M.L. JOHNSON Associated Press MILWAUKEE -
NL championship series MVP Jeff Suppan reached a preliminary agreement Sunday on a $42 million, four-year contract with the Milwaukee Brewers.
Suppan must pass a physical for the deal to be finalized, the Brewers said in a rare Christmas Eve announcement. His contract includes a team option for 2011 with a $2 million buyout.
"He gives us a big-game pitcher. He's shown that last year," Brewers general manager Doug Melvin said during a telephone conference call.
A 31-year-old right-hander, Suppan went 12-7 with a 4.12 ERA for St. Louis this year - including a 6-2 mark with a 2.39 ERA in 15 starts after the All-Star break. He was 1-1 in four postseason starts, including a win in Game 3 and seven solid innings in Game 7 of the NLCS against the New York Mets. He is 44-26 with a 3.95 ERA over the last three regular seasons, tied for ninth in the major leagues in wins.
Suppan met Tuesday with Brewers officials, and the team made an offer the following day, when Suppan met with New York Mets executives. His agent, Scott Leventhal, negotiated through the weekend with Melvin.
Leventhal said there was no temptation to wait until after Barry Zito decided where to sign - when the teams that failed to get the left-hander might bid up Suppan's price.
"All along we controlled the tempo of our own negotiations. We understood a marketplace would open up once Zito dropped," Leventhal said. "Sup's whole thing was to go at his own pace and make his decision on when he felt was the best time. He felt today was the best time."
Melvin said Suppan's durability was an attraction for the Brewers, who struggled last season when Ben Sheets and Tomo Ohka got hurt. Suppan has made 31 or more starts in eight straight seasons, throwing 180 or more innings each time.
"This obviously will be the largest improvement, adding a pitcher of this stature," Melvin said.
Milwaukee needed a durable starting pitcher after trading Doug Davis to Arizona for pitcher Claudio Vargas, catcher Johnny Estrada and pitcher Greg Aquino.
Suppan has pitched for Boston (1995-97, 2003), Arizona (1998), Kansas City (1998-2002), Pittsburgh (2003) and St. Louis (2004-06). He has reached double figures in wins seven times, and has a career record of 106-101 with a 4.60 ERA.
Milwaukee, coming off a 75-87 record and fourth-place finish in the NL Central, has a projected rotation that includes left-hander Chris Capuano and right-handers Ben Sheets, Dave Bush, Vargas and Suppan.
In the NLCS, Suppan pitched eight shutout innings for the victory in Game 3, then allowed one run over seven innings in Game 7, which the Cardinals went on to win 3-1 on Yadier Molina's two-run homer in the ninth. St. Louis then went on to beat Detroit in five games for the World Series title.
Brewers owner Mark Attanasio said that kind of performance was important to him as he tries to make the Brewers a "perennially competitive" team.
"What you want to do is add a winner," Attanasio said.
Leventhal said the pitcher saw the Brewers as a team with potential.
"I think he feels like it's a team that has tremendous talent, it's got a mix of young guys and veterans, all with talent," he said.
Leventhal said Suppan was at a Christmas Eve Mass and could not be reached for comment. Milwaukee's decision to meet with Suppan proved key, and Leventhal said in the end the decision was "a no-brainer."
"We had a real nice dinner at Mark's home," Leventhal said. "That was somewhat of a turning point from our perspective, to be able to sit down the with manager, who flew in, the GM, who flew in, and sit down at the owner's house."
Suppan generated some controversy during the World Series when he appeared in a television commercial and a print ad opposing a Missouri amendment to permit embryonic stem cell research. The amendment passed by a narrow margin.
Attanasio invited the pitcher and his agent to dinner at his home last week.
"It was a very relaxed evening," Attanasio said. "There was a lot of give and take, I got to know Jeff. I came away impressed."