By Ronald Blum, AP Baseball Writer
NEW YORK — Having flopped with the New York Jets, Tim Tebow will try to revive his career as an outfielder with the Mets.
Four years removed from his last regular-season snap as an NFL quarterback, the 29-year-old agreed Thursday to a minor league contract with the Mets that includes a $100,000 signing bonus.
He will report Sept. 18 to the Instructional League in Port St. Lucie, Florida, and test his baseball skills for three weeks against players just months removed from high school and college.
The Mets then will decide whether he goes to the Arizona Fall League, a winter league or gets personal tutoring to prepare for spring training.
Bo Jackson, Deion Sanders and Brian Jordan are the only significant players to have extensive careers in both Major League Baseball and the NFL during the past three decades.
“We don’t have to listen to what everybody else wants us to do with our lives,” Tebow said during a telephone conference call. “We get to do what we want.”
Tebow will be allowed to leave the instructional league for his job as an analyst for the SEC Network, then return.
“I’m not worried about it, practically speaking,” Mets general manager Sandy Alderson said. “Perception is something different.”
The amount of Tebow’s signing bonus — the maximum before the Mets could incur a tax under baseball’s labor contract — was obtained by The Associated Press from a person familiar with the deal who spoke on condition of anonymity because the figure was not announced.
“We’re mindful of the fact that at age 29 Tim is starting this endeavor and there is a certain amount of realism that we have to accept,” Alderson said.
Asked last month whether the Mets were interested, Alderson responded: “Are you insinuating we need a Hail Mary at this point?”
But he changed his mind after Tebow worked out for scouts on Aug. 30.
“While I and the organization I think are mindful of the novel nature of this situation, this decision was strictly driven by baseball,” Alderson said.
“This was not something that was driven by marketing considerations or anything of the sort. We are extremely intrigued with the potential that Tim has. He has demonstrated over his athletic career that he is a tremendous athlete, has great character, a competitive spirit. And aside from the age, this is a classic player development opportunity for us.”
Tebow won the 2007 Heisman Trophy at Florida and played for the Gators’ 2006 and 2008 national championship teams. Denver selected him with the 25th pick in the 2010 draft and he signed a contract with the Broncos that guaranteed $8.7 million over five years.
Known for his Christian faith, kneeling and praying, Tebow became the Broncos’ starter late in the 2010 season, held the job for much of 2011, then was traded to the Jets. He was a backup for 2012, was released and later was let go during preseason by New England in 2013 and Philadelphia in 2015.
“I believe Tim has a big heart and he’s a good person,” said former Broncos teammate Eric Decker, who’s now with the Jets. “He’s such a competitor that this is an outlet for him. But from the outside, I can see how it looks as a publicity stunt.”
Tebow hasn’t played baseball regularly since his junior year at Nease High School in Ponte Vedra, Florida, where he hit .494 and was all-county as a senior. Tebow thought outfield and first base were his most likely positions.
“I would consider success giving everything I have,” Tebow said. “I would consider success putting in the work and looking back on this opportunity and this journey 10, 15, 20 years from now and saying that I gave everything I had, I did everything I could do to be the best that I could be. I don’t necessarily view success or failure as how many rings or championships or promotions you get.”
Alderson cited pitcher Seth Lugo, a 34th-round draft pick, and infielder T.J. Rivera, who wasn’t drafted, as examples of long shots who reached the major leagues with the Mets.
“The idea that any one player has no chance of making it to the big leagues, I reject,” he said.
Tebow is represented by CAA Baseball’s Brodie Van Wagenen, also the agent for Mets outfielder Yoenis Cespedes. The Cuban star can opt out of his deal and become a free agent after the World Series.
“This is a strictly stand-alone proposition, and there were no other considerations taken into account in connection with any other player,” Alderson said.
Not just the Mets will be watching Tebow’s progress.
“He’s seen a lot of live linebackers and defensive ends chasing him but not a lot of live pitching,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said.
“I’d be shocked if he’s not rusty, but the Mets thought enough of him to sign him, so I’m curious. I’m going to watch and pay attention to see how he does. I think it’s a good story.”