Finley Signs $14 Million Deal With Angels

Friday, December 10th 2004, 8:19 pm
By: News On 6

ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) _ The Anaheim Angels rounded out their starting outfield Friday, agreeing to a $14 million, two-year contract with ageless center fielder Steve Finley.

By adding Finley, the Angels can move Garret Anderson to left field, where he played in 2002 when the team won the World Series. Jose Guillen played left last season and hit 27 homers, but was traded last month to the Washington-bound Expos.

``Hey, I'm still in Los Angeles, right? Just wearing a different color,'' said Finley, who played with the Dodgers for the last half of last season.

The signing takes the Angels out of the Carlos Beltran sweepstakes. But with Finley, Anderson and AL MVP Vladimir Guerrero, they possess one of baseball's best outfields both offensively and defensively. And they can afford to make a run for a starting pitcher.

Finley, who turns 40 in March, said he isn't thinking retirement.

``I have no intention of stopping any time soon,'' he said.

The Angels have an option for a third year, at which time Finley will be 42.

``You wouldn't know it by looking at him or watching him play last year,'' Angels general manager Bill Stoneman said of Finley's advanced years.

Finley's signing was announced on the first day of the winter meetings.

``This is something that came together for us fairly quickly,'' Stoneman said. ``Once we took a look at it, we said, `This is a natural.' This does leave us with some flexibility to do some other things.''

Finley was a key factor in the Dodgers' playoff run last season _ their first postseason appearance since 1996.

He hit .263 with 13 homers and 46 RBIs in 58 games after being acquired the from the Arizona Diamondbacks on July 31. Overall, Finley hit .271 with 36 homers and 94 RBIs while earning $6.75 million.

``I wanted to go to a team that has a chance to win the World Series,'' he said. ``I believe I've accomplished that.

``It's close to home, it's a great team, it's a great organization with a chance to win. You can't ask for any more than that as a player.''

Finley lives in Del Mar, a San Diego suburb.

A four-time Gold Glove Award winner and two-time All-Star, Finley has a career batting average of .276 with a .450 slugging percentage. He has averaged 27 homers and 87 RBIs over the past six years.

Finley's grand slam on the next-to-last day of last season capped a seven-run ninth inning, giving the Dodgers a 7-3 victory over San Francisco and clinching the NL West title.

The Dodgers did not offer Finley salary arbitration, meaning his signing won't cost the Angels a draft pick.

Finley expressed disappointment the Dodgers didn't try to keep him.

``It was probably two of the most exciting months I've had in baseball,'' he said of the time he spent in a Los Angeles uniform. ``I expected to have conversations with them after the season. They never materialized.

``No regrets. I'm more disappointed in the way things were handled than anything else. I enjoyed my time there and thought I was going to stay there.''

The trade of Guillen was expected. He was suspended for the last eight games of the regular season following a temper tantrum on and off the field after he was lifted for a pinch-runner Sept. 25. He was also left off the playoff roster.

Angels manager Mike Scioscia said Finley was an ideal addition.

``I don't think we could have gotten a better fit than what Steve brings _ the way he plays the game, the defensive presence he gives us, and the way he swings the bat,'' Scioscia said. ``Steve's got the power to drive the ball and be a presence in that way, but he also brings a lot to the package as far as the little things that are important to our club.''

Finley gets $6 million next season and $7 million in 2006, and the Angels have a $7 million option for 2007 with a $1 million buyout. If Finley has 600 plate appearances in 2006, it becomes a mutual option.

San Francisco offered him a $17 million, three-year deal, according to Finley's agent, Tommy Tanzer. Detroit proposed a two-year agreement.

``I really thought it would be the Giants,'' Tanzer said. ``They're mad at me now.''

Finley said choosing between the Angels, Giants and Tigers was a struggle, but certainly seemed happy with his choice.