MILWAUKEE -- The Brewers did some last-minute shopping on Christmas Eve, agreeing to terms with veteran right-hander Jeff Suppan on what will be the richest contract in the history of the franchise.

Suppan, who will turn 32 on Jan. 2, will be guaranteed $42 million over the next four years, and the Brewers hold an option for a fifth season. The contract will not be official until Suppan undergoes a physical, a formality the club will try to schedule before the end of the week.

"We're jumping the gun a little bit, but we wanted to make an announcement before things leaked out," general manager Doug Melvin said. "There was some momentum to this, so we kept going with it."

The Brewers' pursuit of Suppan began in earnest on Tuesday, when Melvin and manager Ned Yost visited with Suppan and his agent, Scott Leventhal, at Brewers principal owner Mark Attanasio's Los Angeles home. The club submitted a formal, written proposal on Wednesday, and Leventhal counter-offered on Friday.

Both sides continued discussions late into Saturday night and came to an agreement at about 12:30 a.m. on Christmas Eve. Suppan's deal supersedes the club-record four-year, $38.5 million contract that Ben Sheets signed last April.

Suppan is expected to join Sheets, Chris Capuano, Dave Bush and Claudio Vargas in Milwaukee's starting rotation. Adding depth to that group had been a priority for Melvin, but the GM had been critical of some other free-agent contracts awarded in this frenzied offseason. Suppan was worth spending on, Melvin said.

"This guy has more wins than Barry Zito over the last three years," said Melvin, referring to the consensus No. 1 free-agent pitcher on the market. "There's more to it than win totals, but that says something. He has 44 wins over the last three years and he has won some big games."

Some wondered whether Suppan would wait for Zito to sign before pursuing his own deal. At least two of the clubs pursuing Zito were believed to have interest in Suppan as a Plan B, including the New York Mets.

"He was willing to do the deal now if we stepped up to some things, so we did that," Melvin said. "I can't say I'm totally surprised he did that because of how well things went in Los Angeles the other night."

Suppan spent the last three seasons with the St. Louis Cardinals, whose GM, Walt Jocketty, is a close friend of Melvin's. Suppan boosted his own value during the Cardinals' run to the 2006 World Series, winning National League Championship Series MVP honors, and he is 5-2 with a 3.00 ERA in nine postseason starts.

From the Brewers' perspective, Suppan's key asset is his durability. He has made at least 31 regular-season starts in each of his last eight seasons and averaged 193 innings over that span. The 12-year veteran owns a career record of 106-101 with a 4.60 ERA in 317 games, and his 44 wins over the last three seasons is tied for ninth in the Majors during that time.

His signing also eliminates one of the Brewers' nemeses. Suppan is 12-2 with a 3.30 ERA in 21 appearances against Milwaukee, including 5-0 with a 1.76 ERA in seven career starts at Miller Park.

As part of his new contract, Suppan will make an annual contribution of $100,000 to Brewers Charities, Inc., an offshoot which supports activities and programs targeted at youth recreation, scholarship and education throughout Milwaukee and Wisconsin.

Suppan has pitched in the Majors for Boston (1995-97, 2003), Arizona (1998), Kansas City (1998-2002), Pittsburgh (2003) and St. Louis (2004-06).