The Angels appear to have lost out on the top two pitchers on their winter… (Lisa Blumenfeld / Getty…)
Torii Hunter was unaware of the reports that free-agent pitcher John Lackey was on the verge of signing a five-year deal with the Boston Red Sox when a reporter phoned him Monday morning.
"Oh man," the Angels center fielder said. "That's not good."
But, Hunter pointed out, at least the Angels were still in the hunt for Toronto ace Roy Halladay, "and if we get Halladay, it would be awesome," he said.
A few hours later, the Blue Jays reportedly agreed to a blockbuster three-team deal that would send Halladay to Philadelphia. The Phillies, in turn, would send ace left-hander Cliff Lee to Seattle.
So, not only were the Angels about to lose their top two winter targets, Lackey and Halladay, but the rotation of the division-rival Mariners, who already signed third baseman Chone Figgins away from the Angels last week, was about to get a lot better.
Was this Black Monday for the Angels, or what?
"No," said Tim Mead, Angels vice president of communications. "We still have a pretty good group . . . and it's only Dec. 14."
That group -- at least the offensive side of it -- should receive a considerable boost with the addition of free-agent slugger Hideki Matsui, who reportedly has reached a preliminary agreement with the Angels on a one-year deal for about $6.5 million. The Associated Press and the New York Times quoted unnamed sources saying Matsui would join the Angels.
There was no official announcement Monday, but in an e-mail to The Times, Arn Tellem, the agent for Matsui, confirmed that "we are in serious discussions with the Angels. I have no further comment." Angels General Manager Tony Reagins did not return a call.
Matsui hit .274 with 28 home runs and 90 runs batted in for the New York Yankees in 2009 and was selected World Series most valuable player after hitting .615 with three homers and eight RBIs in the six-game series win over Philadelphia.
The 35-year-old outfielder, who underwent knee surgery last winter, played all of his 142 games for the Yankees as a designated hitter, and he will probably be relegated to DH for most of the time in Anaheim.
The signing of Matsui would also signal the end to Vladimir Guerrero's distinguished career in Anaheim. The 35-year-old slugger spent six years in the heart of the Angels' order but was not offered arbitration after he became a free agent in November.
As for the Angels' rotation, they still have Jered Weaver, Joe Saunders, Ervin Santana, Scott Kazmir and Matt Palmer, a group that Manager Mike Scioscia last week called "terrific, as good as any in baseball."
But that rotation would have been a lot better with Lackey or Halladay at the front end.
Instead, it appears Lackey, who was 102-71 with a 3.81 earned-run average in 7 1/2 years in Anaheim, will join a powerful rotation that includes Josh Beckett, Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz and Daisuke Matsuzaka.
And Halladay, an Angels trade target since July, will reportedly take his dominant right arm and 2003 AL Cy Young Award to the defending National League champion Phillies.
"We have some guys who can really hold it down," Hunter said of the Angels' rotation, "but we need a veteran to lead the way a bit. I still think we have a team that's good enough to win."
According to multiple reports, Lackey was in Boston for a physical Monday, the final step in an agreement with the Red Sox on a five-year deal for about $85 million. The team had not completed its evaluation of Lackey as of Monday evening.
The Angels pursued Lackey aggressively this winter, but they were hesitant to offer a five-year deal because of the elbow injuries that sidelined him for the first six weeks of the 2008 and 2009 seasons.
With Lackey and Halladay off the board, the Angels could pursue Atlanta Braves veteran right-hander Derek Lowe, who has three years and $45 million left on his contract, or free-agent right-handers Joel Pineiro or Ben Sheets.
Lackey's departure comes on the heels of Figgins' decision to spurn an Angels offer to sign a four-year, $36-million deal with the Mariners.