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Angels and Red Sox may have something to talk about

LAS VEGAS -- One team that is expected to engage the Angels in trade talks this week is the Boston Red Sox, who are looking for a potential replacement for veteran catcher Jason Varitek (a free agent who declined arbitration) and are in interested in both of the Angels' young catchers, Mike Napoli and Jeff Mathis.

The Red Sox have a surplus of relievers, but the chances for any deal hinge on what catcher the Red Sox want most and who they are willing to give up.

Napoli is clearly the more lethal offensive player -- he hit .273 with 20 homers and 49 RBIs in 78 games during an injury-plagued 2008 season, including two monster home runs in Game 3 of the American League division series against Boston in October -- but Mathis rates a slight edge defensively.

Most scouts believe Napoli has more trade value, but for the Angels to deal him, they would probably need Boston to return right-hander Justin Masterson, who is sort of to the Red Sox what Ervin Santana was to the Angels in 2005, an outstanding young pitcher who can start or be a shutdown late-inning reliever, as he was in the postseason for Boston in 2008.

The Angels could also ask for young right-hander Clay Buchholz, who threw a no-hitter in 2007 but bounced between triple-A and the big leagues during an erratic 2008.

The Red Sox would prefer to trade right-hander Manny Delcarmen, whose 94-mph sinking fastballs can be nasty at times but who hasn't shown the consistency to warrant a starting catcher in return.

--Mike DiGiovanna

 
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