Angels finalize four-year extension with Aybar
Deal for homegrown shortstop believed to be worth $35 million
ANAHEIM -- Three months ago, the Angels signed second baseman Howie Kendrick to a four-year deal that will keep him from testing the free-agent market this coming offseason.
Now they're doing the same with his up-the-middle infield partner.
After roughly five months of negotiations, the Angels finalized a four-year extension with shortstop Erick Aybar on Wednesday afternoon.
The deal, which is believed to be worth around $35 million, was officially announced by the club during Wednesday's game, with Aybar's agent, Fernando Cuza, in town to put the finishing touches on the contract. In place of a news conference, Aybar and general manager Jerry Dipoto will hold an informal luncheon and question-and-answer session at ESPN Zone Anaheim on Thursday afternoon -- with Aybar receiving his 2011 Gold Glove on the field later that day.
"I don't think in any way there was ever a thought that we wouldn't get to this point," Dipoto said of keeping Aybar in the books through the 2016 season.
Aybar, batting .171 through the first 10 games this season, is making $5.075 million in 2011. His extension will kick in next year, with the reported value being slightly higher than the four-year, $33.5 million contract Kendrick agreed to in January.
With that, Aybar and Kendrick -- two homegrown players who make up the two spots ahead of Albert Pujols in the lineup -- can continue to be a tandem up the middle through at least 2015, when Kendrick's deal is set to expire.
Both have one other thing in common: They took less money the year before free agency to stay in Anaheim.
Said Kendrick: "It's not always about money."
"We're doing it because I like this team, I like this organization," said Aybar, who remained coy about the details of his deal before it became official. "They've given me good support throughout the years. When I was nobody, they supported me."
Coincidentally, Aybar was out of the lineup against Bartolo Colon on Wednesday, with manager Mike Scioscia giving him what he called "just a little recharge."
Aybar, 28, has been in the Angels' system since signing out of the Dominican Republic in 2002, hitting .280 with a .327 on-base percentage while averaging seven homers, 22 steals and 139 games over the past three seasons. During that time, he ranked 12th in the Majors in Ultimate Zone Rating (3.7).
"He goes out and plays hard," Kendrick said. "I mean the guy's a bulldog. He's the type of guy you want to play with every day."
Aybar's reported average annual value of $8.75 million would rank 10th all-time among shortstops. More important, it would keep Aybar from heading into a market in which he would have likely been the most-sought-after shortstop, with big-market clubs like the Mets and Red Sox probably among those interested.
"The agents see that," Aybar said, "and they're always talking with teams that need shortstops. He mentioned to me about New York, Boston, the Dodgers. That goes into your mind, but I feel good with where I'm at. I want to win a ring here first, and then see what happens."
Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his columns and his blog, Gonzo and "The Show", and follow him on Twitter @Alden_Gonzalez. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.