A potential deal for Baltimore slugger Miguel Tejada was on life support Sunday, moving the focus of the Angels’ pursuit of an impact bat before today’s trading deadline to Washington slugger Alfonso Soriano.
The Angels thought they were close to landing Tejada, whom they prefer over Soriano because Tejada is signed through 2009, with an offer of pitcher Ervin Santana and triple-A shortstop Erick Aybar, but the Orioles rejected that Saturday.
Tejada’s reluctance to move from shortstop to third base put a further crimp in negotiations. The Houston Astros, front-runners for Tejada after reportedly offering a package headed by pitcher Roy Oswalt, pulled out of talks with the Orioles on Sunday night.
An Orioles source said the Angels sweetened their offer Sunday, possibly adding first baseman Casey Kotchman. The Angels, according to several sources, did not include highly touted pitching prospect Nick Adenhart in the package.
But unless the Angels replaced Aybar with shortstop Orlando Cabrera in their offer, any trade for Tejada would be contingent on Tejada moving to third.
Asked again Sunday if he would move to third if the Angels wanted to put him there, Tejada said, “No, I am playing short. If I am going to be a winner, I am going to be a winner at my position.”
Tejada’s comments caught the Angels by surprise. They think Cabrera is a superior defensive shortstop and thought Tejada would gladly move to third -- much like Alex Rodriguez did for the New York Yankees -- to play for a perennial contender.
General Manager Bill Stoneman said the Angels have not asked Cabrera to move to third to accommodate Tejada. Cabrera said no one has approached him about a switch but declined to elaborate.
“I’ve been told not to talk to you guys about that,” Cabrera said.
Manager Mike Scioscia wouldn’t discuss the possibility of moving Cabrera.
“Some things are being looked at closely,” Scioscia said, “but O.C. might be the premier defensive shortstop in our league, and that’s an important piece.”
Because Soriano will be a free agent after the season -- and could be a two-month rental for the team acquiring him -- the Angels aren’t willing to part with as much talent for the Nationals’ left fielder.
The Angels, according to sources, tried to build an offer around Aybar, triple-A left-hander Joe Saunders and an outfielder such as Reggie Willits or Tommy Murphy. The Nationals asked the Angels for infielder Howie Kendrick, who is virtually untouchable, and have shown interest in Adenhart.
Many believe Soriano’s price will drop today, but Washington General Manager Jim Bowden said that his asking price “hasn’t changed,” and it “hasn’t been met yet.”
If the Angels acquired Soriano, they could start him in left field, move Juan Rivera to center field, center fielder Chone Figgins to third and left fielder Garret Anderson to designated hitter. Or, they could move Soriano to center and Figgins to third.
The Angels have also had trade talks involving third basemen Aramis Ramirez of the Chicago Cubs and Chad Tracy of the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Bartolo Colon, as expected, was put on the 15-day disabled list because of triceps tendinitis. The Angels hope Colon will return to the rotation Aug. 11 against the Yankees.
Reliever Greg Jones was called up from triple-A Salt Lake to fortify the bullpen for a few days, but Saunders will be recalled to start in place of Colon on Tuesday night.