Angels in play for Bay
Epstein reports little progress; has talked with Boras, source says
INDIANAPOLIS -- If the Angels plan to put on the full-court press to sign free-agent outfielder Jason Bay at baseball's winter meetings here this week, the effort will not include owner Arte Moreno.
Unlike last year -- when Moreno personally showed up to meet with Scott Boras, agent for last winter's top prize, Mark Teixeira -- no such appearance is scheduled this year. Admittedly, it was a much shorter hop from John Wayne Airport to last year's site, Las Vegas, than it is to Hoosier Heaven, so Moreno's no-show should not be construed as a lack of interest on the Halos' part.
The Red Sox want Bay, too, but, at the moment, at least, John W. Henry isn't rounding up a recruiting party like the one that converged on Teixeira last winter only to come home with its mission unfulfilled.
Just how badly do the Angels want Bay? Not to the point that they had made an offer to Bay's agent, Joe Urbon, as of midevening Tuesday, according to a source with knowledge of the negotiations. But don't read too much into that. Having lost Chone Figgins to the Mariners and with Vladi Guerrero a free agent, the Angels are very much in play, although it remains to be seen whether they could both sign Bay and consummate a trade for pitcher Roy Halladay, another prime object of their affections.
Meanwhile, Red Sox GM Theo Epstein, in his media session late Tuesday afternoon, said the Sox "haven't made a heck of a lot of progress" either. He wasn't speaking directly to the Bay hunt, but the outfielder fit under that umbrella. Epstein acknowledged that the team had met with Urbon on Monday night but said they had not spoken since.
Epstein did not divulge with whom he met Tuesday, but he has talked recently with Boras about "numerous" subjects, a source with direct knowledge of their conversations said Tuesday afternoon. At the top of the list, presumably, was free-agent left fielder Matt Holliday, a desirable alternative to Bay if Bay elects to sign elsewhere; the Angels and Seattle Mariners are the teams known to have significant interest. Third baseman Adrian Beltre, who declined arbitration with the Mariners, was another likely topic with Boras, although Seattle has not closed the door on bringing him back.
With the Yankees on the verge of adding Detroit center fielder Curtis Granderson in a reported three-way deal with the Tigers and Arizona Diamondbacks, would they still make a play for Holliday, which the Red Sox privately acknowledge as a possibility? Hey, everyone assumed last winter that the Yankees were out on Teixeira after spending $243 million on CC Sabathia and A.J. Burnett, so nothing can be ruled out.
But the Yankees' need for another bat is lessened by the acquisition of Granderson because they could play Melky Cabrera in left if they don't re-sign Johnny Damon. So unless another big-market team emerges as a bidder for Holliday -- the Angels say they don't want him, and the other New York team, the Mets, seems more interested in signing a free-agent pitcher and trading for a less-expensive left fielder -- the Red Sox might find that Holliday's price will not exceed what they're willing to pay.
The Cardinals want to keep Holliday, of course, and manager Tony La Russa said Tuesday that he was still confident the team could do so.
"We rarely get mentioned as one of the teams with a chance to sign him," La Russa said. "But we refuse to believe that. I think we've got a legitimate shot. And I just think that there are some alternatives, and if Matt decides someplace else, we've got a way to make our club a contending club."
Judging by La Russa's comments, the Cardinals are not inclined to wait indefinitely on Holliday, which also could work in Boston's favor.
"The timing is a critical part," La Russa said. "The player, the agent, their timing, does it jibe with the club's timing. Sometimes clubs are more patient than others, and I don't know how patient we can be."
Epstein also addressed the timing component of any deal.
"Timing's important for any club," said Epstein, quoting directly from the book of Making a Baseball Deal 101. "The longer you wait for any one thing, a lot of other opportunities go by the board. Sometimes you wait too long. Sometimes you act too quickly. You have to balance all those interests. But it's not a particularly acute issue yet, with respect to our left-field situation, but it may be soon, timingwise."
Gordon Edes is ESPNBoston.com's Red Sox reporter. He has covered the Red Sox for 12 years and has reported on baseball for 25 years. Ask a question for his next mailbag here.