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Jason Bay not at top of Angels' priority list

Manager Mike Scioscia says, 'We have more pressing needs . . . than the talent Jason can bring.' Starting pitching is the key and John Lackey is still in play. The team also might pursue Derek Lowe.

December 10, 2009|By Mike DiGiovanna

Reporting from Indianapolis — Don't expect a Bay window to be added to any renovations the Angels make this winter.

Thought by some to be the front-runner for slugger Jason Bay, the Angels made clear Wednesday that the free-agent outfielder is nowhere near the top of their priority list.

"He has been in our internal discussions, but I think we have some more pressing needs . . . than the talent Jason can bring," Manager Mike Scioscia said Wednesday at the winter meetings.

"He's an extraordinary talent, but we definitely have to look for some balance in some areas, and that might not make Jason a great fit for our club. . . . We might not be able to make that one big splash with a guy like Jason right now."

Scioscia and General Manager Tony Reagins are on the same page about Bay, who had 36 home runs and 119 runs batted in for Boston last season and reportedly turned down a four-year, $60-million offer from the Red Sox.

"Mike was right on," said Reagins, who met with Bay's agent, Joe Urbon, either Tuesday night or Wednesday. "Bay is an option. We know where they stand; they know where we stand. We haven't gotten into financial parameters."

The Angels, if they're to keep their payroll at the $113-million mark they closed 2009 with, have about $13 million to play with this winter, and it is clear they have targeted starting pitching as their priority.

They continue to negotiate with free-agent right-hander John Lackey -- Reagins met with Steve Hilliard, Lackey's agent, Tuesday night -- and to engage in trade talks for Toronto ace Roy Halladay, a dominant right-hander who will make $15.75 million in 2010, the last year of his contract.

Lackey is seeking a contract at least comparable to A.J. Burnett's five-year, $82.5-million deal with the New York Yankees last winter. Halladay probably would cost the Angels pitcher Joe Saunders, catcher Mike Napoli, outfield prospect Peter Bourjos and perhaps another prospect.

Will the first deal they make -- either for Halladay or Lackey -- determine which pitcher becomes an Angel?

"Not necessarily," Reagins said. "Some things can happen almost simultaneously, and we're prepared for that."

If the Angels clear enough salary in a Halladay trade and perhaps another move, is there a chance they could acquire Halladay and Lackey?

"It's possible," Reagins said, "but not likely."

If they're unable to acquire Halladay or Lackey, the Angels could pursue Atlanta right-hander Derek Lowe, who has three years and $45 million left on his deal, or free-agent right-hander Joel Pineiro.

"I don't think you can ever have too much pitching," Scioscia said. "So if you are going to make a financial commitment, certainly the pitching end of it is something you're going to consider."

Among the less-expensive offensive options the Angels could pursue are outfielders Hideki Matsui and Jermaine Dye.

If outfielder Jack Cust, who hit .240 with 25 homers, 70 RBIs, 185 strikeouts and 93 walks for Oakland in 2009, is not tendered a contract by the A's on Saturday, the Angels could pursue him. Cust is expected to make more than $4 million in arbitration in 2010.

"There are multiple players who can fit for us," Reagins said. "We have a lot of balls in the air right now, but some things have to happen in order for us to attack other areas."

Bullpen session

The Angels will send a scout to Houston next week to see Cuban defector Aroldis Chapman -- a 21-year-old left-hander whose fastball has been clocked near 100 mph -- work out.

Chapman, who pitched for Cuba in the 2009 World Baseball Classic and has worked out for the Yankees and Red Sox, reportedly was seeking a deal in the $50-million range, but there has been speculation he might be signed for as little as $15 million.

"We need to see him throw before we get extremely involved with him," Reagins said. "The money is going to be significant."

Winter ball

Ervin Santana, who struggled to rebound from an elbow sprain that sidelined him for the first six weeks of 2009, wants to pitch winter ball for Licey, his team in the Dominican Republic.

The Angels are open to the idea, but they will monitor the right-hander closely, limiting his appearances and innings. Santana went 8-8 with a 5.10 earned-run average in 23 starts last season after going 16-7 with a 3.49 ERA in 2008.

"I'm anticipating a call from his club down there," Reagins said. "Whatever he does, it will be in the best interest of the club."

Shortstop Erick Aybar will also play winter ball for Licey.

Parting thoughts

Scioscia on the loss of leadoff batter Chone Figgins, who signed a four-year, $36-million deal with Seattle: "Chone is definitely a guy we wanted to see in our uniform next year, and he got a terrific opportunity in Seattle. He'll impact that team much like he did ours.

"I think he's as good a catalyst as there is in the game, and I think the way he played defense at third base is something someone ought to pay a lot of attention to. We've got some big shoes to fill.

"But with Maicer Izturis and possibly Erick Aybar able to hit in the leadoff spot, we think we'll go a long way toward bringing some of that same production to our club."

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