SAN DIEGO -- It was only two weeks ago when Padres general manager Kevin Towers first said he wanted second baseman David Eckstein to return in 2010 and that he hoped to get a deal done before the end of the regular season. It didn't take nearly that long, though. The Padres announced Saturday that they've extended the contract of Eckstein through the 2010 season. The deal is for $1 million and doesn't carry any performance bonuses.
Eckstein is hitting .255 for the Padres and currently leads the Major Leagues in fielding percentage (.998) with one error in 411 chances. But measuring the true value of what the 34-year-old Eckstein has to offer reaches far beyond anything statistical, Towers said. "This is a good signing for us. He's kind of the heart and soul for us," Towers said. "With a young club that's learning to become successful big league players, it is great to have someone like Eck there with the way he approaches the game. "The focus that man has from the minute he walks in the clubhouse to the minute that he leaves is contagious and has rubbed off on these players. You can't put a dollar sign on him." Eckstein has said previously that he wanted to return in 2010 and enjoys the challenge of being part of a team that's "going through the youth movement." "I understand where this club is heading," Eckstein said. "I like what I see. I see a lot of good things coming. This is a huge challenge here, but I enjoy the role I have. The ability to come here and help guys realize the full potential of their game is a large part of it." Eckstein signed a one-year deal in January worth $850,000. He has 416 plate appearances and can make an additional $50,000 each for 500, 550 and 600 plate appearances. He also would pocket $50,000 if he wins a Gold Glove. But money factored very little, if anything, in Eckstein's decision to return next season to San Diego. He has been grateful the Padres have given him a chance to play second base, his natural position. Also, as he stated before, he wants to be a part of team that, he feels "is not that far off." Towers approached Eckstein before the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline after the Twins expressed interest in him. Towers wanted to "see where his head was." Eckstein said that he wanted to remain in San Diego and help this team get better. "I've been through a lot of stages in my career, having been on teams that won, on teams that were supposed to win, teams that are young," Eckstein said. "But knowing the direction this club is going, I want to be a part of that. "I want to be a guy who can help these young guys out. I don't think this club is as far off as some people think. They've got to learn how to play the game the right away, because next year, there's not going to be any excuses. These guys are starting to step up." San Diego manager Bud Black, who worked with Eckstein when the two were with the Angels, hasn't been surprised in the least at what Eckstein has accomplished this season. "I'm extremely excited and happy that it got resolved. I look forward to working again with David next season," Black said. "It didn't surprise me he's played like this. He has made all the plays. To his left, to his right, deep in the hole, charging balls, turning double plays. He's been great to watch."
Corey Brock is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.