Angels not pursuing pitcher Zito

From Times Staff and Wire Reports

General Manager Bill Stoneman all but confirmed Friday that the Angels were not pursuing free-agent left-hander Barry Zito, a development that would seem to put a crimp in the team’s efforts to land a proven power hitter.

The Angels’ original plan was to sign a free-agent slugger -- Aramis Ramirez and Alfonso Soriano were their top targets -- or a pitcher such as Zito, which would give them enough depth to package one of their young starters in a trade for a slugger such as Vernon Wells, Andruw Jones, Miguel Tejada or Manny Ramirez.

But Aramis Ramirez and Soriano both signed with the Chicago Cubs, Wells agreed on Friday to a seven-year, $126-million deal to remain in Toronto, and Jones, who can veto any trade, wants to play out the final year of his contract with Atlanta.

Talks with the Baltimore Orioles about Tejada and the Boston Red Sox about Manny Ramirez yielded nothing, and the Angels signed center fielder Gary Matthews Jr., to a five-year, $50-million contract, essentially reducing their trade options to the corner infield spots.


The Angels discussed potential deals for Colorado first baseman Todd Helton and Atlanta first baseman Adam LaRoche at the winter meetings, but their offers to the Rockies and Braves did not include pitchers.

With five established starters in John Lackey, Ervin Santana, Kelvim Escobar, Jered Weaver and Joe Saunders, and Bartolo Colon rehabilitating from a rotator-cuff tear -- and apparently no trade the Angels are willing to consummate by giving up Santana or Weaver -- Stoneman is not eager to add to his rotation.

Asked Friday if he had any free-agent offers pending, Stoneman said, “Not right now.”

Could that change? “I guess you never say never in this business,” Stoneman said, “but right now, we’re not in aggressive pursuit of a free agent.”

Zito, the former Oakland star, is the only marquee free agent remaining and could command a deal in the $100-million range. The Angels have been prominently mentioned as possible suitors but that does not seem to be the case.

Stoneman said that Colon, limited to 10 starts last season because of his shoulder injury, had successfully completed the second phase of a three-phase rehab program and is scheduled to begin throwing again in mid-January.

First baseman Casey Kotchman, who missed all but 29 games last season because of the effects of mononucleosis, has played nine winter-league games in Puerto Rico, batting .258 with one double, no homers and no runs batted in.

-- Mike DiGiovanna


Jeff Bagwell retired after 15 years with the Houston Astros, ending a career in which he hit 449 home runs but was forced from the field after the 2005 season because of a shoulder injury.

Along with Craig Biggio, Bagwell led the Astros to four division titles and the team’s first National League pennant in 2005. Bagwell, 38, retires as Houston’s leader in home runs, RBIs (1,529), walks (1,401) and extra-base hits (969). He finished with a .297 career average.

The four-time All-Star and winner of the 1994 NL most-valuable-player award will remain with the Astros as part of a personal-services agreement struck with the team this week.


Akinori Iwamura agreed to a $7.7-million, three-year contract with the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, who submitted a winning bid of $4.55 million for rights to negotiate with the third baseman. Iwamura, 27, won six Gold Gloves playing for the Yakult Swallows of the Japanese League.