Agent: Ex-Rockies catcher to agree to deal with Mets

Free-agent catcher Yorvit Torrealba will agree to a three-year contract with the New York Mets on Thursday, according to Torrealba's agent, Melvin Roman.

Roman declined to reveal how much the contract would be worth, but a person familiar with the talks told The Associated Press that Torrealba and the Mets were closing in on a $14.4 million,
three-year contract. GM Omar Minaya did not immediately return a message seeking comment.

If Torrealba passes a physical, an announcement is expected by Saturday.

Torrealba, 29, is expected to be the starter. Ramon Castro will remain the backup but will receive more playing time than he did when Paul Lo Duca was the Mets' starting catcher. Lo Duca is also a free agent.

Last season, Torrealba hit .255 with eight homers and 47 RBIs for the NL champion Colorado Rockies. As a hitter, he showed a large disparity on the road as compared to Coors Field. Torrealba hit .296 with six homers and 34 RBIs in Denver, while he batted just .212 with two homers and 13 RBIs on the road.

The Mets, though, are signing Torrealba mainly for his defense. Rockies pitchers gave Torrealba a lot of credit for how he called a game, though he did not have a high success rate when trying to throw runners out.

Torrealba only caught 13-of-74 base-stealers, while the man he replaces, Lo Duca, nailed 17-of-89.

"We didn't see him a lot last year. Obviously, he was in the
World Series and we got a chance to see him a little bit. I like
the way he receives the ball," Mets manager Willie Randolph said
Thursday night at third baseman David Wright's charity gala.

There are not a lot of catchers that really throw above
average in the market, so everyone was kind of in the same boat,
basically," he added. "It just depends on what you're looking for
and what you want for your team. Not too many Johnny Benches,
that's for sure."

Torrealba played in 113 games lasts season, by far his most as a major-leaguer. In his previous seven seasons, Torrealba had only topped 60 games three times, peaking a 66 in 2003 with the San Francisco Giants.

The Rockies and Florida Marlins were believed to be the other two teams interested in Torrealba.

The Mets' first choice to replace Lo Duca was Jorge Posada, but the New York Yankees never gave the Mets a chance to offer Posada any money. Just before open free agency began this week, the Yankees extended Posada a four-year, $52.4 million offer that he accepted.

Castro filed for free agency after hitting .285 with 11 home runs and 31 RBIs in 144 at-bats during an injury-shortened season. He has spent the past three years with the Mets, serving as the primary backup to Mike Piazza in 2005 and then Lo Duca the past two years.

The 35-year-old Lo Duca, a four-time NL All-Star from 2003-06, is also a free agent. A fiery voice in the clubhouse who provided leadership in New York, he hit .272 with nine homers and 54 RBIs in 119 games this year for the Mets, who collapsed in September and missed the playoffs.

"I'm still not over it. It's been tough," Randolph said. "It's going to take a while for me."

The manager said he thought Lo Duca was looking for a three- or four-year deal.

"Every year, things change," Randolph said. "This year, yes, I thought he brought a lot to this year, but that doesn't mean that you hold onto a guy because of that. Hopefully, you bring other guys in that maybe can pick up that slack. But each year is totally different."

Andrew Marchand is the managing editor of 1050 ESPN Radio in New York.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.