Baez gets three-year, $19M deal from Orioles

Updated: November 28, 2006, 2:01 AM ET
Associated Press

BALTIMORE -- One frustrating year in the National League was enough for right-hander Danys Baez.

Relief Pitcher
Baltimore Orioles

57 5 6 17 39 4.53

The free agent reliever signed a $19 million, three-year contract with the Baltimore Orioles on Monday after passing a physical.

He gets a $5 million signing bonus payable from June 2007 to September 2009 and salaries of $4 million next year, $4.5 million in 2008 and $5.5 million in 2009. He would get a $500,000 payment each time he's traded.

Baez broke into the majors with Cleveland in 2001. He played three seasons for the Indians, then spent two years with Tampa Bay before splitting time this year between the Los Angeles Dodgers and Atlanta Braves.

He went 5-6 with nine saves and a 4.53 ERA in 2006. His season -- and rocky stint in the NL -- ended on Aug. 26 after an emergency appendectomy.

"No. 1, I wanted to play for a team in the American League," Baez said Monday at Camden Yards. "I also wanted to be back on the East Coast. And they gave me a very good deal."

The 29-year-old Baez received $4 million last season.

Baez was an All-Star with the Tampa Bay Devil Rays in 2005, when he had 41 saves and a 2.86 ERA. Baez will be a setup man with the Orioles, who are committed to Chris Ray as their stopper.

"I want to be a closer, no question," Baez said. "But I'm very happy to be here. You go to a team, you never know what's going to happen. I just want to help them win."

Baltimore entered the offseason eager to rework a bullpen that was 19-25 with a 5.25 ERA and 35 saves in 56 opportunities this year. The process started with the signing of free agent reliever Jamie Walker, and continued with Baez.

"Danys gives us a strong right arm to add to our bullpen," said Mike Flanagan, executive vice president for baseball operations. "We've said the bullpen was a target area for us, and this signing and last week's addition of Jamie Walker have greatly improved our ability to hold leads and get to our closer."

Baez certainly has the experience to pitch the ninth inning, but knows Ray does, too. Ray had 33 saves in 38 opportunities in 2006, his first full season as a closer.

"Chris Ray did a great job here and deserves to be a closer," Baez said.

Baez pitched for the Cuban national team before defecting in August 1999 during the Pan American Games. He signed with Cleveland three months later and made his major league debut with the Indians in 2001, appearing in 43 games in relief.

After going 10-11 with a 4.41 ERA primarily as a starter in 2002, he earned 25 saves for the Indians in 2003. He signed with Tampa Bay before the 2004 season and saved 71 games for the Devil Rays in two years.

In 2005, Baez became only the fourth player in baseball history to get 40 or more saves for a team with at least 90 losses.

Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press