There's a long list of suitors for free agent Jason Bay this winter — longer than Santa Claus' list of all the good girls and boys. And only one team can win in the end — the one that best shows Bay a commitment to winning, a need for a big bopper in the middle of the order, and perhaps most importantly, the almighty dollar. While many big-market teams such as the Red Sox, Giants and Mets fit this description, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim can also make a strong push for the slugger.
The Angels are in for an eventful offseason, to say the least. They kicked things off with a bang on Nov. 5, agreeing to terms with Bobby Abreu on a two-year, $19 million extension. But for general manager Tony Reagins and the Halos' front office, that's just the tip of the iceberg. They've got three more core players in John Lackey, Chone Figgins and Vladimir Guerrero hitting the open market this winter, and it would be in their best interest to bring back all three. There might be too much on Reagins' plate for him to find room for Bay, too.
You could argue that Lackey, the clear-cut best starting pitcher on a free-agent market rife with heavy-hitting outfielders and washed-up spot starters, is the most important man on the market this winter. There are a lot of available outfielders out there — if a team can't land Bay, then the next best thing is Guerrero, Matt Holliday or Johnny Damon. But there's really only one Lackey — all the alternatives are too old, too injury-prone or just not that good. The Angels paid Lackey $9 million last season, and even with a significant raise, he'd still be a bargain.
Then there's Figgins. For the past eight seasons, he's been indispensable as the sparkplug at the top of the Angels' order: He gets on base, hits doubles and triples by the boatload and he steals bases. He plays third base, second, shortstop, center field, anywhere. In Anaheim, rallies don't start with monkeys, they start with Figgins. The Halos' leadoff hitter made under $6 million last year, and he's going to want a raise as well.
What about Vlad? How can one turn away an eight-time All-Star with 407 career home runs and Hall of Fame written all over him? The Angels' heavy hitter isn't over the hill just yet — he's only 34, and he's still got plenty of pop when healthy. He'll surely take a massive pay cut from the $15 million he made in '09, and he'll still be a productive hitter anywhere in the league.
With all these items on the Angels' to-do list, it's hard to imagine them finding the time and money to sign Bay on top of everyone else. not only is it bad business to let their core players walk, it will likely not go over well with the Halos' fanbase to see three big names walk from a team that made the ALCS just months ago. Lackey and Figgins are two of the three players left over from the Angels team that captured World Series glory seven years ago –with the third being Scot Shields. By letting either one go, the Angels would be saying goodbye to their identity.
And as for Vlad, you can never say goodbye to a potential Hall of Famer when he still has a lot left to offer. If Vlad slugged 35 homers next year in another team's uniform, the Angels would never forgive themselves.
It's going to be a long, difficult offseason for the Angels. And as great a luxury as it would be to lock up Bay's perennial 30 home runs and 100 RBIs for the next few years, it might not be the time for luxury this winter.
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