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Wednesday, December 8, 2010
What's next for the Angels?


News that the Boston Red Sox had signed Carl Crawford to a seven-year, $142 million deal late Wednesday night had to hit the Angels like a blow to the gut, particularly since a source told ESPNBoston's Gordon Edes late Wednesday that the Angels made an "extremely competitive" offer for the four-time All-Star.

It also shocked an industry that, as of Wednesday evening, seemed resigned to Crawford becoming an Angel. You have to wonder whether some of the Red Sox's motive was to deprive two of their staunchest American League rivals, the New York Yankees and Angels, of a premium player.

After all, one of Crawford's greatest strengths, outfield range, will largely be wasted in the tiny left field at Fenway Park. He's also a left-handed hitter in a ballpark that's skewed for power to left field.

Regardless, the Angels are left to pick up the pieces and that won't be fun. Crawford is a player the Angels had targeted long before he became a free agent last month. Torii Hunter sounded virtually certain the Angels would land Crawford this week.

Team officials didn't immediately return phone calls late Wednesday, so we're left to conjecture on their upcoming moves:

* Many people feel they will rush into the arms of agent Scott Boras to pursue the best remaining free agent hitter, Adrian Beltre, or perhaps make a serious push for reliever Rafael Soriano. It makes sense on so many levels. Beltre has a home in the Los Angeles area and fills one of the Angels' greatest positions of need, third base.

But bear in mind that Angels owner Arte Moreno is heavily involved in personnel decisions and has not hidden his disdain for how Boras does business. If that bad blood lingers -- and most people think it does -- the Angels might go in some surprising directions.

* No one on the Angels denies they inquired about Cliff Lee Tuesday night, as first reported by ESPN's Jerry Crasnick. The Angels were fairly dismissive of that pursuit earlier Wednesday and the New York Yankees rarely miss on their primary targets. New York made its first offer to Lee, for six years and around $140 million, on Wednesday. It's hard to imagine the Angels paying that kind of money to shore up their one strength while allowing their weakness, offense, to go unaddressed.

* They could do what they did with Bobby Abreu two off-seasons ago and wait for a veteran bat to fall in their lap in a one-year deal.  General manager Tony Reagins wasn't ruling out the possibility of bringing back Vladimir Guerrero or even Hideki Matsui on Wednesday. And that was before the Crawford talks fell apart.

Other guys in that category are Jim Thome, Manny Ramirez and Magglio Ordonez. Only two of those guys (Ramirez and Ordonez) are Boras clients. The agent let it be known while holding court with reporters at the winter meetings Wednesday that Ramirez played part of last year with a hernia injury that required off-season surgery.

One-year deals can be good bargains for teams, because they're relatively low risk and the player is motivated to prove his value in order to sign a long-term deal the following winter. Remember, Abreu had a sterling .390 on-base percentage two seasons ago before the Angels locked him up and he slipped to .355 last year.

The Angels could still make a splash this winter, but it's not the splash they were aiming for.