BY BILL PLUNKETT
The Orange County Register
ANAHEIM–Like a last-minute shopper, Angels general manager Bill Stoneman went back to a picked-over market Christmas weekend when he learned outfielder Juan Rivera had broken his left leg and would be out indefinitely.
As a result, the Angels agreed to terms Tuesday with free-agent infielder Shea Hillenbrand on a one-year contract with a club option for the 2008 season. The Angels pursued Hillenbrand at the trade deadline last season before he was dealt by the Toronto Blue Jays to the San Francisco Giants. He hit a combined .277 with 68 RBIs and a career-high 21 home runs in 141 games last season.
Hillenbrand, a career .287 hitter and an All-Star in 2002 and 2005, will make $6 milllion in 2007 with an option for 2008 at $6.5.million. The 2008 salary becomes guaranteed if Hillenbrand reaches a certain level of plate appearances next season, or the Angels can buy it out for $500,000. The deal is pending a physical.
“We’ve always liked Hillenbrand’s bat but when we got the news Rivera was injured and that the likelihood was it would extend into the season, that provided extra impetus to get after another bat and Hillenbrand was the guy,” Stoneman said.
Rivera will undergo surgery on his fractured tibia today in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. He suffered the injury during a winter league game in Venezuela on Friday when he tried to beat out a ground ball to the right side. He collided with the pitcher who was covering first base. The surgery was delayed until swelling in the injured area subsided.