Angels may want Drew as their center fielder

Times Staff Writer

Dodgers fans who are upset about J.D. Drew’s decision to opt out of his contract last week might not have to travel far to express their displeasure with the outfielder. The Angels, according to industry sources, are interested in signing Drew to play center field.

Drew, who forfeited $33 million in guaranteed salary from the Dodgers, might not be the Angels’ No. 1 choice. Alfonso Soriano remains the team’s top free-agent target, and the Angels are believed to have extended the slugger an offer of five or six years for about $14 million a year.

The Angels, according to sources, also have made an offer to left-hander Barry Zito, who could command a seven-year deal for as much as $100 million.

Signing Zito would give the Angels enough pitching to pursue trades for sluggers such as Toronto center fielder Vernon Wells, Atlanta center fielder Andruw Jones, Boston left fielder Manny Ramirez and Baltimore shortstop Miguel Tejada, all deals that probably would cost the Angels a pitcher such as Ervin Santana, Jered Weaver, Joe Saunders or Kelvim Escobar.


But with the competition for the top two free agents so fierce -- at least eight teams, including the Dodgers, have expressed serious interest in Soriano and Zito -- the Angels can’t afford not to pursue a player such as Drew, who would be an attractive option if they can’t acquire Soriano, Wells, Ramirez or Jones.

“There are no guarantees when you’re taking a shot at a free agent,” Angels General Manager Bill Stoneman said Friday. “In this instance, we’re following other paths at the same time, because you don’t know what’s going to be available to you. You don’t wait to pursue things.”

Agent Scott Boras, who represents Drew and Zito, would not discuss negotiations with the Angels but said both players are interested in playing in Anaheim.

In Zito’s case, the Angels and Dodgers “are among the eight teams on his list,” Boras said. “He looks at the Los Angeles teams with interest, because they both have the potential of reaching the playoffs every year. That’s what he’s looking for.”


Boras did not meet with Stoneman at the GM meetings this week in Florida, “but we certainly have clients the Angels are interested in, and Bill and I are going to talk soon,” he said.

Drew, who hit .283 with 20 home runs and 100 runs batted in last season, has never been a regular center fielder in the big leagues because he has spent most of his career alongside two of the game’s best defensive center fielders, Jim Edmonds in St. Louis and Jones in Atlanta.

Drew, who could command a deal in the four-year, $56-million range, is also being pursued by Boston, Texas, Cleveland and both Chicago teams.