KISSIMMEE, Fla. — Garret Anderson will feel a little strange playing for a team other than the Angels. After spending his entire 15-year career with the California-turned-Anaheim-turned-Los Angeles Angels, Anderson completed a $2.5 million, one-year contract with the Atlanta Braves on Tuesday.
"I have no idea what to expect," he said during a news conference at Atlanta’s spring training stadium. "I went through three uniform changes, but Anaheim was always home. It will be different, but my chapter with the Angels is closed."
The 36-year-old Anderson was a longtime stalwart for the AL team, making three All-Star appearances and batting .300 or better seven times. His best season was 2002, when he finished fourth in MVP balloting after hitting .306 with 29 homers, 123 RBIs and an AL-leading 56 doubles on a team that beat San Francisco in the World Series.
Anderson has 2,368 hits and a career average of .296. He has never batted below .280 in a season.
"We went into the offseason looking to upgrade the pitching staff and to add an outfield bat to hit in the middle of the order," general manager Frank Wren said. "I had a number of guys come up to me and tell me about Garret Anderson and it was all positive. He’s a great addition."
The Braves had to go to a backup plan in the outfield after an apparent deal for Ken Griffey Jr. fell through last week. Anderson, a left-handed hitter, will likely platoon in left field with Matt Diaz, the same role the Braves had envisioned for Griffey until he decided to return to the Seattle Mariners.
In an interesting twist, Anderson had been talking with the Mariners — until they signed Griffey. Then he turned his attention to finalizing a deal with the Braves.
Even though Anderson was coming off a solid season — he batted .293 with 15 homers and 84 RBIs in 145 games — he remained unsigned at the start of spring training and had to take a huge pay cut from the $12 million he made in the final year of his contract with the Angels.
"It got tough to watch television when I saw the players in spring training and I wasn’t there, but I kept working," he said. "I just wanted to settle down, and I welcome the new opportunity."
Atlanta was eager to bolster an outfield that produced only 27 homers in 2008, worst in the majors. The Braves are counting on right fielder Jeff Francoeur to bounce back from a miserable season, and they think the combination of Anderson and Diaz will put up solid numbers in left.
Diaz went down with a knee injury last May and batted .244. But he batted above .300 in platoon roles the two previous seasons.
With the signing of Anderson, the Braves are unlikely to make any more major moves before opening day. The lineup is set except for center field, where Josh Anderson, Gregor Blanco and minor league prospect Jordan Schafer are competing for the starting spot.
Wren bolstered the starting rotation by signing Derek Lowe, trading for Javier Vazquez, landing Japanese all-star Kenshin Kawakami and bringing back 42-year-old Tom Glavine for another season.
"This is the last piece to our club," manager Bobby Cox said. "We have a lot of talented young outfielders, but most of them could use another year in the minors. When I see Garret up close he reminds me a lot of George Brett."
The Braves play their first spring training game today against the Detroit Tigers at Lakeland.