Outfielder spurns O's, Mets for Angels

Originally Published: January 11, 2004
Associated Press

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Welcome to Hollywood, Vladimir Guerrero.

In another bold offseason move, the Anaheim Angels landed the biggest star on the free-agent market when they reached agreement with Guerrero, one of baseball's most talented players.

Fantasy Focus
We knew Guerrero was going to sign somewhere, be it Baltimore, the Mets, a dark horse such as the Angels, so on. The question is, did his future home really matter for fantasy purposes? I'd say not really (unless Vlad's new home were Coors, of course). We know Guerrero can hit any pitching, any time, in any situation. In a 2004 draft I participated in a few weeks ago, Guerrero was the No. 5 pick. But based on his achy back last season, and his decreased stolen base production (a paltry nine), I'd say fifth is a little too high a pick. Assume the power is still there -- Guerrero is only 27 -- but watch out for his stolen base numbers. The guy ran whenever he felt like it, swiping 77 bags and getting caught 36 times over the 2001 and '02 seasons. That's not a good percentage at all, and in a pennant race, let's just say he'll see a red light. Plus, stealing bases can't be good for an aching back, and Vlad isn't being paid to steal bases. I liken this to Sammy Sosa putting on the brakes. Look for Vlad to produce runs, but he'll be a lot more Sosa than Carlos Beltran in 2004.
-- Eric Karabell

Anaheim did not disclose terms of the contract, which was to be completed as long as the All-Star outfielder passes a physical.

"Guerrero is coming into L.A., and will be undergoing a physical," Angels general manager Bill Stoneman said Sunday. "We've got a deal contingent on the physical."

Several reports said Guerrero will get a $70 million, five-year contract. He is expected in Los Angeles on Monday, Stoneman said.

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 game's strongest arms in right field.

The four-time All-Star, 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 RBI in 112 games.

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

The cash-strapped Expos, owned by the other 29 major league clubs, let him go in December, declining to offer salary arbitration.

The Angels went 77-85 and missed the playoffs last year after winning the World Series in 2002, but they've had a busy -- and expensive -- offseason under new owner Arte Moreno. He bought the team from The Walt Disney Co. last May.

Earlier this offseason, Anaheim signed pitchers Bartolo Colon and Kelvim Escobar, along with outfielder Jose Guillen.

Colon got a $51 million, four-year contract last month after Escobar received an $18.75 million, three-year deal in November.

Guillen signed a $6 million, two-year contract, strengthening an injury-plagued outfield.

Moreno has spent nearly $146 million on the free-agent market during the offseason. The Angels' payroll was around $76 million last season and could top $111 million this year if Anaheim doesn't trade away any high-priced players.

Moreno paid Disney $183.5 million for the team.

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, Mike Scioscia, and Dominicans Colon, Guillen, pitcher Ramon Ortiz and coach Alfredo Griffin.

Moreno, a fourth-generation American who is a native of Tucson, Ariz., made a fortune in outdoor advertising. He worked in his parents' print shop in Tucson as a kid and is 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, he turned down a three-year offer from the New York Mets that would have paid him $71 million over five years if he reached incentives.

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

Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press