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Angels are happy to land Abreu at the last minute

February 13, 2009|Mike DiGiovanna

It was as if General Manager Tony Reagins was standing in the check-out aisle on his way to spring training, noticed a proven bat in the bargain bin and threw it in his shopping cart.

That's how Bobby Abreu fell into the Angels' laps two days before the start of camp, a call from the veteran outfielder's agent last weekend resulting in rapid negotiations on a one-year, $5-million contract that Abreu agreed to Thursday.

"A week ago, we were perfectly content going to spring training with the club we had," Reagins said. "We tried to bring a player in who would impact us in a significant way, and we felt Bobby's overall package made a lot of sense for us. . . . This was an opportunity where both sides saw a perfect fit."

Abreu, who hit .296 with 20 home runs, 100 runs batted in, 73 walks and 22 stolen bases for the New York Yankees last season, was looking for a deal in the three-year, $48-million range when he filed for free agency last November.

But with a sagging economy and a surplus of available left-handed bats suppressing the market, Abreu, who will turn 35 on March 11, found himself scrambling for a job.

His agent, Peter Greenberg, called Reagins last weekend, and the sides quickly hammered out a $5-million deal with incentives that could push it to $6 million.

Abreu, who made $16 million last season, will receive $250,000 each for 500, 550, 600 and 650 plate appearances. He joins a corner outfield/designated hitter rotation with Vladimir Guerrero and Juan Rivera and will probably bat second, ahead of Guerrero.

"He's athletic, he's a run-producer, he sees a lot of pitches, his [career .405] on-base percentage was attractive, and he drives in a lot of runs," Reagins said. "We're delighted to have him."

The feeling is mutual, despite the fact that Abreu, who will play for Venezuela in the upcoming World Baseball Classic, will make less than a third of his 2008 salary.

"I thought by November or December that I would have a contract, and I was looking for a multiyear deal, but I do understand the economic situation," Abreu said on a conference call.

"I was waiting for answers from teams when we called the Angels. They decided they wanted me, and the deal got done in one day. It was a tough experience, but right now I'm happy to have a job and an opportunity to be with such a good team."

Abreu has played right field most of his 11-year career, but the Angels told him he would be used mostly in left, a position he has played only 16 career games at, none since 1997.

"I have no problem with that," Abreu said. "I will have to work out there a lot in spring training and make my adjustments to get ready for the season."

Without Abreu, the Angels' only left-handed power threat would have been switch-hitting first baseman Kendry Morales, who has 20-homer potential but has never been a big league starter.

With Abreu, the lineup is deeper and more balanced and includes a hitter whose patience and power should at least ease the sting of Mark Teixeira's loss.

To make room on the 40-man roster for Abreu, the Angels waived right-hander Nick Green, who was claimed by Milwaukee. Green went 8-8 with a 5.32 earned run average at triple-A Salt Lake last season.

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mike.digiovanna@latimes.com

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