02/22/08 3:00 PM ET
Angels top K-Rod in arbitration
Reliever gets club-offered $10 million, tying highest sum ever
By Lyle Spencer / MLB.com
Settling for the $10 million offered by the club after seeking $12.5 million, K-Rod seemed to grasp that this was a win-win matter. Asked what he'd have thought if someone had told him he'd be making $10 million in 10 years when he left home in Venezuela at 16, setting out on this adventure in Southern California, he grinned.
"I would have laughed at that person in the face," K-Rod said.
In other words, $10 million -- win, lose or draw -- is nothing to feel bad about.
"It doesn't bother me at all," the All-Star closer said. "It's a situation I can't control. In the meantime, I'm happy. I'm here. I've got to move on and make sure I'm ready for the season."
Tony Reagins, the Angels' general manager, was a 30-year-old scouting and player development assistant when K-Rod came to America seeking a career.
"In fact, he was one of the first persons I saw when I got here, when I was 16 years old," Rodriguez recalled. "My relationship with him is great. And I don't think it's going to change at all."
His presence in the hearing room, Reagins feels, might have cushioned Rodriguez for unexpected developments in the process.
Reagins informed Rodriguez, who was on the Tempe Diablo Stadium field working out with teammates, of the ruling.
"He handled it in a professional manner," Reagins said. "The Francisco I knew 10 years ago may have reacted a little differently. Now we have an individual who is a man, a professional. Not only is he a professional baseball player, he's a businessman -- very savvy. There's been growth since the time we first met."
The depth of their relationship, Reagins added, "allows him to understand this is not personal. We go back a long way, to a time when he was just feeling his way in the States, really. I think there's a trust factor there, and he knows there's nothing personal in this thing.
"It's a process both parties are entitled to; it's just part of the business that was collectively bargained. The arbitrators ruled in the club's favor, and now we move on."
Rodriguez equaled $10 million settlements by Alfonso Soriano and Ryan Howard, the highest ever in arbitration. Howard won his case two days before K-Rod's decision came. Soriano also lost.
"Obviously, there's an impact, an economic impact, on our club," Reagins said. "The decision had a chance to impact the industry in a tremendous way. I think the arbitrator ruled in our favor because some of the principles in the case were in the club's favor. I feel the arbitrators correctly ruled."
Asked to expand on the thought, Reagins added, "You could potentially see players arbitration-eligible in the fifth year view it in a different way."
And the arbitration bar would have been raised by $2.5 million.
Rodriguez reflected Reagins' tone, acknowledging that this is another road traveled in his life as the ballplayer.
"I know this is a business," K-Rod said. "I have to think about my family ... but it's not everything about money. It's about respect, feeling comfortable and people.
"Right now, my main thing is to prepare for the season. That's what I'm focused on now. I'm a Halo, still a Halo. I've been representing this [organization] since I was 16 years old."
Asked if he retains hope that a long-term deal can be reached with the Angels before free agency arrives after the season, K-Rod said: "The door is open. We're going to still [be] open [for] negotiations."
Reagins said he didn't feel the ruling would impact any contract extension talks, given that "arbitration-eligible players are viewed one way, free agents another way."
Appearing in front of a three-member arbitration panel, with attorneys representing both sides, Rodriguez heard numbers and analyses tossed around, his relative worth debated.
"Of course you hear things you don't want to hear," he said. "But it's part of the negotiations.
"You can't come out of there with hard feelings. It's part of the process. You've got to be professional. You can't take anything personal."
A pair of off-season signings by closers Mariano Rivera (three years, $45 million) and Francisco Cordero (four years, $46 million) did not impact him, K-Rod said, explaining that they were free agents with the marketplace bidding for their services. A five-year Major Leaguer, Rodriguez will be eligible for free agency after this season.
"If I were in a position where I was a free agent," he said, "of course I'd have to think about that. When that time comes, I'll think about it. Right now I'm still under contract with the Angels."
Rodriguez is the Majors' leading saves man across the past three seasons with 132, one more than the Padres' Trevor Hoffman.
Angels manager Mike Scioscia has no concerns about K-Rod taking care of business.
"The last thing you have to worry about is Francisco," Scioscia said. "He'll be ready to pitch for the season [opener]. He wants to achieve."
Rodriguez grew up in poverty in Caracas, Venezuela, and hasn't forgotten how difficult it was to get to where he is.
"Even with all the bumps in the road -- out with injuries, command off -- I feel I've done a good job here," he said. "Do I have to do more? Yes. Physically, mentally, do I have to be ready? Yes.
"But this is no different. Every year is a challenge for me. Every year is important."
Reagins felt relieved that "an interesting experience, but not a fun one" was over.
"We have a goal in mind for our club," the GM said. "We want to win a world championship. Being able to put potential distractions behind you is important. This is something that could have been a distraction. Both parties have handled it professionally and moved on."
Lyle Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.