Angels, Fuentes agree to deal

Updated: December 31, 2008, 6:30 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

LOS ANGELES -- Reliever Brian Fuentes and the Los Angeles Angels reached agreement on a $17.5 million, two-year contract Wednesday, likely giving the AL West champions a replacement for record-setting closer Francisco Rodriguez.

Brian Fuentes

Fuentes

Fuentes will earn $8.5 million for 2009 and $9 million for 2010. The contract includes a $9 million vesting option for 2011, based on games finished, sources told ESPN The Magazine's Buster Olney.

"He should solidify the back part of our bullpen," Angels general manager Tony Reagins said on a conference call. "We pitched well last year, we expect to pitch well again."

The 33-year-old Fuentes was a three-time National League All-Star. The lefty was 1-5 with 30 saves in 34 chances and a 2.73 ERA for Colorado this season and then became a free agent. He struck out 82 in 62 2/3 innings.

"I'm definitely happy to have the opportunity to play for a team that I've watched for a long time," said Fuentes, who grew up in Merced, Calif., and still lives there. "My 2-year-old's excited. He can't wait to go to Disneyland."

Regarding Angels manager Mike Scioscia, Fuentes said: "From what I hear from other guys, he's a player's manager."

Rodriguez posted 62 saves for the Angels this season to break Bobby Thigpen's single-season record of 57. K-Rod signed a three-year, $37 million contract with the New York Mets three weeks ago.

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"The only pressure I have is what I put on myself," Fuentes replied when asked if following Rodriguez would make his life more difficult. "I know I can be successful."

Fuentes is in line to be the Angels' closer, with either Scot Shields or Jose Arredondo as his set-up man. Fuentes has a 17-27 career record with 115 saves and a 3.41 ERA in 438 appearances for the Seattle Mariners and Rockies.

"It's going to be nice to have a little bit of a comfort zone," said Fuentes, who has a 17-27 career record with 115 saves and a 3.41 ERA in 438 appearances for the Seattle Mariners and Rockies. He left the Rockies as their all-time career saves leader and finished as Colorado's all-time leader in strikeouts by a reliever as well.

Fuentes left the Rockies as their all-time career saves leader. He also finished as Colorado's all-time leader in strikeouts by a reliever.

He became the third free agent to return to the Angels this offseason, joining left-handed reliever Darren Oliver, who accepted salary arbitration, and outfielder Juan Rivera, who signed a three-year, $12.75 million contract.

The Angels had hoped to re-sign Mark Teixeira, but the switch-hitting first baseman agreed to an eight-year contract worth $180 million with the New York Yankees last week.

Fuentes was drafted by Seattle in 1995 and made his major league debut in 2000. The Mariners traded him to Colorado after the 2001 season.

Fuentes became the Rockies' closer in 2005, going 2-5 with 31 saves in 34 chances and a 2.91 ERA in 78 games. He was 3-5 with 20 saves in 27 chances and a 3.08 ERA in 64 games in 2007. The Rockies advanced to the World Series that year, but Fuentes was replaced as the team's closer in midseason by Manny Corpas. Fuentes got his job back early this season when Corpas faltered.

"Once you get there, all the other bad seasons just wash away," Fuentes said of playing in the World Series. "You don't make it to the World Series every year. To have an opportunity to do that is very appealing."

Fuentes said the Rockies never made a formal offer to keep him.

"It was a great experience all the way around," he said of his seven years in Colorado. "I was fortunate to have the opportunity to pitch quite a bit and work my way up."

Fuentes became the third free agent to join the Angels this offseason, joining returnees Oliver and outfielder Juan Rivera. Oliver, who joined the Angels in 2007, accepted salary arbitration. Rivera, who joined the Angels in 2005, signed a three-year, $12.75 million contract.

The Angels had hoped to re-sign Mark Teixeira, but the switch-hitting first baseman agreed to an eight-year contract worth $180 million with the New York Yankees last week.

"We're going to keep our options open and look for other opportunities to make our club better," Reagins said. "Whatever that might be, we're going to attack it."

Reagins said there wasn't a clear-cut plan regarding whether the Angels would pursue a starting pitcher or a position player.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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