Loaiza joins Zito, Harden, Haren and Blanton in rotation
The A's and the free-agent right-hander agreed Monday to a three-year contract worth nearly $21.4 million, adding an experienced pitcher to a starting rotation that already includes Barry Zito and Rich Harden.
"I landed pretty good here with a nice group of guys," Loaiza said when introduced at Oakland's ballpark. "Coming back this year to the American League, it's still fresh. ... I'm happy to be here. I'll do the best job possible for myself, for the team, my new teammates that I'm going to see at spring training. I'll give it my best and try to win a World Series."
The deal, worth $21,375,000, includes a 2009 club option. Loaiza went 12-10 with a 3.77 ERA for the Washington Nationals last season, the second-best win total in his 11-year major league career. He won 21 games for the Chicago White Sox in 2003.
The 33-year-old Loaiza made the tough decision to turn down a similar offer -- three years without an option -- from the Giants. He has spent most of his career in the AL.
A's general manager Billy Beane made it clear that adding Loaiza doesn't mean he will trade another pitcher. There has been speculation for some time that he might deal Zito, whose contract is up after next season. Beane plans to have discussions with Zito's representatives during a "quieter time in the offseason."
"With Barry in our rotation and Esteban in our rotation, we have a chance for one of the deepest rotations in the league," Beane said.
Loaiza joins a team that has almost its entire roster returning from last season, when the A's failed to reach the playoffs for the second straight year. Oakland had a 91-win season in 2004 and 88 victories this year.
John Boggs, Loaiza's agent, was surprised that Beane still had serious interest in the pitcher when other teams got involved. Usually, the A's budget restraints keep them out of deals such as this.
"He kept matching blow for blow," Boggs said.
After a slow start by its young rotation, Oakland pitched well down the stretch thanks to impressive performances by rookie 12-game winner Joe Blanton and Dan Haren, a 14-game winner in his first full season as a starter.
Beane believes Loaiza complements the starters the A's already have, and the GM has had interest in Loaiza for several years. With both Blanton and Haren logging more than 200 innings in 2005, Beane wanted another starter who could take some pressure off his young pitchers.
"You can never have enough pitching," said Beane, still looking to upgrade the offense. "The good thing is he can no longer pitch against us. We think this is a great addition to an already very strong pitching staff."
Loaiza made 34 starts last season, striking out 173 and walking 55 batters in 217 innings. A two-time All-Star, he bounced back from a 1-4 start this year to go 11-6 with a 3.86 ERA in 23 outings after June 1.
Loaiza's deal includes a $3 million signing bonus with a spread-out payment schedule and yearly salaries of $5 million, $6 million and $7 million. The A's have a $7.5 million option for 2009 with a $375,000 buyout.
Manager Ken Macha, who parted ways with the team briefly after the season before signing a new deal, was pleased with how well Oakland performed with such a young roster. The A's also dealt with injuries to shortstop Bobby Crosby and No. 2 starter Harden, who took on a greater role after the team traded Tim Hudson and Mark Mulder during a three-day span last December.
"It was an opportunity to add a player without subtracting a player," Beane said. "You guys know our history. Usually, we're trading a player to acquire a player."
But the departures of Hudson and Mulder offered the A's some payroll flexibility, and Beane expects to have more money to spend on players under the team's new ownership group headed by Los Angeles real estate developer Lewis Wolff.
Loaiza has a 112-99 career record and a 4.60 ERA in 334 games, 297 starts. His 112 wins are second-most in major league history by a Mexican-born pitcher to Fernando Valenzuela's 173.
Loaiza joins his seventh team after breaking into the big leagues in 1995 with Pittsburgh, where he worked with A's catcher Jason Kendall. Loaiza also pitched for Texas, Toronto, the White Sox, the New York Yankees and Washington.
Boosting the offense is next for Beane, who heads to the winter meetings in Dallas next week with that in mind.
"We would like to have another bat, no question," he said.
Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press