Rebuilding Angels send Abbott to the Yankees California obtains 3 young prospects

December 07, 1992|By Peter Schmuck | Peter Schmuck,Staff Writer

LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- The California Angels pulled off a major trade last night, but they may have further alienated a dwindling fan following when they sent popular left-hander Jim Abbott to the New York Yankees for three of that club's top young prospects.

The deal added promising pitchers Jerry Nielsen and Russ Springer and first baseman J. T. Snow to a rebuilding Angels club that recently lost outfielder Junior Felix and relief stopper Bryan Harvey in the November expansion draft.

It makes perfect sense for an organization that is starting froscratch, but it probably won't make sense to fans of one of the most inspiring players in the history of the game.

Abbott was born without a right hand, but he overcame his

handicap to become a star pitcher at the University of Michigan, a gold-medal winner in the Olympics and eventually one of the best left-handers in the American League. But a lengthy contract dispute convinced the Angels to trade him while his value is at its peak.

"What this is is 3 1/2 months with a $16 million offer on the table and the realization that we cannot sign him," said Angels president Richard Brown. "We didn't want it to end this way. We just finally came to the realization that it wasn't going to happen."

The club had offered four years at $4 million per year to buy off Abbott's final two years of arbitration eligibility and his first two years after he became eligible for free agency, but agent Scott Boras was looking for $19 million or a $17.5 million package plus incentives that could have taken the total value to more than $20 million.

The Angels chose instead to bolster a youth movement that already includes several of baseball's best young prospects. The deal will be painful in the present, but the Angels finally appear to have a long-range plan for success.

"I know we'll take some criticism for this," Brown said, "but you always get criticized when you trade a popular player. Our responsibility is to improve the club. Our responsibility is to produce a ballclub that will be a contender and eventually win. The way we were staffed, we were not a contender."

It was a painful deal for the Angels and especially for owner

Gene Autry, who has made no secret that Abbott is his favorite player. But only last year, the club allowed another of his favorites -- first baseman Wally Joyner -- to sign with the Kansas City Royals rather than give in to his contract demands.

"It was a deal that I had to go to Gene Autry and get permission to make," executive vice president Whitey Herzog said. "And we're not done. We're going out to get some hitters and I think we'll have a pretty good young ballclub."

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