- The New York Mets have so much confidence in
41-year-old Orlando Hernandez, they're ready to keep him for two
more seasons.

Hernandez and the Mets agreed Tuesday to a $12 million, two-year
contract, filling a spot in an aging New York rotation that was
ravaged by injuries during the team's playoff run last season.

El Duque, acquired from Arizona in May, went 9-7 with a 4.09 ERA
in 20 starts for the Mets. He was in line to start the team's
playoff opener against the Los Angeles Dodgers before injuring his
calf while jogging in the outfield.

Hernandez, who turned 41 last month, gets a $1 million signing
bonus, $4.5 million next year and $6.5 million in 2008.

"There's a lot of guys out there right now close to his age
that are pitching well," general manager Omar Minaya said at the
GM meetings in Naples, Fla. "The way the marketplace is, I didn't
think it would be realistic to sign Orlando Hernandez for one year.
He stays in shape. He's a hard worker. If you wanted to get him,
you were going to give him two years."

New York also finalized a $3.8 million, one-year contract with
second baseman Jose Valentin. The deal includes a $4.3 million team
option for 2008 that would become guaranteed if he has 400 plate
appearances next year.

"We're happy to get both these guys. These guys were a big part
of our team this year," Minaya said. "The fact that we have these
two players on board, we pretty much have most of our team in tact
going into next year."

Hernandez missed the division series and the NL Championship
Series, but appeared ready to return for the World Series had the
Mets advanced that far. New York lost the NLCS to St. Louis in
seven games.

El Duque has an 81-60 career record with a 4.19 ERA in eight
major league seasons with the Yankees, Chicago White Sox and
Diamondbacks since leaving Cuba.

"It's always easier to sign a guy that you know already than to
bring in a guy that you don't know already," Minaya said. "How
many guys can come in there and you know he's going to perform in
New York? And to me, that's huge. El Duque has proven that he can
pitch in New York."

The Mets already know they'll be without Pedro Martinez for the
first half of next season. The three-time Cy Young Award winner is
recovering from shoulder surgery.

New York hopes to re-sign Tom Glavine, who hasn't decided
whether to stay or try to return to Atlanta, his team from

"It's going to have a lot of weight, being close to his
family," Minaya acknowledged. "What we're building here, we want
him to be part of it.

"I'm not rushing him to make this decision," Minaya said.
"He's a future Hall of Famer. He's been a great citizen for this
club. He's earned at least the right for us to be patient with him
and give him time to make this decision."

Valentin is coming off a resurgent season, when he batted .271
with 18 homers and 62 RBI. His consistent production and steady
defense made him a big surprise after he took over the everyday job
at second base.

Minaya said he's comfortable going into next season with the
37-year-old Valentin as the team's starter at second again, but the
GM said that wouldn't stop him from exploring the market for
infielders. He said Valentin would get plenty of at-bats next
season -- no matter where he plays.

"He gives me a lot of versatility," Minaya said. "He protects
me up the middle. He protects me in other areas. I can go in the
marketplace knowing that I don't have to do something."

Minaya said the Mets have spoken to the agents for
free-agent outfielder Cliff Floyd and reliever Chad Bradford and
presented verbal offers that are being considered. ... Minaya asked
manager Willie Randolph to formulate a list of possible
replacements for third-base coach Manny Acta, hired Tuesday to
manage the Washington Nationals.