NL West champion Padres sign Piazza to one-year deal

Monday, January 30, 2006

SAN DIEGO -- All-Star catcher Mike Piazza agreed Sunday to a $2 million, one-year contract with the San Diego Padres, giving the defending NL West champions a marquee player they think can still contribute.

Piazza, 37, had been interested in signing a free-agent deal with an AL team to become a designated hitter. Instead, he'll stay in the NL and return to the West Coast for the first time since the Los Angeles Dodgers traded him to Florida in 1998.

The 12-time All-Star holds the major league record for most career home runs by a catcher (374). He has 397 homers overall, and is a career .311 hitter.

The deal is expected to be announced on Monday. It includes a mutual option for 2007 at $8 million.

"The Padres told Mike that he could pretty much catch as much as he wanted to," said Piazza's agent, Dan Lozano.

Piazza is hoping to catch about 90-100 games this season, along with playing some first base and being the DH in interleague games.

Piazza became a free agent after last season, when he hit .251 with 19 homers and 62 RBIs in 113 games for the New York Mets. It was his lowest batting average since he hit .232 in 69 at-bats with the Dodgers in 1992, his first season in the big leagues.

Still, his 19 homers would have led the power-poor Padres. Ryan Klesko hit 18 for San Diego, which struggled to the division title before being swept out of the playoffs by the St. Louis Cardinals.

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