Angels in limbo until Cliff Lee signs

Updated: December 8, 2010, 1:01 AM ET
By Mark Saxon | ESPNLosAngeles.com

LAKE BUENA VISTA, FLA. -- The Los Angeles Angels say they haven't made an offer for free-agent pitcher Cliff Lee, but they admit their off-season plans are in limbo until Lee signs.

The Angels, by all indications, continue to target outfielder Carl Crawford, but his agents appear to be waiting until Lee signs to gauge the number of teams who will pursue their client. Angels general manager Tony Reagins said he has not made an offer to any free agents yet.

A report surfaced Tuesday at the winter meetings that a "mystery team" for Lee had emerged. Reagins said it's not the Angels.

"I read that," Reagins said. "It was the first I heard of it."

If Lee signs with the New York Yankees, it could make it easier for the Angels to land Crawford since New York might then stick with in-house options for left field.

The Boston Red Sox are reportedly close to agreeing to a big-money contract extension with newly acquired first baseman Adrian Gonzalez and might not have the payroll room to take on Crawford.

Reagins said the Lee signing could be the first domino to fall.

"I believe his signing will be significant and that things will happen after that," Reagins said. "It just makes sense from a logical standpoint."

If the Angels can't land Crawford, their fallback plan could involve third baseman Adrian Beltre and closer Rafael Soriano, but the team indicated Tuesday that neither of those positions is a top priority. Any talks for those two players also could be slowed by a feud between Angels owner Arte Moreno and agent Scott Boras.

The team's need is obvious. The Angels ranked second in the major leagues in runs scored in 2009, but slipped to No. 19 last year.

"I think that we do need to add offensive depth, and it might not be the one impact guy, but it definitely needs to be guys that have an idea what to do in the batter's box," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said.

Two off-seasons ago, the Angels underbid for slugger Mark Teixeira, but wound up using some of the money they would have spent on Teixeira to sign outfielders Bobby Abreu and Juan Rivera and closer Brian Fuentes.

"The splash is sexy, but at the end of the day you're trying to improve your club," Reagins said. "Sometimes, you can improve without making the splash."

Mark Saxon covers the Angels for ESPNLosAngeles.com.

Mark Saxon

ESPNLosAngeles.com
Mark Saxon is a staff writer for ESPNLosAngeles.com. He spent six years at the Orange County Register, and began his career at the Oakland Tribune, where he started an 11-year journey covering Major League Baseball. He has also covered colleges, including USC football and UCLA basketball.

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