Less than two years ago, Johan Santana was in Minnesota's bullpen. Back home in Venezuela this winter, he had bodyguards.
Winning the American League Cy Young Award certainly heightened Santana's profile. It also raised his price.
Johan Santana was a unanimous selection as the 2004 AL Cy Young Award winner after compiling a 20-6 record with an AL-best 2.61 ERA.
(Eric Miller - Reuters)
Santana and the Twins agreed yesterday to a four-year, $40 million contract. The deal marked the end of a whirlwind offseason for the 25-year-old left-hander.
Unrest in Venezuela made it important for Santana to seek protection in the mountain town of Tovar Merida after his Cy Young season.
Baseball players -- because of the sport's popularity and their known wealth -- have often been targeted by criminals in that country, so Santana hired five bodyguards for him and his family.
"A lot of things happened to me," Santana said from Fort Myers, Fla., where he is preparing for spring training to start this weekend. "The good thing about it is they were all positive. As long as it's positive, you are fine."
Santana, who had been scheduled for a salary arbitration hearing today, led the league with a 2.61 ERA and 265 strikeouts in 2004. He became the first Venezuelan to win the Cy Young and the first unanimous winner in the AL since Pedro Martinez in 2000.
After making $1.6 million last year, Santana -- who would have been eligible for free agency after the 2006 season -- had asked for a raise to $6.8 million and had been offered $5 million by the team.
Last season, Santana didn't lose in 15 starts after the all-star break, helping Minnesota win its third straight AL Central title.
YANKEES: Derek Jeter is willing to accept Jason Giambi's apology.
Without admitting that he used steroids, Giambi apologized last week to his teammates, fans and the media for distractions that he caused.
"We're here to support him," Jeter said at the team's minor league complex. "When you're a team, everyone is one family. I'm sure he's going to hear a lot about it over this year."
Tino Martinez also voiced support. Martinez, let go by the Yankees after the 2001 season to make way for Giambi, could wind up playing first base this season, with Giambi at designated hitter.
"He's a great guy," Martinez said. "I think in the clubhouse he's going to be fine. Obviously, he made a huge mistake, and he's going to pay for it this year. Hopefully, the fans in New York will give him a chance."
METS: Todd Van Poppel agreed to a minor league contract with New York and will join the team at spring training.
Van Poppel would get a $500,000, one-year contract if he is added to the major league roster. Last year, he went 4-6 with a 6.09 ERA in 48 games with Cincinnati.
DEVIL RAYS: Right-hander Jorge Sosa and Tampa Bay avoided salary arbitration by agreeing on a one-year, $650,000 contract. Sosa went 4-7 with a 5.53 ERA in 43 games last season.
DEATH: Nellie Briles, a pitcher who won two World Series titles during a 14-year career, died Sunday of an apparent heart attack at 61, the Pittsburgh Pirates said. Briles was stricken during a Pirates golf tournament in Orlando.
Briles went 129-112 during a career spanning from 1965 to 1978. He won titles with St. Louis in 1967 (against Boston) and with Pittsburgh in 1971 (against Baltimore).