Departing reluctantly but with the resolve to play where he will feel better appreciated, Angel outfielder Chili Davis agreed to a two-year contract with the Minnesota Twins Tuesday night.
Davis, 31, led the Angels in runs batted in in 1988 and '89 but was limited to 58 RBIs in 113 games last season, a year in which he had a back problem. He was one of 15 players granted a free-agent fling as settlement of the latest collusion case. He had until 9 p.m. PST Tuesday to sign with another team, stay with the Angels under his current contract or sign a new contract with the Angels.
Among the other new-look free agents, longtime Tiger pitcher Jack Morris elected to become a free agent, and reliever Juan Berenguer left the Twins to sign with the Atlanta Braves for $2.1 million over two years.
Morris, who had been asking for $3.35 million a year, abandoned his arbitration case with the Tigers, who were reportedly offering $9.3 million over three years. Morris' salary in 1990, when he was 15-18, was $2.1 million.
The Angels' refusal to extend Davis' contract or renegotiate the final year of it--especially after the club spent $11.4 million to lure third baseman Gary Gaetti away from the Twins--convinced him his financial future would improve only if he left.
He was to earn $1.45 million with the Angels this season. Instead, Minnesota will pay him $2 million, including $1.7 million in salary. Minnesota holds an option for 1992 at $2.5 million to $2.9 million or can buy him out for $300,000.
"I can't say I'm real ecstatic," Davis said from his off-season home in Arizona. "My intentions all along were to stay there if I was wanted. I didn't really feel that way when they made four or five refusals to renegotiate my contract. . . .
"This was one of the hardest decisions I've ever made. I'm from L.A., my family is in L.A. and I've got a (5-year-old) son who lives in California.
"It wasn't the money as much as I talked to (Angel General Manager) Mike Port once, and he expressed to me that in no way did he wish someone else to sign me, but he also mentioned he had some ideas for doing things for the team, but his budget didn't allow it. I'm in no way envious of Gary Gaetti, but (Port) did go out and pay Gaetti $11 million. The budget was able to do that. I just didn't feel wanted."
Port couldn't be reached Tuesday.
The deal was concluded within a 24-hour period that began late Monday. Davis' agent, Tom Reich, approached the Twins and an agreement was reached at about 7 p.m. Tuesday.
"When Gaetti opted for California, and when California rejected our effort to at least make a one-year adjustment, we went to Minnesota," Reich said.
Two other new-look free agents, San Francisco pitcher Mike LaCoss and Yankee left-hander Dave LaPoint, received no new offers and remain under contract to their current teams.