Angels likely to sit out bidding on Bay
Brass appears more inclined to open wallet for pitching
INDIANAPOLIS -- Before taking leave of the Winter Meetings in the freezing heartland on Wednesday, Angels manager Mike Scioscia defused reports that his club is making a major pitch for free-agent slugger Jason Bay.
"I have not reached out personally to him, but he has been in internal discussions that we've had as an organization," Scioscia said. "I think there are some more pressing needs that we have right now than the talent that Jason can bring."He's an extraordinary talent, but we definitely have to look for some balance in some areas. That might not make Jason a great fit for our club." Bay -- who delivered 36 homers and 119 RBIs for the Red Sox this season and is a .341 career postseason hitter with a .634 slugging percentage in 11 games -- would command a major financial commitment that the Angels seem more inclined to make in the pitching department. "He is an option," Angels general manager Tony Reagins said of Bay, who reportedly turned down a four-year, $60 million Boston offer. "I think Mike was right on. "We've had a chance to speak to his people. They know where we stand, and we know where they stand. We haven't gotten into any financial parameters." John Lackey remains the No. 1 target for the Angels, who are in contact with his agent, Steve Hilliard, as other clubs weigh in with proposals. "What's important," Reagins said, "is the communication lines are open." The Angels have been restrained on the very hot topic of Toronto ace Roy Halladay, a man they pursued in vain at the Trade Deadline in July. If the Angels are engaged in conversations with the Blue Jays, both sides are keeping it top secret. Scioscia left no doubt how he feels about Lackey, the club's ace the past five seasons. "John is obviously one of the top starting pitchers in our league," Scioscia said. "I don't know if there are many pitchers that are out there -- certainly this year there aren't many pitchers that are out there, that would be available -- that are going to combine the depth that he can pitch in an individual game with his ability to go out there and compete in any situation in any ballpark. "That's why we want him back in an Angels uniform -- and that's also why other teams are interested in John." Yet, it's clear that the Angels are proceeding down a variety of avenues with prospective personnel, as opposed to last winter, when Mark Teixeira was virtually the entire focus until he cast his lot with the Yankees. "There are some things that could happen almost simultaneously," Reagins said. "We can do some things that are creative that would allow us to fill our needs." He added that the notion of landing two premium pitchers -- presumably meaning Lackey and Halladay -- was "not likely -- possible, but not likely." The club also could use a reliever if veteran free agent Darren Oliver, whose appeal appears to be spreading, signs elsewhere. Oliver, a Type A free agent, was not offered arbitration in what Reagins labeled a "strategic decision." The Angels would like to have the 39-year-old lefty back as a stabilizing force in their bullpen, but they might not be able to match his value to other clubs, which could reach into the $4.5 million range. Reagins identified Brian Fuentes, Scot Shields (returning from knee surgery), Kevin Jepsen and Jason Bulger as "four guys who are reliable" in the bullpen. "Can we add to that? Yes," Reagins said. "There will be opportunities. It may be a big splash to me, but not to others." While the primary focus appears to be pitching, with Lackey's value waiting to be established as clubs jockey for position, the Angels also are weighing offensive options. Scioscia spoke highly in a group session of Hideki Matsui, who made a huge postseason splash for the World Series champion Yankees. A free agent with international appeal, Matsui is working out in California and could fit into the Angels' plans as a designated hitter/outfielder. He falls in the same general category as Vladimir Guerrero, a free agent who spent the past six years in the heart of the Angels' lineup. "An offensive force like Matsui is going to be welcome with a lot of clubs," Scioscia said. "I know he's been talked about internally in our organization, and he's a guy that we would definitely consider bringing on board. "Certainly he's an experienced hitter that can hit in the middle of any lineup. There are some other hitters we talked about, like Vlad. There are guys like Jermaine Dye, Bay. There are a lot of guys [available] that are able to hit in the middle of the lineup. "Vlad is a guy, absolutely, that we're still in contact with. I would welcome an opportunity to bring him back." Both Matsui and Guerrero were primarily designated hitters in 2009, but Scioscia thinks both players could handle at least some time in the outfield.
Lyle Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.