Dwight Gooden is now a $5 million-a-year man, the highest paid player in the National League, yet his agent said maybe they should renegotiate.

April Fool!Gooden jumped into second place in the major league salary wars Monday behind Boston right-hander Roger Clemens by signing a three-year contract extension worth a guaranteed $15.45 million.

The average annual value of $5.15 million fell shy of Clemens' yearly haul, which will average $5,380,250 during a four-year extension he agreed to on Feb. 8. The two former Cy Young Award winners are the only players with contracts averaging $5 million a year or more.

"I'm delighted and excited that Doc Gooden signed for the 1992-93-94 seasons, which will be his ninth, 10th and 11th seasons with the Mets," said Al Harazin, executive vice president, at a news conference.

"He is the heart and soul of the club," Harazin said. "And that's not an idle line. It's how the people in our clubhouse feel.

"In general, it was a unique contract for a unique player. He will be the best paid player in the National League."

Gooden has a lifetime record of 119-46, the highest winning percentage of any pitcher in baseball history who has won more than 100 games.

"If I knew you were going to say all those nice things, I would have asked for $6 million," joked Gooden's agent, Jim Neader, drawing a laugh from the about a dozen reporters on hand.

"Jim had predicted it would be a very difficult negotiation, and a couple of weeks ago it looked like the negotiations had collapsed," Harazin said.

"A principle factor was the Roger Clemens contract. They felt their pitcher was as good if not better than Clemens, and we agreed and found a way to do it," he said.

"The Clemens contract put a lot of pressure on both sides. We had to go higher than we anticipated."

"It was important (to be No. 1), but when it's that close, it doesn't really matter," Gooden said.

The extension includes a total of $750,000 in performance bonuses that would make the right-hander's contract worth more than Clemens' deal.

"It depends on how you look at it (whether highest paid or not)," Gooden said.

Neader referred several times to $5.4 (million) as Gooden's average take per year, including all the incentives, which would make his client No. 1.

"I'd say yes, with an asterisk," Neader said. "I think in the end he will be."

Gooden will be making $2.25 million this year in the final season of a three-year contract worth $6.7 million. When he agreed to the deal on Feb. 8, 1989, it made him the highest-paid player in baseball. But Clemens passed him one week later with a three-year $7.5 million contract.

Under the new deal, Gooden gets a $2 million signing bonus and salaries of $4 million in 1992, $5 million in 1993 and $3.7 million in 1994.