Baywatch canceled in Anaheim
The Jason Bay sweepstakes narrowed considerably today when Angels Manager Mike Scioscia suggested his team has dropped out of the running for the free-agent outfielder.
"He has been in internal discussions that we've had as an organization, [but] I think there are some more pressing needs that we have right now than the talent that Jason can bring," Scioscia said. "He's an extraordinary talent, but we definitely have to look for some balance in some areas, and that might not make Jason a great fit for our club."
Bay, who hit 36 homers and drove in 119 runs for the Red Sox last season, was believed to be a big target for the Angels this off-season. But Bay's agent, Joe Urbon, has already turned up his nose at Boston's offer of four years and $60 million. If the Angels are going to spend that much, Scioscia said he'd prefer they spend it on pitching.
"I don't think you can ever have too much pitching, so if you are going to make a financial commitment, certainly the pitching end of it is something you're going to consider," he said.
Among the pitchers the Angels are considering are Toronto's Roy Halladay and former Angel John Lackey, a free agent. Both will come at a heavy price, though. The Blue Jays are believed to be seeking a trade package that would include one of the Angels' top starting pitchers as well as a catcher and another position player, perhaps shortstop Erick Aybar. Lackey, who has spent his whole career in Anaheim, has said he wants more than the $82.5 million A.J. Burnett got from the Yankees last winter.
"A manager's wish list is going to be a little different than a general manager's and owner's, I can guarantee you that right now. If you want my wish list, you would be talking about a pretty expensive team," Scioscia said. "I just know the philosophy of our organization, and what really makes us perennial contenders is ... the attention to pitching and the defensive side of the organization. And the ability to stay in every game with the pitching and defensive side.
"That's put a lot of pressure to think we're going to repeat that much offensively. If we do, great, but we definitely need to pitch at a higher level than we did last year and play defense at a level that is going to support that good pitching. We're going to pay a lot of attention to that area."
Scioscia also said the Angels are going to miss Chone Figgins from the top of their lineup next season but that he believes Maicer Izturis and Erick Aybar will be able to handle the leadoff role. Brandon Wood, meanwhile, will be given the opportunity to replace Figgins defensively at third base.
"Chone is definitely a guy we wanted to see in our uniform next year, and he got a terrific opportunity in Seattle. He'll impact that team much like he did ours," he said. "He's as good a catalyst as there is in the game, and I think the way he played defense at third base is something someone ought to pay a lot of attention to. We've got some big shoes to fill."
As for Wood, Scioscia said "he has to have the mind-set to come in there and win a position, and realistically that's what has to happen. He has to come out and win a spot, and we do have some depth that we'll use if it's going to make us a better team. But we definitely want to give Brandon every opportunity to show his talent, because he's a very, very talented young player."
Another hole the Angels will address this off-season is at designated hitter, where Scioscia said the Angels will explore a number of potential fits, including World Series MVP Hideki Matsui and last year's Angels DH, Vladimir Guerrero, both of whom are free agents.
"Our lineup is definitely one that right now has some versatility, but in the DH role, I think it's one area that we're definitely going to look at and hopefully bring in a bat," Scioscia said.
-- Kevin Baxter in Indianapolis.