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Baseball: Angels sign Vaughn to six-year, $80-million deal that exceeds Piazza's average. Bavasi calls it a great deal.

November 26, 1998|From Associated Press

Mo Vaughn leapfrogged Mike Piazza to become the highest-paid player in baseball.

One of the most powerful left-handed hitters and highly respected players in the game, Vaughn agreed Wednesday to an $80-million, six-year contract with the Angels.

"This is obviously a huge day for the organization," General Manager Bill Bavasi said in announcing the team's most significant free-agent signing since Reggie Jackson came to Anaheim after the 1981 season.

"We've never been afraid to get into the market," Bavasi said. "We've always been careful about what we do. There's a change in action. I don't believe we've seen the players who were the right fit. Guys like this don't come around very often. We are not here to spend money foolishly. We feel like we made a great deal today."

Vaughn's contract, which includes a club option for 2005, has an average annual value of $13.33 million, topping the $13 million Piazza will average under his $91-million, seven-year contract with the New York Mets. Piazza, however, still has most total guaranteed dollars.

If the option is exercised, Vaughn's deal would be worth $92 million over seven seasons.

The Angels probably aren't finished in the free-agent market. They're among the contenders for pitcher Randy Johnson--an area where they really need help.

Vaughn, a first baseman who turns 31 next month, hit .337 this year with 40 homers and 115 RBIs for the Boston Red Sox while earning $6.6 million. He has a .304 career average with 230 homers and 752 RBIs in eight seasons.

And in the last five, he has averaged nearly 37 homers and over 116 RBIs.

Vaughn had been negotiating off and on with the Red Sox for the past year, but the team ended talks Nov. 11 after he rejected a $62.5 million, five-year offer.

"Mo dictated the pace here," said Adam Katz, one of Vaughn's agents. "His style was to attack the Anaheim Angels as hard as we could. It was difficult, but we figured it out."

On the first day teams could make offers, the Angels gave Vaughn a $72-million, six-year proposal, starting a three-week negotiation.

"The signing of Mo Vaughn is an extraordinary event for our ballclub," Manager Terry Collins said. "Mo is one of those rare individuals whose presence will have a profound effect on the players, the organizations and this community. Our ownership has established its desire to take this team to the next level, and Mo is the type of individual who relishes that challenge."

Vaughn, who lives outside Boston in Easton, Mass., had been with the Red Sox organization since he started his pro career in 1989.

Bavasi said Vaughn was a player he respected greatly for years.

"Watching him from his rookie season, this guy at a very young age took a leadership role," Bavasi said. "One thing that was important from my point of view was how his teammates feed off him. He's got natural ability, I know that. He has certain limitations he has overcome. If I take it down to one word, it's leadership."

Boston had sought to replace Vaughn's offense with Bernie Williams, but the AL batting champion--he beat out Vaughn on the final day of the season--went back to the New York Yankees on Wednesday night for an $87.5-million, seven-year contract.

That leaves Albert Belle as Boston's best alternative. Belle must decide by Dec. 2 whether to remain a free agent or go back to a Chicago White Sox contract that guarantees him $35 million for the next three seasons.

But no one can replace Vaughn's presence.

Bavasi explained that presence by recounting a conversation with Angel coach George Hendrick after this season.

"You need to get a guy who will say, 'Come on, get on my back, let's go,' " Hendrick told Bavasi. "That's just the guy, that's just the way it is."


By The Numbers


Third-largest contract in baseball, and most in Angel history by $57.5 million (over Tim Salmon).


Average salary, highest in baseball history.


Vaughn's average salary per game if he plays in all 162 regular-season games.


Batting average in 1998, second in the American League.


Vaughn's career high in runs batted in; Angel record is 139 by Don Baylor in 1979.


Vaughn's career high in home runs; Angel record is 39 by Reggie Jackson in 1982.

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