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Piazza signs with Padres

After flirting with a trip to the AL and considering an offer from the Phillies, Mike Piazza has accepted what essentially amounts to a one-year, $2 million deal with the Padres. From the AP:

The deal is expected to be announced on Monday. Piazza gets a $1.25 million salary this year, and the contract includes a mutual option for 2007 at $8 million with a $750,000 buyout. He can earn an additional $750,000 this year in performance bonuses.

"The Padres told Mike that he could pretty much catch as much as he wanted to," said Piazza's agent, Dan Lozano.

Piazza is hoping to catch about 90-100 games this season, along with playing some first base and being the DH in interleague games.

The Padres didn't have a single player crack 20 home runs last year, and Piazza's 19 would have led the team. Sadly, it seems awfully doubtful Piazza will match his power output from last year, even if he somehow manages to see a few more at-bats (which is awfully unlikely). Just for frame of reference, Ryan Klesko hit 10 home runs at PETCO Park last year, but he was the only Padre will more than six.

Nevertheless, the catcher spot is awfully barren in the National League -- only Piazza and Michael Barrett (16 HR) had more than 15 home runs, and only Piazza, Barrett and Jason LaRue had as many as 60 RBI. Even if PETCO steals a handful of home runs, Piazza could easily finish among the top three at his position yet again, provided age and injury don't completely catch up and his batting average doesn't continue to drop. Provided you don't get caught paying a premium for his name at your draft or auction, he should remain a respectable fantasy option. But that's the key: be cautious with your bidding -- you're far better off sticking with a cheap Brian Schneider type if the bidding for Piazza climbs into double digits.