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Witt, Angels 'Agree' on 2-Year Pact

December 22, 1987|MIKE PENNER | Times Staff Writer

The Angels are expected today to sign free-agent pitcher Mike Witt to a two-year contract reportedly worth a guaranteed $2.8 million.

Mike Port, Angel general manager, and Steve Kay, Witt's agent, concluded talks Monday having reached a general agreement over the financial terms of the contract and are scheduled to talk again this morning to complete the deal.

Witt, who led the Angels with 16 victories last season, will reportedly receive an annual base salary of $1.4 million plus bonus incentives linked to All-Star appearances and postseason awards.

"Things look very, very optimistic," Port said. "We hope to do something tomorrow (Tuesday)."

It might have been done Monday had the timing been better. Tim Mead, the club's director of publicity, had already written a news release announcing the signing but had to keep it filed away for a few more hours when Port's final phone conversation with Kay lasted nearly until 3 p.m.

With the Angels' front-office staff holding an early-evening Christmas party in Newport Beach and Anaheim Stadium occupied Monday night by the Rams and the Dallas Cowboys, the club apparently decided to delay the official announcement until today.

Mead said there's "a good chance" a news conference will be scheduled at Anaheim Stadium today.

"The money is basically agreed on," Mead said. "What's left is more finalization than negotiation. Both parties felt it would be best to talk again (Tuesday) and finish things off. The bottom line is that there's no problem."

Witt, 27, received a base salary of $850,000 in 1987, the final year of a three-year contract. Bonuses for innings pitched last season raised his total earnings to $1.1 million.

Thus, the new agreement will represent a raise for Witt, despite the fact his victory total was down and his earned-run average up from 1986.

In 1986, when he placed third in the American League Cy Young Award balloting, Witt was 18-10 with a 2.84. Last season, Witt went 16-12 with a 4.01 ERA and was knocked out before the fifth inning in 7 of his 36 starts.

Supply-and-demand, however, apparently worked in Witt's favor. The Angels have a short supply of starting pitchers--after Witt, rookie Willie Fraser (10-10) was the top winner on the staff last season--and the demand for Witt by other clubs was high. After the New York Yankees and the Oakland A's both made Witt offers, Port, not wanting to decimate his starting rotation, chose to up the ante.

Witt, entering his seventh major league season, has won at least 15 games in each of the past four seasons, compiling a four-year record of 64-42. As an Angel, he is 87-71.

Witt's signing will leave the Angels with a tentative rotation of Witt, Fraser, Dan Petry, Chuck Finley or Joe Johnson, and Kirk McCaskill, provided he is recovered from April elbow surgery.

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