Schneider gets four-year pact

Schneider avoids arbitration with four-year deal

The Nationals agreed to terms with catcher Brian Schneider on a four-year, $16 million contract on Tuesday morning.

This deal avoids two years of arbitration, two years of free agency and assures Washington of keeping one of its best players. Schneider also becomes the first player who came up through the organization to sign a long-term deal since Jose Vidro in 2004.

Because of the Nationals' limited budget and lack of ownership, Schneider, 29, was expecting to be offered just a one-year deal and was surprised that Washington offered him so much long-term security. But general manager Jim Bowden received permission from team president Tony Tavares and Major League Baseball to get the deal done.

"This is the only organization that I have been with," said Schneider, who started his Major League career with the Expos. "This is a great opportunity for baseball in the city of D.C. I want to be a part of that. A new stadium is [hopefully] coming. There's no place that I would rather be. I would like to be here my whole career, if possible."

Schneider will receive $2.7 million in 2006, $3.5 million the following season and $4.9 million in 2008 and '09. He could possibly earn an additional $500,000 if the Nationals trade him to another team during the life of the contract. The team acquiring his services would pay Schneider the money.

"He is not a player I like to compete with on the free agent market because he is so special," Bowden said. "This is a deal that needed to be done. I don't think it could have waited. It's good for all the parties involved."

Before agreeing to terms, the Nationals wanted to make sure that Schneider's right shoulder was healthy. He had missed the last two weeks of the season because of a sore shoulder. So they had him go to the team's training complex in Viera, Fla., on Monday night to take an enhanced MRI, which was performed by Dr. Bruce Thomas. After consulting with Dr. Tim Kremcheck and Dr. Wiemi Douoguih, Thomas concluded that Schneider's shoulder was 100 percent healthy.

"The doctors gave us the go-ahead to sign the player," Bowden said. "They understood that it was a four-year deal with significant money. We wanted clearance and to make sure there wasn't a health risk. I would not have done the deal if the doctors didn't clear it."

In fact, Schneider was playing catch with Marlins left hander Dontrelle Willis in Jupiter, Fla., on Monday afternoon. Schneider said that the shoulder is close to 100 percent and looks forward in playing in the World Baseball Classic.

"Everything is good. I'm working on my rehab. I'm getting stronger," Schneider said. "I'm starting to catch already. I'm catching [pitchers in the bullpen] in Jupiter. I'm hitting as well."

Schneider has become one of baseball's top defensive catchers. He one of the league leaders by throwing out 29 of 77 possible basestealers (37.7 percent). He topped all Major League catchers in the same category in 2003 and 2004.

He also has the highest career fielding percentage (.993) in franchise history for catchers who've played at least 250 games. Schneider also keeps improving at the plate, batting .268 with 10 homers and 44 RBIs last season.

"In all the years that I've been in baseball, I've never been with a young catcher that really understands how to call a game," Bowden said. "He really works and he's a team player. He goes beyond the advance scouting reports and goes beyond the video. He studies and learns the game. He's a winner. There's not a lot of catchers that can shut the running game down."

The Nationals also can use Schneider's strong clubhouse leadership skills. He played a big role in helping his teammates with details when the franchise moved from Montreal to Washington before the 2005 season. He's been the team's player representative for the last four seasons, but is expected to resign from the post by the All-Star break.

Bill Ladson is a reporter for Jeff Seidel also contributed to this story. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.