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Angels in the Running for Colon

Times Staff Writer

The Angels appear to be a prime contender for pitcher Bartolo Colon, their top target among free agents.

Colon’s agent, Mitch Frankel, said Wednesday he has met with General Manager Bill Stoneman and identified the Angels as one of five teams in the running to sign the pitcher.

“For him, there’s a lot of interest,” Frankel said. “The Angels are a great organization. They have a new owner. They’re trying to win a championship. It’s a very positive place.”

Frankel said Colon hopes to sign a four-year or five-year contract, which could be problematic at a time teams claim insurance on anything beyond a three-year deal is prohibitively expensive, particularly for a pitcher. Colon reportedly rejected a three-year, $36-million offer to stay with the Chicago White Sox.

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Frankel said the White Sox remain interested, although General Manager Ken Williams said after the rejection that he would proceed without Colon. The agent declined to identify the other three interested teams but said two were in the National League.

The New York Yankees are believed to have expressed interest but would prefer to retain Andy Pettitte. The Philadelphia Phillies, in search of a possible replacement for Kevin Millwood, have met with Frankel as well.

Colon, 30, went 15-13 with a 3.87 earned-run average last season, tying for the major league lead with nine complete games. He is 96-55 in his six full seasons and has pitched more than 200 innings five times.

The Angels finished so poorly last year that they keep their first-round draft pick even if they sign a top free agent. By signing Colon, Pettitte or Toronto pitcher Kelvim Escobar, they would forfeit their second-round pick in compensation.

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The Angels believe they can afford to sign Colon and Minnesota outfielder Shannon Stewart. If they sign Escobar, who might command half the annual salary of Colon, they might pursue outfielder Vladimir Guerrero. While Guerrero is the best player available, they are wary of his history of back problems and the possible adjustment period he might need in the American League.

Fernando Cuza, one of Guerrero’s agents, would not discuss the Angels’ possible interest but dismissed reports that his client does not wish to play in a major media market.

“Guerrero is willing to play in any major market -- anywhere, really,” Cuza said.


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