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Cliff Lee’s deal with Phillies could make it tougher for Angels to land Adrian Beltre

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The Angels are probably glad Cliff Lee is leaving the American League West for the National League East after the free-agent left-hander, who helped the Texas Rangers reach the World Series in October, agreed to a five-year, $120-million deal with the Philadelphia Phillies Monday night.

But Lee’s departure from Texas won’t make it any easier for the Angels to acquire third baseman Adrian Beltre, who moved to the top of their free-agent target list after they lost outfielder Carl Crawford to the Boston Red Sox last week.

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The Rangers had expressed considerable interest in Beltre before Lee left, even dangling third baseman and franchise cornerstone Michael Young in trade talks during the winter meetings, but their failure to trade Young so far hasn’t slowed their pursuit of Beltre.

If the Rangers land Beltre, they would probably move Young to designated hitter to clear third base for Beltre. And now that Lee declined Texas’ six-year, $120-million offer, the Rangers can turn their full financial attention and muscle to Beltre, who is seeking a deal in the five-year, $75-million range.

Until Texas got into the Beltre bidding, it appeared the Angels were the logical destination for Beltre if he wanted to play for an AL contender in a home stadium that is filled to capacity or near-capacity for every game.

The New York Yankees and Red Sox don’t need him, the Chicago White Sox and Minnesota Twins can’t really afford him, and Beltre reportedly turned down a five-year, $64-million offer from the Oakland Athletics.

The Angels, according to major league sources, continue to express ‘serious’ interest in Beltre, and it appears as if they’re hoping the lack of competition for his services drives his price down.

But with the Rangers making it at least a two-horse race, Beltre, who put his Los Angeles-area estate home on the market for $19.8 million in late October, probably won’t be signed at a discount.

-- Mike DiGiovanna

Top photo: Cliff Lee with the Phillies in 2009. Credit: David J. Phillip / Associated Press


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