Left-hander to become full-time closer

Updated: December 24, 2003, 11:15 AM ET
Associated Press

OAKLAND, Calif. -- The Oakland Athletics finalized a $9.2 million, three-year contract with free agent reliever Arthur Rhodes on Monday, a deal that had been in the works for more than a week.

Performance bonuses could boost the agreement to about $10 million. A's general manager Billy Beane said the low-budget A's may have been able to sign him for a lower price than others because he will become Oakland's closer.

Rhodes, 34, replaces Keith Foulke, who led the AL with 43 saves and left for a $24 million, three-year contract with Boston.

Atlanta and the Chicago White Sox also pursued the left-handed Rhodes. Each club proposed two-year deals: The Braves saw him as a setup man, the White Sox wanted him to finish games.

The hard-throwing Rhodes has never been a full-time closer. His season-high for saves is four in 1998. Rhodes was 3-3 with three saves and a 4.17 ERA in 67 games for Seattle last season, serving mostly as a setup man for Kazuhiro Sasaki and Shigetoshi Hasegawa.

"I don't know if he was underused," Beane said. "He was in a talented bullpen that had a lot of options. Given Arthur's experience in Seattle and the fact he's been in more critical situations in his role than a closer in his role, we feel he has that intestinal fortitude to finish a game."

Rhodes is 69-51 with 17 saves and a 4.33 ERA in a big league career that started in 1991 with Baltimore. He was strictly a starter with the Orioles until 1995, and his last start in the majors came in 1996.

Before the 2000 season, Rhodes signed as a free agent with the Mariners. With Seattle, he averaged 69 appearances per year and more than a strikeout per inning.

Rhodes' teams have reached the AL championship series four times but never made it to the World Series.

Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press