1. Tex hold 'em
The Angels have held off on making a substantive offer to first baseman Mark Teixeira, hoping agent Scott Boras will come off his request for a 10-year deal, but General Manager Tony Reagins needs to engage Boras in serious negotiations this week or risk losing the free-agent slugger to the Boston Red Sox, Baltimore Orioles, New York Yankees, or, possibly, Washington Nationals.
The Angels' strategy in November -- see what offers Teixeira receives, then make a quick-strike, lucrative bid with a deadline for Teixeira to accept or decline -- appeared sound, but the market for Teixeira, like for most free agents this winter, has been slow to develop, and it has been difficult to gauge what it will ultimately cost in years and dollars to sign him.
The Angels prefer something in the five- to six-year range and are willing to pay him $20 million a year, but with the possibility of both the Red Sox and Yankees involved in the bidding and driving up the price, the Angels may have no choice but to go to seven or eight years.
2. Pitching in
Assuming free-agent right-hander Jon Garland departs, the Angels will need a fifth starter. Do they pursue an ace such as CC Sabathia or a No. 5 such as Randy Johnson or Paul Byrd?
The Angels are very interested in Sabathia, but it's doubtful they can afford both him and Teixeira. Sabathia already has a six-year, $140-million offer from the Yankees, and the Milwaukee Brewers are poised to up their five-year, $100-million offer to retain him.
Reagins needs to determine whether he has a legitimate shot at Teixeira, because negotiations for Sabathia are moving quicker. If the Angels sense Teixeira, their top priority, is slipping away, they could pursue Sabathia, but they need to start that process soon.
Convoluting the picture is the Yankees, whose winter objectives are closely intertwined with the Angels. New York's top priority is Sabathia, and if it can't land the pitcher, it would pursue Teixeira.
3. And in this corner:
Whether it's retaining veteran Garret Anderson or Juan Rivera, giving switch-hitter Kendry Morales the job, moving Chone Figgins to the outfield and pursuing a third baseman or exploring free agents such as Pat Burrell and Adam Dunn or even Manny Ramirez, the Angels need to develop a plan for left field.
Gary Matthews Jr. is recovering from knee surgery and won't be ready for the start of the 2009 season, so there are two spots that can be filled by outfielders, left field and designated hitter. Who's on first could determine who's in left.
If Teixeira returns, the Angels probably would seek a lower-cost solution such as Morales in left. If Teixeira signs elsewhere, the Angels could make a run at Ramirez, who would command at least $20 million, or Burrell or Dunn, who would be closer to the $10-million range.