At the age of 24, just five years into his major-league career, Dwight Gooden is the highest-paid player in baseball.
Gooden agreed Wednesday to a three-year contract worth $6.7 million, with bonus clauses that could make the contract worth as much as $7.87 million.Including a prorated share of his signing bonus, Gooden will be paid $2,416,667 in 1989, topping the $2.4 million that will be earned by Minnesota Twins third baseman Gary Gaetti.
"I'm happy with the confidence that they have in me," Gooden said. "And it's just up to me to show them that they made the right choice. And I really appreciate the way they've been helping me on and off the field."
By off the field, Gooden means the Mets' assistance in his rehabilitation from cocaine use. He missed the first two months of the 1987 season after he tested positive for cocaine on April 1.
"We fully realize this is a large amount of money," Mets senior vice president Al Harazin said, "but given Dwight's track record on the mound, we believe it's a sound investment and are sure Dwight will prove that over the next three years."
Four other players in arbitration also agreed to new contracts Wednesday, reducing the players remaining to 27.
Gooden, the youngest baseball player ever to make $2 million a year, will get a $500,000 signing bonus, $2.25 million this year, $1.7 million in 1990 and $2.25 million in 1991.
He won't have the highest salary for long, though. Roger Clemens of Boston and Orel Hershiser of Los Angeles could top him this year. And New York Yankees first baseman Don Mattingly will get $2.5 million in 1990 in the final season of a three-year, $6.7 million contract.
Still, Gooden is happy with the deal.
"Now I can just go on and relax," he said. "You know everything's behind and taken care of."
Using last year's statistics, Gooden will get $9,731.56 per inning this season, $13,809.52 per strikeout, $71,078.43 per start and $134,259.30 per victory.
Will the big bucks change him?
"Hopefully, everything will be the same," he said. "I'll just try to be the same guy and be myself."
Gooden was 18-9 last season with a 3.19 earned-run average and 175 strikeouts in 248 1-3 innings.
In other settlement cases, shortstop Ozzie Guillen and the Chicago White Sox settled for $800,000, a raise of $262,500. Steve Jeltz and Philadelphia settled at $250,000, a $35,000 raise.
Kelly Gruber, who plays second, shortstop and third, settled with Toronto for $462,500, a raise of $332,500. Tim Burke, a right-handed reliever, agreed to a one-year contract with Montreal for $740,000, a raise of $115,000.