In a departure from the deflating austerity that has marked the franchise's recent history, the Mets struck a deal Friday with free-agent outfielder Curtis Granderson, a three-time All-Star whose bat has the potential to instantly invigorate a lineup in need of some punch.
Granderson will sign a four-year, $60-million contract pending a physical, sources confirmed, the final step in completing the team's pursuit of the former Yankees slugger. In both dollars and years, it is easily the largest free-agent contract agreed upon by Sandy Alderson since he took over as general manager after the 2010 season.
Since then, Alderson and the Mets have been forced to bide their time, working with budgets severely limited by the combination of free-agent contracts gone bad and fallout from the Bernard Madoff financial scandal.
This year, the Mets bought out the $5.5-million option on Johan Santana's six-year, $137.5-million deal and bought out the final year of Jason Bay's ill-fated four-year, $66-million contract. But until Granderson signed, questions swirled among frustrated fans about whether the Mets actually would use that payroll flexibility to improve a team that hasn't had a winning season since 2008.
Plenty of work remains for the Mets, who have long viewed 2014 as a critical jumping-off point for what Alderson hopes is a sustained run of success. They must find a steady veteran to fill out the rotation and somehow upgrade at shortstop. But the addition of Granderson fulfilled the Mets' biggest goal of signing a power-hitting outfielder.
The lefthanded batter totaled 84 homers in two seasons for the Yankees before enduring an injury-plagued 2013 campaign in which he hit .229 with seven homers in 61 games.
In a market devoid of much power, Granderson declined the Yankees' $14.1-million qualifying offer to test the waters. In the Mets, he found a willing suitor.
"There's not a lot of guys out there that provide it, but he's one guy that provides some offense," a team insider said this week.
Priced out of entertaining the game's upper-echelon free agents, the Mets targeted Granderson, whose injury-shortened season placed him within the team's price range. He quickly emerged as the Mets' best hope for adding an impact presence to pair with third baseman David Wright in the middle of the lineup.
The Mets ranked 12th in the National League in home runs and 11th in runs scored last season, underscoring the need to improve the offense.
A year ago, the Mets spent only $5 million on free agents. But they eclipsed that earlier in the offseason just by signing outfielder Chris Young to a one-year, $7.25-million deal.
Once official, Granderson's deal will eclipse Frank Francisco's two-year, $12-million contract as the most expensive free-agent pact awarded by Alderson in his time as Mets GM.
The length of the deal presents risks for the Mets, who have been burned by long contracts. Granderson has been a centerfielder for most of his career, but a source said the Mets intend to play the 32-year-old in one of the corner outfield spots, most likely in leftfield. His power also comes with trade-offs -- such as a high strikeout rate and low batting average.
Nevertheless, the Mets believe Granderson will maintain much of his power, even with the switch from hitter-friendly Yankee Stadium to pitcher-friendly Citi Field.
"I don't think we'd look at him if we didn't think he would be a good player for us," the team insider said. "Does that mean he would hit 40 homers for us? I'm not sure. But we think there's some power there that would play for us."
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