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Angels Show Percival Respect

Baseball: Closer, who felt slighted by club in October, signs two-year contract extension worth $16 million.

February 06, 2002|MIKE DiGIOVANNA | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Angel closer Troy Percival, who said in October he had "no desire to remain with an organization that doesn't respect me," signed a two-year, $16-million contract extension with that organization Tuesday.

The deal ties Percival to the Angels through 2004, but it also gives Percival some flexibility: The Angels hoped to sign Percival to a three-year extension; Percival, who was signed for $5.25 million in 2002, opted for only two years.

Most players demand no-trade clauses or significant no-trade protection; Percival opted for a clause that allows the Angels to trade him to all but four teams. According to a source, those teams are the New York Mets and Yankees, the Toronto Blue Jays and the Montreal Expos.

"It's the first time in my 13-year career I had a player tell me to take years off the table," said Paul Cohen, Percival's agent. "Troy likes the Angels with the additions they've made, but he didn't want to be obligated beyond 2004 in case [the Walt Disney Co.] sells the team and breaks it up. And he didn't want to eliminate the team's ability to move his contract [if they wanted to trade him]."

Percival, who re-established himself as one of baseball's top closers in 2001 after an injury-plagued 2000, blasted the Angels at the end of last season for leaking confidential contract talks to reporters. Percival was also concerned, after his name came up in trade rumors in July, with the direction of the franchise.

"Every time they decide to trade one of their [prospective] free agents they paint him in a negative light in the papers," Percival, 32, said at the time. "What they're doing with me now sends an unmistakable message about the direction they're going. They're getting ready to get rid of some of their core players, and I won't be put under the gun this way. I want to pitch for a team that wants to win."

Percival, who went 4-2 with a 2.65 earned-run average and 39 saves in 42 opportunities last season, almost got his wish in December. He was nearly traded to the Dodgers for reliever Matt Herges, center fielder Marquis Grissom and outfield prospect Chin-Feng Chen, but Angel upper management nixed the deal.

Then Angel President Tony Tavares, the executive accused of leaking details of Percival's contract talks, resigned in January, and the Angels acquired veteran pitchers Kevin Appier and Aaron Sele, and designated hitter Brad Fullmer through trades or free agency.

Percival, convinced the Angels were more committed to winning and pleased with Tavares' departure, softened his stance toward the Angels and warmed to the idea of remaining in Anaheim.

"Yes, we were approached by clubs that wanted Percy, but if I wanted to trade him, I would have," Angel General Manager Bill Stoneman said. "I was as frustrated as our players were at the end of last season, and there was a temptation to blow it up and start over. But Percy had a very good year, and we always wanted to sign him.

"I didn't know what our chances were, but people's opinions, attitudes and thoughts change over time. We were patient, we hung in there, and we were happy to get the opportunity to extend his contract. It's a good feeling."

Kind of like the one Angel Manager Mike Scioscia has when his team has a lead going into the ninth inning.

Percival, whose extension consists of a $1-million signing bonus and $7.5-million salaries in 2003 and 2004, was dominant last season, striking out 71 and walking 18 in 57 2/3 innings.

He gave up only three home runs. The seven-year veteran has a 23-29 career record and 3.09 ERA, and he is the Angels' all-time saves leader with 210.

"If your team is good enough to have the lead going into the ninth inning, you like to have someone like Troy to turn the ball over to," Stoneman said. "He's big. When he enters the game, it's game over almost 100% of the time."

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