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Pirates Sign Benson to $13M Deal

March 8, 2001

BRADENTON, Fla. (AP) _ Kris Benson, expected to be the Pittsburgh Pirates’ opening day starter, agreed Thursday to a $13 million, four-year contract.

Benson, the top pick in the 1996 amateur draft, was 10-12 with a team-leading 3.85 ERA last season despite little run support and is 21-26 with a 3.95 ERA in two major league seasons.

The deal runs through the 2004 season and means the Pirates won’t have to go to salary arbitration with Benson, who has allowed only three hits in five scoreless innings this spring.

``Kris is a very important part of this ballclub, and he’s shown himself to be a quality starter,″ general manager Cam Bonifay said. ``We’re very excited to lock him up with a long-term deal.″

The signing continues Bonifay’s policy of avoiding salary arbitration and not automatically renewing contracts. The Pirates could have renewed Benson’s contract on Saturday for as little as $240,000. He made $300,000 last season.

Benson said last weekend he was hopeful the deal could be completed soon because it would avoid yearly salary negotiations and provide long-term security until he is eligible for free agency after the 2004 season.

Benson was one of the top pitchers in college baseball history at Clemson and played on the 1996 U.S. Olympic team. The Pirates paid him a $2 million signing bonus that summer.

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