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Angels, Joyner May Be Close

January 24, 2001|BILL SHAIKIN

The Angels opened negotiations with Wally Joyner on Tuesday and could sign the popular first baseman to a minor league contract as early as today.

Joyner, 38, would compete with Scott Spiezio and rookie Larry Barnes to replace injured first baseman Mo Vaughn.

Barry Axelrod, Joyner's agent, said he had discussed contract terms with Angel General Manager Bill Stoneman on Tuesday.

The Angels would probably sign Joyner to an incentive-packed deal similar to that of Jose Canseco, who will earn no money unless he makes the team and little money unless he plays regularly.

Stoneman said he had narrowed his search for a free-agent first baseman to two players. He did not identify them, but the Angels are believed to be interested in Hal Morris if they cannot reach agreement with Joyner.

"We're going to bring in one. Either one would fit the bill," Stoneman said.

Either Joyner or Morris could hit second, provide solid defense and line-drive hitting with limited power. Joyner hit .281 with five home runs in 224 at-bats for the Atlanta Braves last season. Morris, 35, hit .278 with three homers in 169 at-bats for the Cincinnati Reds and Detroit Tigers.

Joyner captured the hearts of Angel fans in 1986, the season the Angels last appeared in the playoffs, when Anaheim Stadium became "Wally World." Joyner, who replaced Hall of Famer Rod Carew at first base, was voted into the starting lineup of the All-Star game--the last Angel so honored--and finished second to Canseco in American League rookie-of-the-year balloting.

Joyner played six seasons for the Angels and still ranks among the franchise leaders in 10 offensive categories, among them home runs, runs scored and runs batted in.

He left under a cloud of acrimony, however, when he rejected a four-year, $15.75-million offer from the Angels for a one-year, $4.2-million bid from the Kansas City Royals.

Feelings then ran so hostile between Joyner and Angel ownership that Whitey Herzog, then newly hired as the club's director of player personnel, said he felt less like a negotiator and more "like a damn divorce lawyer." The Autry family sold the team to Disney in 1996, five years after Joyner's departure.

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