When Mariano Rivera got his long-term contract, New York Yankees manager Joe Torre seemed even happier than his top reliever.
And why not? Torre now knows he can keep bringing in baseball's best closer for the next few years.
"He's earned it by the way he's pitched. He's the best around right now," Torre said Friday after Rivera avoided arbitration with a $39.99 million, four-year contract. "If he hasn't been our MVP, he's one of them. It's really hard to win without a closer."
Ending the last full week of salary arbitration, Terry Adams beat the Dodgers, leaving Los Angeles at the top of the payroll chart.
Colorado pitcher Gabe White agreed to a three-year deal worth $7,125,000, and Atlanta second baseman Quilvio Veras ($3.9 million) and Boston pitcher Rolando Arrojo ($1,625,000) agreed to one-year contracts.
Owners have a 6-5 lead in cases decided thus far. Just seven players remain in arbitration, a group that includes Chicago Cubs pitcher Kerry Wood and Atlanta outfielder Andruw Jones.
Rivera, who was eligible for free agency following the season, became baseball's highest-paid reliever.
"It was a relief," the slender 31-year-old right-hander said. "Not that I was thinking about it 100 percent, it was in the back of my mind."
Rivera, MVP of the 1999 World Series, gets an $8 million signing bonus payable over four years; $7.15 million this season; $7.45 million in 2002; $8.5 million in 2003; and $8.89 million in 2004.
His average salary of $9,997,500 tops San Francisco reliever Robb Nen, who averages $8,125,000 under a $32.5 million, four-year contract that starts this season.
Yankees owner George Steinbrenner insisted that Rivera's deal be for less than $40 million, so the sides agreed at $10,000 less.
Rivera received a no-trade clause for the first two years of the contract. He also can terminate the deal after two seasons and become eligible for free agency. If he does that, he loses the final $4 million of the signing bonus, meaning he will have received $18.6 million for two years.
At about the same time Rivera's deal was finalized, Adams got a raise from $1.4 million to $2.6 million under the decision by arbitrators Dan Brent, James Gross and William Holley, who heard the case Thursday in Phoenix.
Los Angeles argued that Adams should be paid $1.95 million. Adams, a right-hander who turns 28 next month, was 6-9 with a 3.52 ERA and two saves in 66 relief appearances last season.
With 23 players signed, the Dodgers' payroll is at $110,655,953, including prorated shares of signing bonuses. The only players left to sign aren't eligible for salary arbitration, meaning their salaries will be small.
The Yankees' payroll is second at $109,935,143, also for 23 players.
Boston is third at $107,813,333 for 23 players, with pitcher Rich Garces remaining in arbitration and likely to make $1.5 million. In addition, pitcher David Cone's salary goes up by $1 million if he makes the opening roster, and Boston has two non-roster pitchers who could make the team: Pete Schourek ($1 million) and Kent Mercker ($750,000).
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