Angels ink Abreu to two-year deal
Right fielder reportedly will earn $9 million each season
ANAHEIM -- There was something refreshingly different about 2009 -- his 13th Major League season. Bobby Abreu could feel it everywhere, from the clubhouse to the media to the grandstands.
"If you see this season," Abreu said on Thursday, having agreed to a two-year guaranteed deal with the Angels, "the last three or four seasons have been [basically] the same [statistically]. This year I've been more recognized by the fans, and one of the reasons is the Angels let the people know what I'm doing here.
"It means a lot to me this year to have a lot of respect on the field. This is a team that gives you an opportunity to be in the playoffs. My first time with them, I was very close to the World Series. Why not stay?"
Expressing mutual admiration with their checkbook, the Angels moved swiftly to retain the man labeled the club's most valuable performer in 2009 by manager Mike Scioscia. They wrapped up their right fielder through 2011 on the first day players eligible for free agency could file.
While terms of Abreu's new deal were not disclosed, AOL Fan House reports that Abreu will draw $9 million each of the next two seasons, with a $1 million buyout of a $9 million option for 2012 that could be based on plate appearances.
"We are extremely delighted to have Bobby back in our organization for the next two years," Angels general manager Tony Reagins said, having completed the deal "in the last 48 hours."
The list of potential Angels free agents was reduced to six with Abreu rejoining a team he enhanced with both his on-field performance and invaluable leadership. His bat and wisdom fueled an offense that set a franchise-record with 883 runs scored in a third consecutive American League West title run.
"He did a tremendous job for us, both on and off the field," Reagins said. "He was tremendous in the clubhouse, along with his production on the field. It was an easy decision for us to bring him back.
"It has not been in place for a while. It's something we've been talking about for a while . . . but we didn't want Bobby's situation to be a distraction with the club during the postseason. We felt Bobby was a priority, and both parties were very interested in getting a deal done, so it moved very quickly."
Abreu, 35, was among the last free agents to sign last season, whetting his appetite to get it done fast this time.
He agreed to a one-year, $5 million deal -- incentives for plate appearances added $1 million -- on Feb. 11, 2009, a few days before the start of Spring Training.
Abreu batted .293 with 96 runs scored, 15 home runs, 103 RBIs and 30 stolen bases in 152 games. He batted .354 with runners in scoring position, showing the way to the Angels' MLB-best .297 average in those situations.
Most important was his .390 on-base percentage and the plate discipline he showed, creating a trickle-down effect throughout the lineup.
Veterans such as Chone Figgins and Torii Hunter credited Abreu's example for helping them improve to career-high performances in on-base percentage.
"I'd be in the on-deck circle, and I couldn't swing at the first thing I saw after Bobby just had an eight-pitch at-bat," Hunter said, his .366 on-base percentage well above his .330 career norm.
Figgins raised his on-base percentage from .363 lifetime to .395.
"Bobby showed me so much," Figgins said. "He's one of the elite players in this game and has been for a long time."
First baseman Kendry Morales, emerging as one of the game's premier sluggers in his first full season, praised Abreu for teaching him how to be more patient with runners in scoring position. Young teammates such as Erick Aybar, Howard Kendrick and Maicer Izturis also credited Abreu with improving their approaches.
"I am feeling very happy to sign back with the Angels, the team that gave me the opportunity to show I could play this year," Abreu said. "I really enjoyed my first season with the club.
"We were close this year, and we're going to be successful [in 2010], too. It's good for everybody. I feel so comfortable with my teammates and the organization, and to play for Mike Scioscia is awesome. He's one of those managers who lets you play the game, gives you big support."
In the Angels' American League Division Series sweep of the Red Sox, Abreu batted .556 with two doubles, four walks and four runs scored. His ninth-inning RBI double against Jonathan Papelbon with two out and two strikes was one of the big blows in a three-run rally that subdued the Red Sox in Fenway Park in Game 3.
Abreu's season ended in frustration against his old team, the Yankees. They focused on keeping Figgins and Abreu off the bases and were successful in claiming the AL Championship Series in six games, the same number they needed to seize the World Series against the Phillies.
With 100 RBIs for the seventh consecutive season, Abreu joined Albert Pujols and Alex Rodriguez with the longest active streak in the big leagues.
He has stolen at least 20 bases in 11 consecutive seasons, the longest current streak in baseball. Only four other players -- Honus Wagner, Ty Cobb, Hugh Duffy and Barry Bonds -- had produced five seasons with at least 30 steals and 100 RBIs, an exclusive club Abreu joined.
Abreu also reached 150 games played for the 12th straight season, a feat only five players in Major League history can claim. He can tie Willie Mays for the all-time lead with at least 150 games played next season.
Abreu also became the sixth player in Major League history with at least 250 home runs, 2,000 hits, 1,000 runs, 1,000 RBIs, 1,000 walks and 300 stolen bases. That club includes Mays, Bonds, Joe Morgan, Rickey Henderson and Craig Biggio.
"I can't pick one specifically -- they all mean a lot," Abreu said when asked about a season that produced so many personal milestones. "I like to play games, more than 150.
"One of the things that means a lot is the Angels giving me some recognition for [the milestones] on the field before the games -- for 2,000 hits, 250 home runs, the 1,000 runs scored and RBIs and walks. I really respect that."
Figgins, John Lackey, Vladimir Guerrero, Darren Oliver, Robb Quinlan and Kelvim Escobar are the six Angels players eligible for free agency as the filing period also started Thursday.
Lyle Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.