With no long-term deal in place, K-Rod expects to be free agent after '08 season

Francisco Rodriguez, the owner of a major league-best 132 saves over the last three seasons, expects to become a free agent after 2008, the Angels closer said Sunday.

When asked as he arrived in Arizona for spring training, K-Rod was asked if he thought 2008 would be his last season with the Angels.

"Yeah, probably," he told reporters. "If they wanted me here, they would have done something a long time ago. In the meantime, I have to put that out of my head and do my job."

Rodriguez backtracked slightly, noting that he does think the Angels want him around beyond this season.

"No, no, that's not what I'm saying, I don't want that in the paper," Rodriguez said. "It's just something I can't control."

At issue is a long-term contract for the Rodriguez. He faces an arbitration hearing Thursday where the 26-year-old pitcher has asked for $12.5 million in salary for the 2008 season while the Angels have countered with $10 million.

Rodriguez may be seeking a package similar to the one the New York Yankees gave closer Mariano Rivera over the winter, for three years and $45 million. The Angels are believed to have offered him around $34 million for three years following last season.

Rodriguez is coming off one of his less impressive years. He had a 3.45 ERA in the second half to finish with a 2.81 ERA, his highest since 2003. He had 40 saves in 46 chances, and gave up a walk-off homer to Manny Ramirez in the second game of the AL Division Series. The Angels were swept by Boston.

Angels general manager Tony Reagins says he is planning for all possibilities.

"There are scenarios that include Francisco, and there are scenarios that don't include him," Reagins said. "He has an opportunity to explore free agency, so it wouldn't be smart on my end not to consider that there's a possibility he may not be here."

Rodriguez was a sensation in 2002, when he was a 20-year-old with only five major league appearances before he went 5-1 in the postseason to help the Angels win their first World Series title. He replaced Troy Percival as the closer in 2004.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.