Oliver set to return, files for free agency

Oliver set to return, files for free agency

From Mike McCann, representing Darren Oliver, comes word that the Angels' southpaw will pitch in 2010 "and perhaps beyond."

There had been speculation -- generated in part by Oliver's reluctance to commit to another season until he'd talked it over with his family -- that he might walk away after another superb season in 2009 as the glue in the Angels' revolving-door bullpen.

McCann makes it clear that Oliver, who filed for free agency on Thursday, will pitch somewhere next season.

"He is not retiring as had been speculated," McCann wrote in an email. "Darren Oliver will play in 2010 and perhaps beyond."

Oliver, who turned 39 on Oct. 6, was 5-1 with a 2.71 ERA in 2009, leading the Angels' bullpen with 73 innings in 63 appearances. He made one start, an emergency outing with the rotation depleted, and spent the rest of the year filling a variety of roles from the middle innings into the eighth.

Oliver is 15-3 in his three seasons with the Angels with a 3.09 ERA in 178 appearances. This compares favorably to his 4.75 career ERA and 106-83 record, forged largely as a starter.

Oliver, who makes his offseason home in South Lake, Texas, outside Dallas, is a Type A free agent, meaning he'll bring back two compensation Draft picks if he is offered arbitration -- seemingly automatic -- and signed by another club.

Oliver accepted the Angels' offer of arbitration last season and settled fairly quickly on Jan. 16 on a one-year deal worth $3.665 million -- a significant bump from the $2 million he earned in 2008 after drawing $1.5 million in 2007, his first year with the club.

John Lackey and Robb Quinlan also filed for free agency on Thursday, the first day it became an option for the 2010 class. Chone Figgins, Vladimir Guerrero and Kelvim Escobar also are eligible for free agency.

In an interview on Thursday night with SIRIUS XM's MLB Home Plate channel, Angels GM Tony Reagins expressed optimism that Lackey will remain in an Angels uniform. The 31-year-old right-hander is widely considered the best available starter in the free-agent market.

"Well, I think there's a likeliness that John will return," Reagins said. "We have genuine interest in bringing him back. We'll see how the market plays out for John.

"We know there is going to be interest in him and he's earned the right to explore that. So, at the end of the day, we have to make the best decision for our ballclub and John is going to make the best decision for himself and hopefully the two sides meet."

The Angels retained Bobby Abreu by signing him to a two-year deal with an option for 2012 that will kick in with reachable plate appearances.

The deal is worth $18 million for two years, $27 million for three years and $19 million if Abreu's 2012 option doesn't kick in and the club gives him a $1 million buyout.

Lyle Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.