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Closer Rafael Soriano is on Angels' wish list

Although outfielder Carl Crawford remains their top free-agent target, the team is also pursuing Soriano, a Tampa Bay teammate of Crawford's last season who led the AL with 45 saves. Landing him would solve one of Angels' biggest needs.

November 29, 2010|By Mike DiGiovanna

Dynamic outfielder Carl Crawford is the Angels' primary target in free agency, but he is by no means the only player the team is aggressively pursuing.

While talks continue with Crawford, the speedy Tampa Bay star who is expected to command a deal in excess of $100 million, the Angels remain in the hunt for a veteran to bolster a bullpen that was inconsistent and often unreliable in 2010.

Rays right-hander Rafael Soriano, who was 3-2 with a 1.73 earned-run average and an American League-leading 45 saves last season, is clearly the best reliever available. He's also the most expensive, probably commanding a deal of at least four years and $55 million.

But a source familiar with the Angels' thinking said the team is making a push for Soriano and would have enough in the 2011 budget to add him and Crawford.

The addition of Soriano, who struck out 57 and walked 14 in 62 1/3 innings in 2010, would enable the Angels to move Fernando Rodney, who stumbled badly (5.65 ERA, four blown saves) as a closer last September, back to a setup role.

With right-handers Kevin Jepsen, Jordan Walden and Rodney, the Angels would have a trio of hard-throwing setup men.

Soriano is represented by agent Scott Boras, who angered Angels owner Arte Moreno two years ago when negotiations for free-agent Mark Teixeira fell apart, but that does not appear to be a deterrent.

Angels General Manager Tony Reagins confirmed to espn.com that he met with Boras this winter, and several other members of the Angels' front office have good working relationships with Boras.

That bodes well for the Angels, because if they fail to land Crawford, who is being recruited heavily by Angels outfielder Torii Hunter, they may turn to free-agent third baseman Adrian Beltre or outfielder Jayson Werth, both Boras clients.

"We've got to let him go through the process and see what happens," Hunter said of Crawford, who is also being pursued by the Boston Red Sox and Detroit Tigers. "We've made our pitch to him, and he's said a lot of great things about Anaheim."

If the Angels are unable to land Soriano, there are other, lower-priced relief options available, a list that includes right-handers Matt Guerrier and Jesse Crain (Minnesota), Grant Balfour (Tampa Bay) and J.J. Putz ( Chicago White Sox) and left-hander Scott Downs (Toronto).

Guerrier, who made $3.15 million in 2010, is a workhorse who was 5-7 with a 3.17 ERA in 74 games last season, and the 32-year-old has averaged 75 appearances over the last four years.

Crain, who made $2 million in 2010, was 1-1 with a 3.04 ERA in 71 games, striking out 62 and walking 27 in 68 innings. Balfour, who made $2.05 million in 2010, was 2-1 with a 2.28 ERA in 57 games, striking out 56 and walking 17 in 55 1/3 innings.

Putz, who earned $3 million in 2010, was 7-5 with a 2.83 ERA in 60 games, striking out 65 and walking 15 in 54 innings, and Downs, who earned $4 million last season, was 5-5 with a 2.64 ERA in 67 games, striking out 48 and walking 14 in 61 1/3 innings.

mike.digiovanna@latimes.com

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