AARON ROWAND will forever be known for his aggressiveness, whether crashing into the wall at Citizens Bank Park or chasing a big contract from a team in need of a centerfielder.
That approach helped land the All-Star Gold Glover a 5-year deal with the San Francisco Giants yesterday worth an estimated $60 million.
"I wanted to get in a spot where I would have some security for my family," said Rowand, who grew up in Glendora, Calif., and resides in Las Vegas in the offseason.
"I didn't want to be in a position where I didn't know where I was in a few years. Bottom line, I wanted to get in a spot where I would be long term. In this day of free agency, that's not commonplace."
While Phillies fans might be disappointed to lose the centerfielder who provided a .309 batting average, 89 RBI and 27 homers, there was little surprise from those calling the shots. It appears the Phils topped out at 3 years and $33 million, with an option for the fourth year that included a $3 million buyout that would have raised the value to roughly $36 million.
"We had some interest in re-signing him, but, at the same time, we were not prepared to do the kind of length that the Giants were prepared to do. They saw him as more of a long-term guy than we did," Phillies assistant general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said.
Shane Victorino will play centerfield in an outfield that includes Pat Burrell in left and Jayson Werth in right.
As time dragged on this offseason, the Phillies figured Rowand, 30, would be out of their league after seeing other centerfielders land big deals, such as Torii Hunter's 5-year, $90 million contract with the Angels or Andruw Jones' 2-year, $36.2 million deal with the Dodgers. Japanese outfielder Kosuke Fukudome reached agreement Tuesday on a 4-year contract with the Cubs worth $48 million.
"I'm familiar with our offer, but there's no sense comparing that," Phillies president David Montgomery said yesterday at the Philadelphia Sports Hall of Fame induction ceremony. "He obviously saw the opportunity in San Francisco and wanted to take advantage of it.
"At the end of the season, we told Aaron, if at all possible, we hoped he'd be back and he expressed some interest to return. But at the end of the day, that's what the free-agency process is all about."
Rowand, who 2 weeks ago put his six-bedroom, Colonial-style home in Delaware County up for sale, said it was hard to leave, given his emotional attachments to the city, especially after helping capturing the team's first National League East title in 14 years.
"The emotional part of the whole process was very difficult, but I tried to keep an open mind about everything," Rowand said. "It's an exciting time, not only for me and my family, but to be playing on a team that I really feel deep down inside is going be contending for the ultimate goal."
From the Giants, the Phillies will receive a second-round pick, as well as a supplemental pick between the first and second rounds, because they offered Rowand arbitration 2 weeks ago.
Rowand gives the Giants the much-needed defense and power they sought, without giving up some of their young arms, such as Matt Cain or Tim Lincecum.
"Aaron is an all-around player who is coming into his prime and helps us check off two boxes - an extremely talented defensive centerfielder and a middle-of-the-order presence," said Giants senior vice president and general manager Brian Sabean. "His ability in centerfield definitely plays to our ballpark [AT&T Park] and will help provide more stability to our pitching staff. His no-nonsense approach on the field and in the clubhouse will be welcomed. Aaron is unquestionably a winning player."
Phillies general manager Pat Gillick said that, despite the loss of Rowand and the uncertainty of who will play third base, everyday pitching remains the priority as the team looks to make more moves.
"Sometimes you can't make a big splash," Gillick said last night on "Daily News Live" on Comcast SportsNet. "Sometimes you have to make little splashes. You have to take little steps and sometimes the little steps add up to a big splash. I think everyone is always looking for something that says, 'Hey, that's a great move,' whereas a couple of smaller moves would add up to them."
The Phillies haven't hit the jackpot during free agency. In November, they reportedly offered World Series MVP Mike Lowell a 4-year, $50 million contract to play third base. Instead, he opted to remain with the Boston Red Sox. On Tuesday, Randy Wolf turned down the chance, for the second straight year, to return to the city where he began his career, signing a 1-year deal with San Diego worth up to $9 million, including incentives.
Though the team left the winter meetings in Nashville, Tenn., having acquired only two pitchers in the Rule 5 draft, talks began to heat up over the possibility of Tadahito Iguchi returning to play third base for the Phillies. However, those talks quickly chilled, when Iguchi agreed Tuesday night to sign a 1-year deal with the San Diego Padres to play second base, pending a physical on Monday.
The Phillies also were believed to have offered Iguchi more money to play third base. However, the Japanese infielder opted to play for less money, but at a more comfortable position.
While Rowand rode his aggressive play out to the West Coast, too much of it could come back to haunt him, according to Gillick.
"He's going to get hurt during the course of his contract," Gillick said. "Most players on a 5-year contract get hurt. But I think Aaron, probably a little bit more, just because of his style of play. He's an all-out type player who would run through a wall for you."
As expected, the Phillies offered contracts to all their arbitration-eligible players with less than 6 years of major league service time before last night's deadline: Ryan Howard, Jayson Werth, Ryan Madson, Brad Lidge and Chris Snelling.
The team might comb through baseball's list of non-tendered players to see whether there is anyone of interest to play third base or add outfield depth. There were indications that San Diego would non-tender third baseman Morgan Ensberg.
The Phillies acquired Werth last year when he was not offered a contract by the Dodgers.
The Phillies announced their 2008 player development staff, including former Phillie Eric Valent. He will coach at Class A, short-season Williamsport. Three others who played briefly in the majors are among the hires: Dusty Wathan will manage Williamsport; Dave Lundquist will coach at Class A Lakewood; and Razor Shines will manage Class A Clearwater. The other newcomers are Frank Cacciatore (coach at Double A Reading), Doug Mansolino (infield coordinator) and Anton French (bunting/baserunning). Former Clearwater manager Dave Huppert will manage the new Triple A team in Allentown. Bill Dancy (fielding), Gorman Heimueller (pitching), Jerry Martin (outfield) and Mike Compton (catching) return to the minor league coordinators staff next season . . .
Ryan Howard recently chose his alma mater, Missouri State, to receive a $10,000 donation from the MLB Players Trust on his behalf for winning the 2006 Players Choice Awards for Player of the Year and Outstanding Player. Howard, who played at the school from 1999 to 2001, finished his career ranked fourth on the school's all-time RBI list with 183 and fifth in home runs with 50. *
Daily News sports writer John Kopp contributed to this report.