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These Angels might not last until spring

Moreno isn't planning a big increase in payroll, so team could have major decisions to make on free agents, including Rodriguez and Teixeira.

September 17, 2008|Mike DiGiovanna | Times Staff Writer

OAKLAND -- Even if the Angels win the World Series in October, it will be impossible, based on the financial parameters laid out by Arte Moreno on Tuesday, to keep this entire team together for 2009.

That much became clear when the Angels owner emerged from two days of organizational meetings here with no plans to boost next season's payroll significantly beyond its current $123 million.

The upshot: Don't expect all five of the Angels' potentially pricey free agents -- first baseman Mark Teixeira, closer Francisco Rodriguez, outfielder Garret Anderson, pitcher Jon Garland and outfielder Juan Rivera -- to be back in 2009.

"I'll probably start [2009] somewhere around the $120-million range," Moreno said before Tuesday night's 8-1 loss to the Oakland Athletics at McAfee Coliseum. "Being in the playoffs will add some revenue, but our plan is not to go up to $150 million next year."

Knowing it would cost roughly $150 million to keep this American League West-winning group intact in 2009, Moreno added, "You're going to always have X amount of transition on a team.

"There are a lot of very successful teams with lower payrolls than us. It's not always how much you spend, it's about spending wisely."

Though the playoffs haven't even begun, Tony Reagins, nearing the end of his first year as Angels general manager, is already bracing himself for a challenging winter.

"This didn't just sneak up on us," Reagins said. "We know it's going to be a busy off-season. We'll do our homework and try to make the best decisions for our club, our fans, and the long-term health of the organization.

"The makeup of the team could be a little different next season, but we're committed to bringing a competitive team to our fans year in and year out."

Part of that commitment is expected to be a pursuit of the top pitcher on the market, Milwaukee left-hander CC Sabathia, speculation Moreno did little to shoot down Tuesday.

"We always try to stay very focused on pitching, and right now we think we have a solid one through four," Moreno said, referring to John Lackey, Ervin Santana, Joe Saunders and Jered Weaver.

"But do you go out and get a No. 1, or do you look for a 2, 3 or 4? We have a wish list of things we think will improve the team. But what you go after could affect your flexibility."

Reagins wouldn't rule out the possibility of retaining their two most costly free agents, Teixeira, who could command $18 million a year, and Rodriguez, who could command $14 million a year.

Of Teixeira, who entered Tuesday with a .349 average, .442 on-base percentage, 10 home runs and 34 runs batted in since his July 29 trade from Atlanta, Reagins said, "We have an interest in Mark, and he is one of the players available who we will target."

Of Rodriguez, who set a major league record with his 58th save Saturday night against Seattle, Reagins said, "We're open to getting something done. He's had a historic season, and we'll see where that takes us."

But re-signing Teixeira and Rodriguez would leave little wiggle room in the 2009 budget.

Assuming the Angels exercise options for Vladimir Guerrero ($15 million) and Lackey ($9 million), they would have about $87 million committed to 19 players under contract or team control for 2009.

Adding Teixeira and Rodriguez alone would bump the payroll to about $119 million. Add Anderson, Rivera, Garland and reliever Darren Oliver, and it would bump the 2009 payroll to about $148 million.

So, the Angels will have some difficult decisions, which will be complicated by the probability that Teixeira and Rodriguez will have multiple big-market suitors and could drag their decisions out until Christmas, forcing the Angels to make decisions on other players earlier than they'd prefer.

"Players have agents who have agendas for their players -- it's a business," Moreno said. "They'll do what's best for them, and we'll do what we believe is best for us."


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