Originally posted on Fox Sports West  |  Last updated 4/19/12
ANAHEIM, Calif. -- The agreement between the Angels and shortstop Erick Aybar on a contract extension can only be viewed in positive terms, both for the club and the player. By signing Aybar for four years and 35 million after earlier locking up second baseman Howie Kendrick long term, the team has now secured its middle infielders through the 2016 season. But shelling out big contracts also means the Angels will need their scouting and development programs more than ever. Keeping good players in the fold is one thing; spending millions upon millions isn't good business. The Angels are spending a lot of money, but it clearly reduces their flexibility in future seasons. That's something general manager Jerry Dipoto will have to juggle as he moves forward. "Flexibility is a year-to-year challenge; sometimes it's a day-to-day challenge," he said at a media conference to announce Aybar's extension Thursday afternoon. "It's something we address every day. We have discussions about creating more of it. What it'll do is put an onus on our scouting and player development systems to develop more players to add to our major league roster, to create the kind of flexibility we need, both in terms of payroll and the 25-man roster." The Angels signed Kendrick in January to a 33.5-million, four-year deal. In the offseason, they famously added free-agents Albert Pujols (10 years, 240 million) and CJ Wilson (five years,77.5 million). Last August, they retained pitcher Jered Weaver with a five-year, 85-million contract. And of course, there's the trade that brought outfielder Vernon Wells from Toronto. Wells is still owed 63 million. In their favor is that the fact they still have control over young players such as center fielder Peter Bourjos and third baseman Mike Trumbo, both of who are several years from free agency. But continuing to nurture talent is at the core of any organization's success. "The easiest way you're going to create flexibility is to develop from within," Dipoto said. "That's how this organization got where it was 10 years ago and it's how we're going to maintain that position." Aybar's extension was important because it keeps him from testing the free-agent market after this season. And it means the Angels will keep a player they signed in 2002 and developed through their minor league system. The Angels approached Aybar's agents in December about a new deal, and the two sides negotiated through spring training and the start of the season. If there were hitches, they weren't evident during the process. "The negotiations were long but smooth," said Fitzgerald Astacio of SFX Baseball, Aybar's agent. "We had a calm. We never rushed. We were patient, and everything went fine." Aybar, 28, is in his seventh season with the Angels and won his first Gold Glove. He hit .279 in 2011 with a career-high 10 home runs but is off to a slow start, batting .190 and enduring an 0-for-15 drought that ended Wednesday night. Aybar said the new deal will allow him to focus on baseball rather than contract talks, which may have contributed to his start. "I just need to put that aside," he said through an interpreter. "It's done. I just have to play the game the way I know how to play it and get on base so Albert can drive me in. That's the easiest part." Most players would rather hit the open market rather than re-sign with their old team in their final year, but Aybar said he had no interest in leaving the organization that signed him. And that was good for the Angels. "I knew the possibility (of free agency) was there, and I was very aware of some teams that were going to be needing a shortstop in the next couple of years," he said. "But as I talked to my family, and as I examined myself, I knew and I kept saying that the way I've been treated here has been more than fair. There's no need for me to be looking outside when I feel comfortable here."
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