As if the Angels' pitching rotation isn't stellar enough, several baseball people say they believe that they may try to pull off the coup of the winter by signing CC Sabathia, the perfect Brewer and best free-agent pitcher in at least a decade.
The Angels didn't surprise anyone by becoming the earliest division winners in baseball on Wednesday night. But they are capable of some major shockers, like last winter when their fine new GM Tony Reagins rode to a Del Taco out on Route 91, halfway to San Bernardino, and came back with no less than Torii Hunter after everyone had long assumed Hunter was bound for Texas or Chicago's South Side.
Now, with the Angels already possessing baseball's deepest rotation, they generally haven't been viewed as a likely player for Sabathia, who's destined for record free-agent pitching riches. And yet the Angels have shown that they don't mind enhancing an area of strength, the latest and most glaring example being the signing of Hunter despite already possessing a plethora of outfielders a year after acquiring another center fielder, Gary Matthews Jr.
Additionally, Reagins imported starter Jon Garland last winter when it appeared that the Angels already had one of the strongest and most stacked rotations. Going into 2009, ace John Lackey, plus burgeoning stars Ervin Santana and Joe Saunders and solid youngster Jered Weaver form a formidable top four even if Garland leaves via free agency, as expected, and a return for talented Kelvim Escobar may appear to leave little room.
But the Angels are a team that finds room.
"We believe in pitching and defense,'' Reagins said after declining to specifically address the Sabathia question. "It's going to be an interesting winter.''
That goes with or without Sabathia.
Beyond the big CC question, the Angels have two marquee free agents of their own -- superb all-around first baseman Mark Teixeira and excellent closer Francisco Rodriguez, who tied Bobby Thigpen's single-season save record of 57 on Thursday night. (One easy call for the Angels: They'll pick up Vladimir Guerrero's $15 million option.)
K-Rod suggested to the Los Angeles Times on Wednesday that he liked being an Angel, but while agent Paul Kinzer told SI.com that his client holds no grudges over past salary disputes with the club, Kinzer also said that K-Rod intends to file for free agency.
The club's intentions regarding K-Rod are unclear after their $33 million, three-year bid failed this spring, though most observers anticipate that they'll bump that bid by a year. There's no guessing game when it comes to the Angels' intentions for Teixeira, who cost them nice young first baseman Casey Kotchman and has impressed them even beyond their lofty expectations. Reagins, who called Teixeira "a joy to be around,'' told SI.com, "We have interest and we're going to pursue him when the time's appropriate. But when it comes to free agents, you never know.''
The same might be said for the Angels: when it comes to them, you never know.
Angels owner Arte Moreno once bid well over $100 million for Alfonso Soriano, but some skeptics doubt he's going to be willing to far exceed the $100 million barrier twice in one winter, as Teixeira and Sabathia will require. One competing owner speculated, "Arte isn't going to spend that kind of money.''
Moreno, though, is thought to be enthused about both superstar players. And Moreno, a former limited partner of Jerry Colangelo, who ran up big tabs while winning a championship in Phoenix, surely understands that each star could even exceed the $150 million mark. "It's going to be a huge number,'' one competing GM said of Sabathia, whose only known possible negative is the plus size that actually appears to have aided his durability.
All things considered he is the best free-agent pitcher since Randy Johnson signed with the Diamondbacks a decade ago and possibly since Greg Maddux left the Cubs for the Braves 15 winters ago.
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