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Bavasi Outlines Plan to Retool the Angels : Baseball: Players have been targeted in the first of several meetings of team management.

November 12, 1994|BOB NIGHTENGALE | TIMES STAFF WRITER

TEMPE, Ariz. — Angel General Manager Bill Bavasi stops by the concession stand, loads up for dinner with a foot-long hot dog and a bag of peanuts, and sits alone in the stands.

He studies the Angel prospects playing in the Arizona Fall League this particular night, but it adds little to what he already knows.

If the Angels are to have any chance of competing in 1995, they need a stopper, another power-hitter and a right-handed starter.

"We have to improve this club," Bavasi said, "and we'd like to do it quickly. We're certainly willing to do something before we leave here."

On Friday the Angel front office had the first of its organizational meetings and made several critical decisions that will affect the team's future:

* Instead of giving designated hitter Chili Davis a three-year, $11.25-million contract, they will go year by year. They have decided to take their chances in arbitration, conceding that Davis could earn $4.25 million to $4.5 million in 1995.

* Center fielder Chad Curtis, signed to a three-year, $4.5-million contract last spring, is available. Trading Curtis would free his $1.9-million salary next season, and enable the Angels to put Jim Edmonds in center field and Garret Anderson in left field.

* First baseman J.T. Snow is someone the Angels are intent on trading. They would like to replace him with free-agent power hitter Mickey Tettleton.

* Starting pitcher Chuck Finley, who will earn $4.5 million in 1995, will stay for at least one more year before he's eligible for free agency.

* Closer Joe Grahe, who earned $910,000 last season and is again eligible for arbitration, most likely will not get a contract.

* The return of Jim Abbott to the Angels is a fantasy. The Angels have minimal interest in Abbott, particularly because of an anticipated salary of $4 million or more. They prefer someone such as right-handed free-agent Kevin Gross.

* Outfielder Bo Jackson will be offered a contract for less than $500,000, but the Angels don't count on him accepting it.

* Greg Myers will inherit the bulk of the catching duties, although the Angels want to acquire a veteran right-handed hitting catcher as a backup.

* Eduardo Perez will enter spring training with every opportunity to be the everyday third baseman.

The biggest debate in the meetings, sources say, is whether it's more important to acquire a power-hitter or a bullpen stopper. The Angels have finished last in scoring for the third consecutive year in the American League. And their bullpen finished last statistically in 1994, finishing with an 11-18 record and producing only 21 saves in 32 opportunities.

"Right now, it's a tough choice," Bavasi said. "As ugly as it looked last year without a stopper, you can point at too many things that took away the chance of us winning games.

"If we can make a move for a closer, we won't pass it up, but we also have to look at ways to score more runs."

The trick, of course, will be fitting the Angels' needs into a $24.5-million budget. They have nine players under contract for about $20 million, depending on Davis' arbitration hearing, leaving only about $4.5 million for the remaining 16 players.

"It's going to be difficult adding someone on," Bavasi said, "without taking someone off."

This is why, although the Angels will resurrect talks again with the Minnesota Twins for closer Rick Aguilera, they will insist the Twins pick up a portion of Aguilera's $4.2-million salary in 1995.

The Angels say they also plan to talk with the Montreal Expos about closer John Wetteland and the Kansas City Royals about closer Jeff Montgomery.

And, yes, at the right price, they again will pursue closer Mitch Williams. Williams dropped out of baseball last season after being released by the Houston Astros. The Angels made several attempts to persuade Williams to join the club, but he refused, saying he wanted to take off the remainder of the year.

"All I can promise you," Angel President Richard Brown said, "is that we'll be very, very aggressive at these meetings. Believe me, people will quickly find that out."

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