Left-hander to become full-time closer

12/24/2003 - Oakland Athletics

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.