The Los Angeles Angels have several options in front of them when the free agent market opens on Friday, starting with Mark Teixeira, CC Sabathia and Francisco Rodriguez -- likely in that order, according to sources with knowledge of the club's thinking.
K-Rod, their record-setting closer, has been conspicuous in that he's seemed almost an afterthought in the club's immediate plans. The Angels, according to sources, have a three-year offer in to him -- believed to be worth in the neighborhood of $42 million -- though they are not expecting him to accept it before Friday, when the free agent market opens.
They're confident that their offer will be competitive with that of the New York Mets, who are expected to aggressively pursue K-Rod. They're also reasonably certain that the market will be slim -- St. Louis, Cleveland, Detroit and Tampa Bay are also scrounging for a closer, but nobody from that group appears poised to match the Mets' and Angels' offers.
Essentially, unless the Mets blow the Angels away financially, what it may come down to is something this simple: Does Rodriguez prefer pitching in New York or Anaheim? Given a large ego that needs feeding, despite his tenure with the Angels, New York still is expected to be awfully tempting for him.
The Teixeira situation will be fascinating theater because the Angels, under owner Arte Moreno, work quickly, while Scott Boras, Teixeira's agent, is methodical and does not conclude deals until he's spent time shopping his clients around.
One source with knowledge of the Angels' thinking said Wednesday that he expects the club to come in with a substantial offer for Teixeira on Friday -- and tell Boras that he and his client have a few days to make the decision or the Angels are moving on.
As for Sabathia, the Angels are not expected to exceed six years in their offer -- though if the New York Yankees, Los Angeles Dodgers and other high-spenders become involved, the bidding for him could get crazy.
One fallback in the event the Angels do not get Sabathia still could be San Diego's Jake Peavy, if the Padres haven't pulled the trigger on a trade. Yes, Peavy prefers to stay in the National League and yes, he has a no-trade clause and would have to approve a deal to the Angels. That last part probably wouldn't be a problem, as Peavy's agent, Barry Axelrod, says the right-hander intends to make his year-round home in San Diego no matter where he lands.
The Angels did speak with the Padres a couple of weeks ago about Peavy, sources say, and believe they can offer a package of players that would match the talent San Diego could get elsewhere.
The Angels could fill San Diego's desire for a starting pitcher by including Jered Weaver. That still would leave Los Angeles with a rotation whose front four would be John Lackey, Peavy, Ervin Santana and Joe Saunders.
Weaver, Aybar or Izturis and, say, a minor-league prospect would give San Diego players who could help them win now, rather than prospects who need time to develop. However, players who with major-league experience would be more expensive, and the Padres right now appear more interested in saving money while owner John Moores goes through a messy divorce than they do in winning.
The problem, though, is the Angels' and Padres' timetables are at odds this winter. While the Angels preferred to wait and see how the Teixeira and Sabathia talks go before fully diving into the Peavy talks, the Padres' preference is to make the best deal they can for Peavy soon -- preferably, before the free agent market opens for business on Friday.
However it plays out over the next few weeks, the Angels are starting from a pretty good place because they've got both money and a solid pool of young talent.