Angels arrive fashionably late, needing players

Tim Brown
Yahoo! Sports

ORLANDO – The last of 30 general managers to arrive, a distinction engendered through skillful planning as well as mechanical difficulties during a layover in Dallas, Tony Reagins rolled two suitcases into the hotel lobby Monday evening, checked in at the front desk, dropped his bags at the bell stand and followed that with the only logical reaction to a couple of grazing reporters.

He ran.

Maybe it was more like a fast trot. Still, he was all but in full stride by the time he’d retreated to the revolving doors.

While a top-tier free agent fell Sunday – Jayson Werth(notes) drew $126 million over seven years from the Washington Nationals – the rest of a short stack of difference-making free agents remain. And while nothing’s ever over until the New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox and Scott Boras say it’s over, what hovers over these gatherings is the impression the Los Angeles Angels – the very quiet Angels – must have a say in it, too.

As he blew past Eric Kay, his dutiful PR man, Reagins grinned and shouted, “Keep these guys away from me!”

And then he was heard to exclaim, ere he drove out of sight, “I’ll be back, man!”

There is nothing that could be accomplished at the winter meetings that a few phone calls from back home couldn’t, and yet the Angels did have their full squad by Monday night, with Reagins (briefly) at the hotel along with manager Mike Scioscia and owner Arte Moreno in town.

Two months ago to the day, Moreno had told the Los Angeles Times, “We know where our weaknesses are, we know where we are thin, we know where we have to go to market. It's going to cost money, but our fans need to know what we're committed to winning.”

That was taken to mean Carl Crawford(notes). Maybe even taken to mean Crawford and Adrian Beltre(notes). And while the Angels have a reputation for striking fast and striking hard (as they did with Torii Hunter(notes) in Nov. of 2007) and/or refusing to be dragged through congested and lengthy negotiations (as they believed they were with Mark Teixeira(notes)), they are engaged in the latter today.

Sources familiar with the climate of the Crawford and Beltre markets include the Angels in both, along with as many as a half-dozen other clubs.

“And if Cliff Lee(notes) signs back with Texas,” one source said, “and the Yankees get in, that’s as many as eight.”

Yankees GM Brian Cashman and President Randy Levine met Monday with Lee’s agent. By late Monday night, the Yankees were resistant to go seven years on Lee, while Lee was telling teammates he’d return to Texas if the Rangers offered six years.

Others narrow the field some, depending on where the Red Sox stand following their acquisition of Adrian Gonzalez(notes), and considering the Oakland A’s recently withdrew their offer of $64 million over five years to Beltre. (A’s GM Billy Beane was spurned by Beltre a year ago, as well.)

The Lee negotiations of course could also sway the offseason for the Rangers, who may view Crawford, in particular, as a worthy consolation prize. And if none of that works, or only some of it, they have the prospects to acquire Zack Greinke(notes), only four months after they had the prospects to acquire Lee. The Detroit Tigers are believed to have an interest in Crawford, as well. The Baltimore Orioles seem to be in a spending mood, and certainly could find room for Crawford or, by moving Mark Reynolds(notes) to first base, Beltre.

The Angels, meantime, have rotation enough to stay out of Lee and motivation and resources enough to land Crawford, who would help them return to the team that once defended and ran the bases.

They’re not talking, of course, but even their silence has lent some heft to these meetings. The Angels were in position Monday, about the same time Greg Genske, Crawford’s agent, arrived.

Now they can have the run of the place.

D’backs re-load in the bullpen

Over a few hours Monday, the Arizona Diamondbacks rebuilt parts of the middle and end of their bullpen with two moves: They traded Mark Reynolds – the powerful and yet whiff-prone third baseman – to the Orioles for two big arms (David Hernandez(notes) and Kam Mickolio(notes)) and signed J.J. Putz(notes) to a two-year contract worth $10 million. The Diamondbacks’ bullpen was the worst in baseball last season, in ERA by a full run over the next-worst, the Chicago Cubs.

Run of 1B leads already to Lee

The run on first basemen – Lance Berkman(notes) (who will play left field for St. Louis), Adam Dunn(notes), Eric Hinske(notes), Aubrey Huff(notes) and, presumably soon to the Chicago White Sox, Paul Konerko(notes) – has brought the market to Derrek Lee(notes) a little sooner than he might have expected. Lee, who had offseason surgery to repair a torn ligament in his right thumb, is expected to draw interest from a handful of clubs, including the Tampa Bay Rays, Diamondbacks, San Diego Padres, Pittsburgh Pirates and Baltimore Orioles. The Rays were to meet with Lee’s representatives Monday night.

Orioles have an eye on two shortstops

The Minnesota Twins are drawing interest in shortstop J.J. Hardy(notes), including from the Orioles, who also are in on Rays shortstop Jason Bartlett(notes).

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