Originally created 01/13/04

Angels finalize contract with Guerrero

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Outfielder Vladimir Guerrero passed his physical Monday and finalized his $70 million, five-year contract with the Anaheim Angels.

The four-time All-Star received the highest average salary among this offseason's free agents, $14 million per season. In total dollars, Guerrero's deal was behind only the $72 million, six-year agreement between shortstop Miguel Tejada and Baltimore.

Guerrero spoke in Spanish at a news conference, then uttered a few words in English before owner Arte Moreno stepped in to interpret.

"He said, 'I am very happy to be here,"' Moreno said. "And I am very happy to be here, too."

Guerrero gets a $5 million signing bonus, $10 million this year, $11.5 million in 2005, $12.5 million in 2006, $13.5 million in 2007 and $14.5 million in 2008, according to contract information obtained by The Associated Press. The Angels have a $15 million option for 2009 with a $3 million buyout.

The deal is the latest in an offseason spending spree by Moreno, who purchased the Angels last year from The Walt Disney Co.

"This is an historic day for the Angels," general manager Bill Stoneman said. "I'm full of anticipation for the '04 season."

Manager Mike Scioscia obviously was delighted.

"We got the number one guy out there on top of everyone's list," Scioscia said.

The Angels, who struggled last season after winning the 2002 World Series, have loaded up on talent during the offseason, agreeing to deals with four high-profile free agents.

Anaheim previously agreed to a $51 million, four-year contract with Bartolo Colon, considered the top right-handed free-agent on the market. Reliever Kelvim Escobar got an $18.75 million, three-year deal and outfielder Jose Guillen received a $6 million, two-year contract.

The Angels' payroll was $79 million at the start of last season and could top $110 million this year if they don't trade away any high-priced players.

A .323 career hitter, Guerrero averaged 37 homers for the Montreal Expos the past six years. He also possesses speed on the bases and one of the strongest arms in right field.

Guerrero, who turns 28 next month, was on the disabled list from June 6 to July 21 last season, missing 39 games because of a herniated disc in his back. But he played in 62 of Montreal's final 64 games and finished the year with a .330 batting average, 25 homers and 79 RBIs in 112 games.

A native of the Dominican Republic, Guerrero hadn't played in fewer than 154 games in any full season before last year.

The Angels are expected to shift Darin Erstad from the outfield to first base, with Guerrero, Guillen and Garret Anderson providing a trio of power hitters in the outfield.

Guerrero speaks little English, but will join a team with a Spanish-speaking owner and manager, Scioscia. The Angels have several other Dominicans on the team, including Colon, Guillen, pitcher Ramon Ortiz and coach Alfredo Griffin.

Moreno, a fourth-generation American, worked in his parent's print shop in Tucson, Ariz., as a youth and went on to make a fortune in outdoor advertising. He's the first major league controlling owner of Hispanic background.

He said when he bought the Angels that he obviously wanted to reach out to the Mexican-American community in Southern California, "but also to everybody."

The Angels were believed to have entered the bidding for Guerrero only late last week.

On Saturday, Guerrero turned down a three-year offer from the New York Mets that could have been worth $71 million over five years.

The Baltimore Orioles also pursued him and offered at least $65 million over five years.

Associated Press John Nadel contributed to this report.


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