Angels shortstop Erick Aybar tries to handle a low throw as Twins catcher… (Jim Mone / Associated Press )
NEW YORK — Negotiations for a contract extension that would lock up shortstop Erick Aybar and prevent him from reaching free agency have dragged on for nearly four months, but the sides appear to be moving toward an agreement.
"Erick wants to be an Angel, we want Erick to be an Angel, and I feel very confident we'll be able to work something out," General Manager Jerry Dipoto said before Sunday night's game. "We've made progress. I'm very encouraged by where we are and that we will ultimately get there."
Aybar's representatives don't seem to be in any hurry to strike a deal because the market continues to trend upward, and it could really heat up next off-season, when a team such as the shortstop-starved Boston Red Sox could enter the bidding.
Second baseman Ian Kinsler, 29, recently signed a five-year, $82-million extension with Texas and second baseman Brandon Phillips, 30, signed a six-year, $72.5-million extension with Cincinnati.
The Angels would prefer to sign Aybar for something closer to the four-year, $33.5-million deal second baseman Howie Kendrick got in January. Aybar is believed to be looking for at least five years and $50 million.
Asked whether the Kinsler and Phillips deals would affect Aybar's negotiations, Dipoto said, "I don't think so. Erick is Erick. Every player is an entity unto themselves, and I think Erick understands that."
Aybar, 28, won his first Gold Glove last season and has developed into a decent hitter, batting .279 with a .322 on-base percentage, .421 slugging percentage, 10 home runs, 33 doubles, 59 runs batted in and 30 stolen bases last season.
But he is nowhere near as potent as Kinsler, who hit .255 with a .355 OBP, .477 slugging, 32 homers, 34 doubles, 77 RBIs, 89 walks and 30 stolen bases in 2011, and Phillips, who hit .300 with a .353 OBP, .457 slugging, 18 homers, 38 doubles and 82 RBIs in 2011 and has averaged 21 homers for the last five years.
"Erick doesn't have to get three hits to help you win," Dipoto said. "He runs the bases well, he's an excellent defensive shortstop, and he brings you energy; he can be a spark."
Jered Weaver, who is scheduled to pitch Monday night's game against Oakland in Anaheim, and Dan Haren, who will start Tuesday night, flew to Southern California ahead of the team Sunday.
With Sunday night's ESPN-televised game starting at 8 p.m. EDT, the Angels had to fly all night and were not expected to land at LAX until 4 a.m. Monday at the earliest. With a bus ride to Anaheim, players will be fortunate to be home by 6 a.m.
"This is obviously tough, but it's what you have to deal with with West Coast travel," Manager Mike Scioscia said. "It is what it is. We'll be ready to play Monday night."
Nine games into the season, Scioscia, in an effort to spread around playing time and at-bats, already has used eight different lineups, though he doesn't think much significance should be attached to that fact. "We have a core group we know we're going to get enough at-bats to get going," he said. "If we had a different guy hitting third or leading off every night, that would be different." … Reliever Scott Downs, who suffered a bruised right ankle in Thursday's game against Minnesota, went through his normal pregame routine Sunday night and expected to be available for the game against the Yankees.