NEW YORK -- Discussions of Jon Niese's contract extension began in early March, weeks before Mets owners Fred Wilpon and Saul Katz settled their court case, closed on 12 minority ownership sales and paid back $65 million of outstanding loans.
"We may have reached this contract agreement anyway," general manager Sandy Alderson said Saturday, after the Mets announced Niese's five-year deal at a pregame news conference at Citi Field. "But it is hard to ignore the fact that these other issues were resolved."
Whether driven by outside influences or not, Niese's deal became official Saturday at a small pregame gathering. Worth $25.5 million over five seasons, the deal includes team options for the 2017 and '18 seasons that could increase its total value to $46 million.
"It's just an honor to play for the Mets organization," Niese said. "The fans, they're excellent. The city of New York is excellent, and I just love our teammates. I think we all get along. I love being a part of them, I get along with them and I just love playing with them."
In signing the deal, Niese became the only Mets player under guaranteed contract beyond 2013, though Jason Bay and Johan Santana both hold options for the '14 season. Niese is under contract through at least '16, and potentially longer should the Mets exercise one or both of his options.
It is a bit of a risk for the Mets, considering Niese, 25, has never thrown more than 173 2/3 innings or produced an ERA less than 4.20 over parts of four big league seasons. But the Mets are smitten with the left-hander's career ground-ball rate and five-pitch repertoire, and they believe he should at least remain a solid middle-of-the-rotation starter throughout the balance of this decade.
Had the Mets not extended Niese, he would have been arbitration-eligible for the first time after this season, likely commanding somewhere in the neighborhood of $5 million. From that perspective, the total value of his new contract is not much more than the Mets would have paid had they proceeded year by year with Niese throughout arbitration. But the latter route would have prevented the Mets from buying out at least one, and as many as three, of his free agent seasons at potentially reasonable rates. Niese would have been eligible to leave the Mets for the first time after 2015.
"What we're looking to do is build a core of players that can be Mets and make the Mets competitive for a long period of time," Alderson said. "I think Jonathon fits into that mold for us."