Angels Sign Langston to Baseball’s Richest Contract


The California Angels boldly pursued and won baseball’s premier free agent Friday when left-handed pitcher Mark Langston agreed to a guaranteed, five-year, $16-million contract that made him--at least for the moment--the highest-paid player in baseball.

The 29-year-old San Diego native spurned “serious” proposals from the Los Angeles Dodgers and New York Yankees to enlist with the Angels, becoming the sixth starting pitcher on a staff that last season had the second-best earned-run average in the American League.

Langston’s contract, which will contain a no-trade clause, will be the longest given a professional baseball player since Eddie Murray signed a five-year pact with the Baltimore Orioles in 1987 (Murray subsequently was traded to the Dodgers) and is the most lucrative guaranteed contract ever, surpassing the $13.6 million Dave Winfield was guaranteed by the Yankees in a 10-year deal before the 1981 season.


Langston also becomes baseball’s third $3-million man, joining Minnesota’s Kirby Puckett and Oakland’s Rickey Henderson in that elite group. He will get a $1.5-million signing bonus, a 1990 salary of $1.5 million and a salary of $3.25 million in each of the succeeding four years.

“I’m not out to break ground in that regard,” said Langston, the Angels’ biggest free-agent signing since Reggie Jackson joined the club in 1982.

While admitting that the dollar amounts discussed “without a doubt boggles the mind,” security was paramount in Langston’s mind.

“Some teams were close, like the Dodgers and Yankees, but I think from the start--from the very first meeting with the Angels--meeting with (owners) Mr. and Mrs. (Gene and Jackie) Autry, the Angels were first-class, and from that point on, they took the lead,” said Langston, who had a combined record of 16-14 last season with the Seattle Mariners and Montreal Expos and has a career record of 86-76.

“I was more comfortable with the situation they presented before me as far as the five-year deal and the no-trade provision. That’s something that was very important to me. Every time we (he and agent Arn Tellem) said something, they responded. They were the front-runner as far as responding to everything we had to say. . . .

“My main concern was playing for a pennant-contending team,” he said. “Even when I played for Seattle, I thought the Angels were classy and I always liked playing in Anaheim. I knew every year they would do what it took to put a winning team on the field.”

Angel General Manager Mike Port, who in the past has been criticized for not aggressively pursuing free agents, said signing Langston will give him more options in trade discussions.

Reluctant in the past to sign players for longer than two years, Port made an exception because of Langston’s ability and the knowledge that another starter might have averted the late-season collapse that took the Angels out of the AL West race last summer.


Langston is delighted but the Dodgers are disappointed by Angels’ latest acquisition.