ATLANTA -- The Atlanta Braves, locking in their starting rotation through the year 2000, made Greg Maddux the highest-paid player in baseball yesterday, signing him to a five-year contract worth a guaranteed $11.5 million a year.
"I'm glad to be a Brave for another five years," said Maddux, 31, a four-time Cy Young Award winner who was in the final year of a five-year contract that paid him $5.8 million a year. "I'm definitely glad to get it done."
Braves general manager John Schuerholz and Maddux's agent, Scott Boras, said there was almost no haggling over the contract, which runs through 2002.
"Greg said this was the number he felt like he needed to have to stay," Schuerholz said. "We decided that even though it was a very expensive deal -- our most expensive deal ever -- that it was the right thing to do for the organization. A guy of that caliber, the accomplishments he has, what he means to the stability of our pitching staff and our team translated into our recognizing that we had to pay the big bucks to keep him."
Boras said the only issue was paying Maddux a salary higher than any everyday position player. "This deal doesn't happen if there wasn't a shortage of pitching," he said. "Our industry is starved for pitching."
The last pitcher to lead the majors in salary was Roger Clemens, whose 1991 deal with Boston was worth $5.38 million a year.
Tom Glavine, who signed a four-year deal with the Braves earlier this season, becomes baseball's second highest-paid pitcher at $8.5 million a year. The Braves' other two regular starters, John Smoltz and Denny Neagle, are both signed through 2000, Smoltz for an average of $7.75 million a year and Neagle for an average of $4.8 million. So beginning next season, the Braves' average annual payroll for the top four in their rotation will be $32.55 million.
Before yesterday, San Francisco outfielder Barry Bonds had baseball's highest salary with a two-year extension beginning in 1999 worth about $11.45 million a year.
Maddux receives an immediate $3 million signing bonus and will earn $9 million next year; $10 million in 1999, $10.5 million in 2000 and then $12.5 million in each of the last two years of his contract. That makes for a total of $57.5 million.
Maddux, who signed with the Braves as a free agent five years ago, said players occasionally struggle after signing a big contract because "a lot of times your life changes. I don't see my life changing a whole lot. I live in the same house. I go to the same park. I'm not going to have those worries."
So Maddux, who is 15-3 with a 2.36 ERA, will just go to work as usual. His next job will come tonight as he faces Florida.
"[Atlanta] made me a nice deal," said Maddux, who has 120 victories since 1991, the most in the majors. "I'd be a fool not to take it. Sometimes the grass isn't greener on the other side. Nobody likes to lose and the Braves have a history of doing what it takes to win."
Highest baseball salaries, according to Associated Press reports (*-average in millions):
Player, club .. .. .. .. Years Avg.*
Greg Maddux, Atl . .. .. '98-02 $11.50
Barry Bonds, SF .. .. .. '99-00 $11.45
Albert Belle, CWS ... .. '97-01 $11.00
Sammy Sosa, Cubs . .. .. '98-01 $10.63
Gary Sheffield, Fla . .. '98-03 $10.17
Ken Griffey, Sea . .. .. '97-00 $8.50
Tom Glavine, Atl . .. .. '98-01 $8.50
Ivan Rodriguez, Tex . .. '98-02 $8.40
Roger Clemens, Tor .. .. '97-99 $8.25
John Smoltz, Atl . .. .. '97-00 $7.75
Pub Date: 8/11/97