Mets Agree to Terms With Pitcher Kelvim Escobar

NEW YORK — After missing out on top arms this offseason, the New York Mets are ready to try a questionable one.

Injury-plagued pitcher Kelvim Escobar
and the Mets reached a preliminary agreement on a $1.25 million,
one-year contract, a person familiar with the negotiations confirmed
Saturday.

The person spoke to The AssociatPublished
Press on condition of anonymity because no announcement had been made.
The deal could be announced by Sunday.

Escobar, an 18-game winner in 2007,
missed nearly all of the past two seasons with the Los Angeles Angels
because of shoulder trouble. If healthy, he would likely work out of
the bullpen for the Mets, who are looking for setup help for All-Star
closer Francisco Rodriguez following a 70-92 season.

The 33-year-old Escobar has extensive
relief experience from his days in Toronto. He came up with the Blue
Jays in 1997 and saved 38 games in 2002.

The right-hander was cleared a few
weeks ago to pitch in winter ball by Mets medical director Dr. David
Altchek
, who performed Escobar's shoulder surgery to repair a torn
labrum in July 2008.

Now that he has a deal in place,
however, Escobar plans to skip winter ball. After the holidays, he will
return to Florida and focus on preparing for spring training, working
out with Mets ace Johan Santana and Chris Correnti, a minor league
pitching rehabilitation trainer.

Escobar would get a $125,000 bonus
for making New York's opening-day roster. He could also earn $2 million
in performance bonuses based on games pitched and another $1 million
for games finished.

After going 18-7 with a 3.40 ERA in
30 starts for the Angels in 2007, Escobar missed the following season
because of his shoulder injury. He struggled to get healthy last
season, making it back for only one major league start that lasted five
innings.

Escobar filed for free agency this
offseason and was not offered arbitration by Los Angeles. He is 101-91
with a 4.15 ERA and 59 saves in 411 major league games, including 202
starts.

The Mets had their own health issues
this year. A bewildering string of key injuries sent them into a
season-long tailspin that ended with a fourth-place finish in the NL
East during the club's first year at pitcher-friendly Citi Field.

Already disgruntled by that debacle,
grumbling fans have spent the offseason wondering how the big-budget
Mets missed out on free-agent right-hander John Lackey, who signed with
Boston, and ace Roy Halladay, who was traded from Toronto to
Philadelphia.

Randy Wolf, Rich Harden and Jason
Marquis
are among the established pitchers who signed elsewhere. New
York did agree to a $3 million, two-year contract with Japanese
reliever Ryota Igarashi, another setup candidate.

The Mets are still pursuing free-agent left fielder Jason Bay and catcher Bengie Molina.

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