Angels, Finley Agree on Three-Year Deal


The Angels finally got the man atop their most-wanted list, agreeing Thursday to terms with left-handed starter Chuck Finley on a three-year, $12-million deal. The club holds an option on a fourth year that could make the contract worth as much as $18 million.

Now, the Angels must sign lefty Jim Abbott before Monday or they will forfeit the right to negotiate with him until May 1.

General Manager Bill Bavasi, who said he was concerned as recently as “Dec. 29 or 30 that we had a good shot at losing Finley,” believes a deal also can be struck with Abbott. Both players indicated they would prefer to be Angels for the rest of their careers.


“We didn’t feel we could do a lot [of signing] until we got Chuck done,” Bavasi said. “We just had to delay a lot of things. If you set Chuck as your priority, you have to stick to it.”

Finley, 33, has spent all 10 years of his major league career with the Angels, becoming the club’s winningest left-hander last season. Only right-hander Nolan Ryan had more victories, 138, as an Angel than Finley, who has a career record of 114-98 with a 3.58 earned-run average in 309 games.

“I had every intention of staying there,” said Finley, who was 15-12 with a 4.12 earned-run average in 32 starts last season. “I enjoy the Angels. I have a lot of friends there. Mr. and Mrs. Autry have been good to me. I felt comfortable. I was willing to take less money to stay there.”

Finley might have been able to sign for as much as $5 million per year with another club, and he got as far as a face-to-face meeting with George Steinbrenner of the New York Yankees in Tampa, Fla. He also talked to Baltimore, Boston, Cleveland, St. Louis, Texas and Toronto, but remained committed to the Angels.

“Some of the other offers expired because the money was all gone,” Finley said of talks with some of the more active clubs in the free-agent market, like Baltimore and Cleveland. “They had spent all their money.”

Finley will make $3 million this season, $4 million in 1997 and $5 million in 1998. The option year calls for at least $5 million, but could go as high as $6 million if Finley pitches 200 innings in each of the 1996, ’97 and ’98 seasons.


“There would have been no deal without the fourth year,” said Randy Hendricks, Finley’s agent. “We missed other opportunities because we didn’t move at their [faster] pace . . . but all’s well that ends well.”

Abbott, 28, rejoined the Angels in a July 27 trade that sent four minor leagues to the Chicago White Sox. He was 5-4 with a 4.15 ERA in 13 starts for the Angels and was 11-8 with a 3.70 ERA overall.

Abbott didn’t give the Angels quite the results they needed as their 11-game lead in the American League West evaporated during August and September.

An Angel from 1989 to 1992, Abbott signed with the Yankees as a free agent, but was not happy in the searing spotlight of New York’s unforgiving media and fans. He signed with the White Sox last April, then returned to Anaheim.

“There is still hope,” Bavasi said of signing Abbott. “But it’s still a very, very difficult situation.”

If the Angels fail to sign Abbott, Bavasi said he believes the club is still better off than at this time last year. The Angel rotation again is anchored by Finley and Mark Langston. Plus, they signed Randy Velarde to bolster the infield.


Finley came through with pivotal victories over Seattle, 2-0, on Sept. 27 and Oakland, 8-2, on the final day of the regular season, forcing a one-game playoff with the Mariners.

“We kind of went through a learning process,” Finley said. “We showed a lot coming back the last week of the season. Unfortunately, we got hooked up with Randy Johnson, one of the best pitchers in the major leagues [losing the playoff, 9-1]. In ‘85, the year before I got here, we finished one game out, then won it the next year. I think that will happen again this year.

“This is going to be the year we end up taking it [the division championship]. Yeah, we had a good season, but we kind of let some things slip away.”


In other news, The Angels invited four players, including top draft pick Darin Erstad, to spring training as non-roster invitees. Erstad, an outfielder, batted .363 in 25 games with Class-A Lake Elsinore last year. Pitchers Mike Freehill and Mike Holtz and catcher Fausto Tejero are the others.


Times staff writer Mike DiGiovanna contributed to this story.