The Angels have tabled contract negotiations with Vladimir Guerrero, raising the possibility that the star outfielder could leave the team as a free agent next fall.
The Angels exercised their $15-million option last week but opted not to revive discussions about a long-term extension. General Manager Tony Reagins said the Angels based the decision on the results of preliminary negotiations held last winter.
"I think both sides have to be in a comfortable range as far as what an extension may or may not entail," Reagins said. "We're a ways away."
It is uncertain whether Guerrero will consider an extension next fall without testing free agency. Diego Bentz, the agent for Guerrero, did not return messages.
Reagins would not say how far apart the two sides were or how many years an extension might run and what the salary might be. He said Bentz agreed to revisit the talks next year and said the Angels would consider an extension then.
"We have interest in Vladdy," Reagins said. "Right now, we have him under control for another season."
With the option included, Guerrero's contract covers six years for $82 million. The Angels signed outfielder Torii Hunter for five years and $90 million last year, and they hope to sign first baseman Mark Teixeira or pitcher CC Sabathia this year, probably for more than $100 million.
Reagins said the Angels would still have money to sign Guerrero if they sign Teixeira or Sabathia.
Even with free agency offering few attractive options among center fielders -- Jim Edmonds, Mark Kotsay and Corey Patterson might be the best of the bunch -- the Angels have not had any inquiries on Gary Matthews Jr.
Matthews parlayed a career year with the Texas Rangers -- .313 with 19 home runs -- into a five-year, $50-million contract to play center field for the Angels. One year later, the Angels signed Hunter, relegating Matthews to a roving fourth outfielder.
Matthews, 34, has a no-trade clause through the 2009 season, and he could offer to waive it if the Angels could trade him somewhere he could play center field every day. But his father, former major league outfielder Gary Matthews Sr., said he would advise his son to stay with the Angels.
"That's a great team," the senior Matthews said. "You can go a long time before you can get with a team where it's good top to bottom."
The younger Matthews had knee surgery last week, with a rehabilitation period projected at four to six months. His top priority is getting well, said his agent, Scott Leventhal.
"We'll let nature take its course before we worry about what uniform he's in," Leventhal said. "Obviously, Gary has had thoughts about where he'd like to play defensively. When he's healthy and putting up numbers, we could be in a different position."
Matthews hit .242 with eight homers last season.
"It doesn't matter whether he stays or goes," the senior Matthews said, "he's got to hit."
Chad Cordero, the former Washington Nationals closer and Cal State Fullerton standout, would be interested in signing with the Angels, according to his agent, Larry Reynolds.
He had shoulder surgery in July. The Angels are expected to be one of several teams monitoring an off-season throwing program that Reynolds said Cordero would start next week.
Cordero would consider a one-year contract with a team that might not necessarily use him as a closer, Reynolds said.
"He wants to go out and have a good year, regardless of whether it's a ninth-inning role, an eighth-inning role or a seventh-inning role," Reynolds said. "If he goes out and shows he's healthy and puts up good numbers, a closer role will be available to him, whether it's this year or the following year."
Ticket price hike
The Angels have raised season-ticket prices by an average of 6.4%, even as Commissioner Bud Selig has warned teams to be wary of the economic crisis and as the Dodgers have offered fans the chance to renew season tickets with no increase.
"Our objective is to continue to put a quality product on the field," Angels spokesman Tim Mead said. "We're affected by rising business costs as well. We believe our product continues to be very affordable."
Mead said the anticipated average price of all tickets -- not only season tickets -- will be no more than $22. Team Marketing Report last season listed the average price for the Dodgers at $29.66 and the Angels at $20.78, excluding luxury seats.