Going into spring training last year, Padre second baseman Alan Wiggins was concerned he might be the weak link on a contending team.
This year, the outfielder turned infielder feels a lot more confident and secure. Both in the field and at the bank.
The 26-year-old switch-hitting speedster signed a four-year contract with the Padres on Monday that goes into effect this season and is guaranteed through 1988. Wiggins had filed for arbitration last month, and his hearing was scheduled to be held at the end of the week.
Terms of the contract were not released by the Padres, but according to Wiggins' agent, Tony Attanasio, the contract is worth "close to $3 million dollars.
"Alan is one of the highest-paid second basemen in the National League."
Wiggins: "This proves that they're willing to pay the price for a winner, and we have a winner in San Diego . . . The type of organization we have in San Diego is like a family."
The Padres stuck by Wiggins during a difficult period of his life in 1982. From July 20 to September 19, Wiggins underwent treatment at an Orange County Drug Rehabilitation Center, and missed almost two months of the season.
His play on the field and conduct off it have impressed the Padres since. During the off-season, Wiggins works in conjunction with the San Diego Police Department and presents programs on drug and crime prevention to area high schools.
Batting in the leadoff position, Wiggins hit .258 with 3 home runs and 34 RBIs and set club records by scoring 106 runs and stealing 70 bases (in 91 attempts) in 157 games last season.
Defensively, he made a successful transition to playing second base. Using the quickness that made him one of the Padres' best defensive outfielders in 1982, Wiggins led National League second basemen with 381 putouts last season.
He finished third among second basemen in total chances (833), fourth in double plays (95) and second in errors (32). Phillie second baseman Juan Samuel led the league with 33 errors.
"He established himself as an outstanding second baseman last season while providing the offensive spark to ignite our club," Padre General Manager Jack McKeon said. "We look forward to his efforts helping the Padres win in the future."
Attanasio said he was confident a deal would be worked out without his client having to go to arbitration because the Padres are "intent on tying up their young players. That's a different policy than most organizations."
Wiggins will be free to renegotiate his contract one year after he qualifies for free agency. Wiggins will become a free agent after the 1987 season, which is his sixth season in the major leagues.
"We didn't want the contract to go much beyond his free agency year," Attanasio said.
At that point, Wiggins would be free to sell his services to the highest bidder, or according to Attanasio, to retire.
"If he decided to retire after four years, he wouldn't have to work another day in his life," Attanasio said. "And that's without making investments."