Maddux sets one-year salary record

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, February 18, 2003

ATLANTA (AP) -- Greg Maddux is used to setting records. On Monday, he claimed another.

The four-time Cy Young Award winner avoided an arbitration hearing by agreeing to the largest one-year contract in baseball history, a $14.75 million deal with the Atlanta Braves.

The previous record for a one-year contract was pitcher David Cone's $12 million deal with the New York Yankees in 2000.

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Maddux became a free agent after winning 16 games last season, but failed to draw much interest in the open market. He accepted the Braves' offer of arbitration in December, binding him to the team for the 2003 season.

Maddux had asked for $16 million and the Braves countered with an offer of $13.5 million.

The two sides split the difference, agreeing on a contract right in the middle and avoiding a hearing that was scheduled for Thursday in St. Petersburg, Fla.

''Greg called me (Sunday) and told me he had indications from the team that they wanted to make a step toward settlement,'' said Maddux's agent, Scott Boras. ''He directed me to look at that, which we did.''

Maddux, who will be 37 shortly after opening day, went 16-6 with a 2.62 ERA last season. He tied Cy Young as the only pitchers in baseball history to win at least 15 games in 15 consecutive seasons.

''We're delighted this issue is resolved and that we can now focus on his stature as a pitcher and his production for our team,'' Braves general manager John Schuerholz said.

Maddux is coming off one of his toughest seasons. Nagging injuries (back, calf, neck, side) limited the right-hander to just 199 1-3 innings -- fewest since he was a rookie with the Chicago Cubs in 1987. He averaged only 5.9 innings per start and failed to pitch a complete game for the first time in his 16-year career.

Maddux was the first pitcher to win four consecutive Cy Young awards, a feat he accomplished from 1992-95. Arizona's Randy Johnson tied the record last season with his fourth in a row.

In 2002, Maddux made $13.1 million in the final season of a $57.5 million, five-year contract.

If Maddux's case had gone to a hearing, he was assured of breaking the arbitration record, win or lose. Braves outfielder Andruw Jones received the highest amount ever from an arbitrator, getting $8.2 million in 2001.

''We wanted to do a one-year deal because Greg has to make some personal decisions with regard to his family,'' Boras said.

Maddux, who lives in Las Vegas during the offseason, has a 9-year-old daughter and a 5-year-old son. There has been speculation he would like to finish his career with a team closer to his home.

Likewise, the Braves are not expected to pursue the aging pitcher beyond 2003. Maddux will be their highest-paid player, and the team is intent on trimming salaries after claiming losses of more than $20 million each of the last two years.

It appears the cost-cutting moves already are working. With several lesser salaries still to be determined, the Braves are projected to have a payroll of around $91.3 million at the start of this season -- a cut from last year's $94.5 million on opening day.

Even so, Atlanta should remain among the top 10 highest-spending teams in 2003.