Sunday, January 15, 2006

Angels Ink Figgins and Rivera to Extensions

Update: According to ABC Rivera will actually earn a total of $3.25 million over the next two years. $1.25 million for '06 and and a cool $2 mil for 2007. I still give the signing a thumbs up.

The Los Angeles Angels took care of some internal business yesterday when they extended the contracts of utility man extroidinaire Chone Figgins and reserve outfielder Juan Rivera. Despite not being considered 'starters' for 2006, both will get plenty of playing time spelling starters, playing off the bench and filling in when starters go down with an injury.

According to MLB.com Figgins will receive $10.5 million for an additional three years service while Rivera was extended for two more seasons for a much more economical $1.5 million. Both players made just $390,000 last year so the new contracts represent a significant upgrade, particularly in Figgins' case. As most Angel fans know, Figgins' contributions have been legion ever since he came to prominence during the Angels' Championship season of 2002, primarily as pinch-runner who gave manager Mike Scioscia speed on the base paths late in games. That led to many late-inning comebacks for the Halos and eventually their first ever World Series triumph. In following seasons Figgins' prominence rose as he displayed continued development with the bat and a penchant for being able to play virtually any position on the diamond save pitcher and catcher. After injuries sidelined Troy Glaus in 2004 and Dallas McPherson in 2005, Figgins became the primary third baseman. A role he could resume in 2006 should McPherson not be able to return from injury and reclaim the job. He also has extended playing time in centerfield, shortstop and second base (his 'natural' position). In all Figgins started at six different positions for Los Angeles, a feat he also accomplished in 2004. In addition to his defensive versatility, Figgins has developed into an offensive threat, raising his batting average from .167 in limited action during the 2002 campaign to .296 in 2003 & '04. While his average fell to .290 last season Figgins' other offensive categories continued on a positive trajectory with career highs in runs, hits, doubles, HR's and he led the major leagues in stolen bases with 62. Chone Figgins will turn 28 on January 22nd and his youth, durability and versatility make him a solid investment in the Angels' future.

Juan Rivera was something of an afterthought to many Angel fans. He was one of the guys the Angels got when they rode Jose Guillen out on a rail to Montreal/Washington. But Rivera set career marks for home runs (15) and RBI last season and was particularly impressive late in the year when he started each of the last 17 games for the Halos and hit .308 from August 1 until the end of the year. That helped propel the club to a 14-3 record to end the year and allowed LA a chance to clinch the division early with a comfortable 7 game margin over Oakland. Rivera's ability to spell outfielder and fill the DH role while making significant contributions with the bat have made him an important part of the club.

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