posted on Mar, 18 2004 @ 05:54 PM
The Oakland Athletics finally kept one of their young stars, signing third baseman Eric Chavez to a six-year contract extension believed to be worth
$66 million -- the biggest contract in franchise history.
Chavez, a three-time Gold Glove winner and the AL's top power-hitting third baseman last season, would have been a free agent next winter. But instead
of allowing Chavez to leave as MVPs Jason Giambi and Miguel Tejada did before him, Oakland spent the cash necessary to retain some of its impressive
array of young talent.
"It's a real honor standing here, considering the guys that have gone by, and I'm the one standing here," Chavez said. "It's kind of unbelievable,
really. ... I'm grateful that they see me as a centerpiece."
The deal, announced Thursday, includes a $12.5 million club option for 2011 with a $3 million buyout. Chavez will make $5.2 million this year.
Last season, Chavez led the A's with 29 homers and finished second to Tejada with 101 RBIs. Both totals were tops among AL third basemen. He also led
the A's with a .282 average -- hitting .313 after the All-Star break -- while establishing career highs with 166 hits, 94 runs and five triples.
"In my opinion, with all due respect to Mr. Rolen in St. Louis, this is the best third baseman in baseball," A's general manager Billy Beane said
to Chavez. "You're going to make us all look very bright over the next few years."
He has 134 homers over his first five major league seasons, establishing himself as a consistent run-producer while surviving the growing pains of
breaking into the majors at 20. A first-round pick in 1996, he hit 26 homers in 2000, his first full major-league season.
"If you (consider) all the guys we've lost, I don't want to put that pressure on Eric yet, but I think he's got more upside," A's manager Ken Macha
said. "I think Eric has got another level."
In addition to Giambi and Tejada, the small-market, small-budget A's have been unable to re-sign free agents Johnny Damon, Keith Foulke or Jason
Isringhausen, to name a few. Others, such as Ramon Hernandez or Billy Koch, were traded before their salaries became prohibitive.
But Chavez and his agent, former A's pitcher Dave Stewart, told Beane and owner Steve Schott that to stay in Oakland, Chavez would take less money
than he probably could make on the open market. In exchange, Chavez got one of just three contracts of six years or longer given out since last
season: Tejada and St. Louis' Albert Pujols also signed long-term deal.
It also was a big day for Schott, who has been criticized by Oakland fans for keeping the A's on a tight budget and allowing Giambi and Tejada to
"I guess the third time's the charm," Schott said. "Eric is the kind of person we want to keep around here for the long-term. We are definitely out
here to keep quality players."