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Padres reward Young with new deal

Padres reward Young with new deal

SAN DIEGO -- It was during a casual meeting over drinks in Arizona last month when Padres general manager Kevin Towers first floated the idea of a long-term contract for pitcher Chris Young.

And while Young's agent, Lon Babby, was confident that Towers was very interested in keeping Young in a Padres uniform for a while, he wasn't convinced how imperative it was until he returned home to the Washington, D.C., area.

"We had a nice chat and he said in a general way that maybe this was something we want to do," Babby said Tuesday, recalling his meeting with Towers. "When I got off the plane coming back from Arizona, there was a message on my voicemail [from Towers]. I guess he enjoyed my company. We were off and running."

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No kidding.

On Tuesday, less than a day after Young tossed seven scoreless innings in a victory over San Francisco and less than a month since Towers and Babby met, the 27-year-old had agreed to a four-year contract worth $14.5 million, including a includes a $500,000 signing bonus and a $8.5 million club option for 2011.

He'll receive $750,000 this season, $2.5 million in 2008, $4.5 million in 2009 and $6.25 million in 2010. The deal covers his arbitration-eligible years as well as his first year of free agency.

Young was initially surprised that contract talks happened so soon, considering that the team held his option for the 2008 season. If anything, the 6-foot-10 right-hander figured any contract talks with the team wouldn't begin until after this season.

Towers, however, had other ideas.

Towers looked at a pitcher who is in his prime. Young, who won't turn 28 until May 25, has a low-mileage arm, considering that the former Princeton basketball player once chased a bigger ball for so long. And, of course, Towers looked at the results.

Last season, Young established himself as one of the best pitchers baseball, regardless of league, when he led the National League with a 2.41 road ERA and the Major Leagues in holding opponents to a .206 batting average.

After pondering the evidence, locking up Young to a long-term deal now was essentially a no-brainer. It was the same line of thinking that led the Padres to give first baseman Adrian Gonzalez a four-year deal on April 1.

"What we looked at was it has been a long time since we've really committed to some young players in the organization that we wanted to build around," Towers said. "After watching these guys [Young and Gonzalez] the last two years, these are guys we'd like to have around -- guys that are championship-winning players. Let's not wait."

Young's deal came about remarkably fast.

After their meeting in Arizona, Towers and Babby continued negotiations and successfully kept the talks quiet so that Young wouldn't have to field questions about his contract while preparing for the season.

Young said the deal was agreed to in principal on April 4, the same day Young made his first start of the season in San Francisco.

"The last thing I wanted was it to be a distraction to me or my teammates," Young said. "... I was a little surprised. I was preparing for the season. I thought if anything would happen, it would be after this year. But I'm very happy with the way it's all worked out."

That's because San Diego is where Young wants to be. He's been a part of four different organizations, but he blossomed into one of the game's top up-and-coming pitchers here after being acquired on Jan. 4, 2006, in a six-player deal with Texas that also brought over, oddly enough, Gonzalez.

"I knew all along that this was the place I wanted to be," Young said. "I've loved it here. It's been the best thing to happen to me in my career. The city of San Diego, the fans, the organization, my teammates -- I couldn't ask for anything more. I'm extremely lucky. It's all worked out so far, and I hope it continues."

Towers reiterated that Young's deal was not only a feather in the cap for the team but a display for fans that the team is taking a proactive approach to retaining its top talent.

"It should be a really strong message to our fans that there should be some young players here in Padres uniforms who are going to be here for a while," the GM said. "I think it's going to be fun to see guys like [Jake] Peavy, [Clay] Hensley, [Greg] Maddux and Young for the next couple of years ... guys we can really build our organization around."

Corey Brock is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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