DETROIT Ivan Rodriguez finalized his $40 million, four-year contract Monday with the Detroit Tigers, leaving the World Series champion Florida Marlins to join a team that last year set the American League record for losses.
"This is an exciting day for me," he said. "I know they had a bad season last year, but I think this is going to be a completely different season."
The signing of the 10-time All-Star catcher was the latest move by the Tigers, who went 43-119 last season. Detroit won five of its last six and avoided tying the post-1900 major league record of 120 losses, set by the 1962 New York Mets.
"This is how it starts," Tigers manager Alan Trammell said. "This is how we get better."
Rodriguez, a 10-time Gold Glove winner and MVP of the NL championship series, gets $7 million this year, $8 million in 2005 and $11 million each in 2006 and 2007. The Tigers have a $13 million option for 2008 with a $3 million buyout.
Rodriguez had a $10 million, one-year deal with the Marlins last season. He asked for a $40 million, four-year contract from Florida, which broke off talks Dec. 7.
The Tigers have been active in the free-agent market. Second baseman Fernando Vina and outfielder Rondell White agreed to $6 million, two-year deals in December, and starting pitcher Jason Johnson signed a $7 million, two-year contract later that month.
Detroit agreed to one-year contracts with right-hander Al Levine ($925,000) and backup catcher Mike DiFelice ($650,000) and to minor-league deals with third baseman Greg Norton and pitcher Esteban Yan. The Tigers also traded for shortstop Carlos Guillen.