Abreu agrees to $19 million, 2-year deal
By GREG BEACHAM
AP Sports Writer
ANAHEIM, Calif. – Bobby Abreu had no interest in spending another winter – or even another week – without an employer. The Los Angeles Angels were only too happy to oblige the slugger who transformed their lineup this year.
The veteran outfielder agreed Thursday to a $19 million, two-year contract to stay with the Angels rather than test the free-agent market again.
“I really feel happy here with Los Angeles,” Abreu said in a telephone interview from Las Vegas. “I really enjoy to play for them, and I think when they started with the conversation for the contract and we didn’t have any problems back and forth, it was a nice negotiation. It was no problem to stay and come back with the Angels.”
After earning $16 million with the New York Yankees in 2008 under the final year of a contract he originally signed with the Philadelphia Phillies, Abreu became a free agent. He didn’t find a new home until Feb. 12, just before spring training, when the Angels gave him a one-year contract that guaranteed $5 million.
He earned an additional $1 million based on plate appearances, but the Venezuelan still was one of the majors’ biggest bargains.
Mostly playing right field, Abreu hit .293 with 15 homers, 103 RBIs, 30 steals and 94 walks as a durable contributor to one of the majors’ top offenses. He also raised his game to keep Los Angeles afloat while sluggers Vladimir Guerrero and Torii Hunter were sidelined with midseason injuries, earning AL player of the month honors for July by batting .380 with 28 RBIs.
Manager Mike Scioscia labeled Abreu as the Angels’ most valuable player late in the season.
“He did a tremendous job for us last year, both on and off the field,” said Angels general manager Tony Reagins, who swiftly finalized the deal with Abreu this week. “It was an easy decision for us to bring Bobby back, and I think he enjoyed the environment that we had last year. Hopefully we can continue to achieve our goals that we’ve set.”
Several Los Angeles teammates even credited Abreu with changing the club’s approach at the plate with his deliberate, patient at-bats. Hunter said he became more mindful of his opportunities after a few batting cage conversations with Abreu, and both sluggers produced remarkable seasons as the Angels led the majors with a .285 batting average and set franchise records for hits (1,604), runs (883) and RBIs (841).
The Angels won 97 games and the AL West title before sweeping Boston out of the first round. Abreu played in the league championship series for the first time in his career during Los Angeles’ loss to the Yankees.
“I feel so comfortable with my teammates and the organization, and to play for Mike Scioscia is awesome,” Abreu said. “He’s one of those managers that lets you play the game, and he gives you big support. … I really wanted to stay. The conversation was going good. I decided to just say yes.”
Abreu’s new contract calls for $9 million salaries in each of the next two seasons. It includes a 2012 option for $9 million with a $1 million buyout, and the option would become guaranteed if Abreu has 550 plate appearances in 2011 or 1,200 in 2010-11 combined.
Given Abreu’s remarkable record of durability, he has a good shot at the guarantee. He has played at least 151 games in every season since 1998, his first full major league campaign, and the two-time All-Star has driven in at least 100 runs in seven straight seasons.
The little things also mattered to Abreu: He praised the Angels for their public embrace of him during a season in which he surpassed several career milestones, including 2,000 hits and 250 homers. The organization rewarded him for those achievements with trophies and on-field recognition in front of cheering Angel Stadium crowds.
“I think if you (compare) this season to the last three or four, they’ve been almost pretty much the same, but this year I’ve been more recognized,” Abreu said. “One of the reasons is the Angels let the people know what I’m doing. It meant a lot to myself (to get) a lot of respect for what I’ve done on the field.”
But the chance to play for a consistent winner also is important to the 35-year-old, who said during the playoffs that he hoped to play for perhaps five more years. Los Angeles has won five of the last six AL West titles and made six postseason appearances in the last eight years.
“This is a team that gives you an opportunity always to be in the playoffs,” Abreu said. “This time, my first time with them, I was very close to getting to the World Series, so why not stay? Of course you want a team that is going to give you opportunities to be in the World Series and win the World Series. I don’t want to take a chance with someone else.”
Abreu spent the previous 2 1/2 seasons with the Yankees after 8 1/2 years with Philadelphia. He began his major league career in Houston.
The Angels still have six potential free agents, including Guerrero, ace John Lackey and third baseman Chone Figgins.