The market for both of the winter's top two free agents has shifted dramatically, with the Angels deciding to drop their pursuit of Mark Teixeira and go after CC Sabathia instead.
The Los Angeles Times reported the shift this morning, and a major-league source with knowledge of the Angels plans confirmed it to CBSSports.com. But while the Times said that Teixeira "remains the Angels' top priority," the source said that's no longer true.
"They're moving on to the next guy," the source said.
The next guy is Sabathia, who many Angels decision-makers have coveted since mid-summer. The Angels immediately become a major force in the Sabathia sweepstakes, and quite possibly the favorite to sign him. Even if they don't offer him more money than the Yankees would, the Angels can come close with the money, and also offer Sabathia the chance to pitch near his California home.
Even if they sign Sabathia, there's a chance the Angels would still try to complete a Jake Peavy trade with the Padres. As CBSSports.com reported last week, the Angels are strongly interested in Peavy, and think they have enough to offer the Padres to get a deal done. Peavy has veto power over a trade, and hasn't listed the Angels as a team he would agree to. But since he plans to keep his permanent residence in San Diego, there's a chance that pitching nearby in Anaheim could be attractive to him.
The Angels will likely move fast after Sabathia. As a major-league general manager pointed out, it was a year ago today that they made their offer to Torii Hunter, with a 48-hour deadline. Hunter signed late the night before Thanksgiving.
There were two main reasons for the Angels' decision.
First, and probably most importantly, agent Scott Boras has been seeking a 10-year deal for Teixeira. The Angels are unwlling to go more than six years, in part because their team doctors are concerned about Teixeira's knee holding up for that long.
"There's something in his knee that really bothers their doctor," the source said.
Second, the Angels don't see a quick end to the Teixeira derby, and they started to get worried that they wouldn't get either of their two top targets. They remember waiting too long for Paul Konerko in the 2005-06 winter, only to lose Konerko to the White Sox and be left without a backup plan.
The Angels front office was always split on whether to make Teixeira or Sabathia the top winter target.
One issue was that owner Arte Moreno was said to initially prefer Teixeira. Another was that the Angels didn't see another hitter they really liked on the free agent market (even though Moreno has had kind things to say about Manny Ramirez), or in a trade. While the Angels could offer Jered Weaver and perhaps Chone Figgins, they have no interest in Konerko and very little in Jermaine Dye, another hitter the White Sox are willing to move.
Concentrating on pitching doesn't bother the Angels, who have always seen themselves as a pitching and defense team. So instead of thinking about a middle of the order with Teixeira, Vladimir Guerrero and Torii Hunter, they'll dream of a rotation with Sabathia, Peavy, John Lackey, Joe Saunders and Ervin Santana.
Could the Angels shift back at some point and still pursue Teixeira? Sure, they could, if they lose out on Sabathia, and if Boras is willing to do a six-year deal.
What seems more likely is that the Teixeira derby now shifts to the East Coast, where the Red Sox, Orioles and Nationals are all interested, and where some believe that the Yankees could still get back into the picture.