01/22/10 3:23 PM EST
Victorino lands deal, security with Phils
Center fielder's first long-term contract extends through '12
By Andy Jasner / Special to MLB.com
There were no guarantees.
And Victorino understood that.
"I've always been a guy on the bubble, not the one being talked about," Victorino said. "I've never been the guy who was locked down to a contract."
The Phillies announced they had signed Victorino to a three-year contract worth $22 million, which will keep the speedy center fielder with the club through 2012. The extension formally buys out Victorino's final two years of salary arbitration and his first year of free agency. Victorino was seeking $5.8 million in arbitration while the Phillies were offering $4.75 million.
"It really feels great and it's exciting to become one of the guys," Victorino said. "I'm one of the guys they're trying to build the team around. It's been a long and winding road. I'm definitely excited to be here for the next three years and hopefully longer."
This deal with Victorino followed Thursday's announcement that the Phillies had signed pitcher Joe Blanton to a three-year deal worth $24 million. General manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said Friday that he's optimistic the club will sign catcher Carlos Ruiz to a new contract within the next week.
Ruiz is eligible for salary arbitration for the first time and the Phillies are offering $1.7 million. The ever-improving catcher is seeking $2.5 million.
Like Ruiz, Victorino has been a huge part of the Phillies' success in recent years.
Victorino hit .292 with 39 doubles, 13 triples, 10 home runs, 62 RBIs and 25 stolen bases last season. He made his first National League All-Star team and earned his second consecutive Gold Glove Award.
Amaro believes that the 29-year-old Victorino is only going to improve.
"That's the thing," Amaro said. "I still think he is learning the game. He is going to keep becoming an even better player."
During the 2008 regular season, Victorino set then-career highs in average (.293), hits (167), at-bats (570), runs (102), doubles (30), home runs (14) and RBIs (58). Victorino later ripped the first grand slam in Phillies playoff history in Game 2 against the Brewers in the NL Division Series. The legendary shot came against CC Sabathia. Victorino wound up with 13 RBIs in the postseason en route to the club's first World Series title since 1980.
Victorino continued his stellar offensive and defensive play in the regular season and playoffs last season as the Phillies nearly repeated as champions before falling in six games to the Yankees.
In 2010, he's hoping for even more success.
"It's been tough after being in the situation we were in the year before," Victorino said. "Trust me, it doesn't sit well making the last out. I see that on the highlights and read that all the time. To be back there in the World Series showed what this team was all about. We're definitely excited about trying to bring back that trophy this year."
For Victorino, it was a double victory on Friday.
Signing a lucrative extension was as satisfying as realizing the potential of the Phillies for the immediate future.
"I get security and I get happiness," Victorino said. "I think every year for the next three years, I have the potential to play on the biggest stage every year. With the addition of Roy Halladay and other moves Ruben made, I think this team keeps getting better and better and better. That's what it's all about."
Once a bubble player, Victorino no longer has to worry about finalizing a spot on the roster.
"I can tell you this: I'm going to play the same way," Victorino said. "The contract gives me security, but it won't change how I play on the field."
Victorino's life sure has changed since the World Series concluded. He was married on Nov. 14, 2009, in a ceremony on Maui -- Victorino is from Wailuku, Hawaii -- and he plans on settling in the Philadelphia area very soon.
"I'm going to look [for houses] now that I'm here for the next three years," Victorino said. "Philadelphia is most definitely my new home. It definitely makes me feel part of this great city."
Andy Jasner is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.