They are the Big Three of baseball’s winter meetings, the players driving most of the talk in the vast and opulent corridors of the Bellagio, and all have been linked prominently to the Angels this off-season.
But of the trio of Mark Teixeira, Manny Ramirez and CC Sabathia, only Teixeira, the first baseman acquired from Atlanta in July, remains firmly in the Angels’ sights.
Though the Angels haven’t made a formal contract offer to Teixeira, and General Manager Tony Reagins hasn’t met face to face with agent Scott Boras here, Teixeira clearly remains the team’s top priority.
But if Teixeira signs elsewhere, the Angels probably won’t pursue Ramirez, the slugger owner Arte Moreno spoke so glowingly about in November but who doesn’t fit in the Angels’ plans as well as his bat would fit in their lineup.
“That’s probably not a likely scenario,” Reagins said of Ramirez, who is seeking a deal in the four-year, $100-million range. “We think there are other opportunities that make more sense. We have another direction we would want to go before we go that route.”
And what of Sabathia, the free-agent left-hander thought to be the Angels’ Plan B?
“I wouldn’t say we’re in the Sabathia picture at all,” Moreno, who spent the afternoon at the Bellagio and left early Tuesday evening, told SI.com.
“We have four pitchers. And we’re not getting into a long, drawn-out process. He has a very good offer on the table [six years, $140 million from the New York Yankees]. We’re not in that ballpark.”
How the market for the Big Three is shaping up:
The Boston Red Sox have emerged as front-runners, and the Washington Nationals, who appear willing to offer eight years and $160 million, could make the most lucrative bid.
The Baltimore Orioles are in hot pursuit, the Yankees are lurking, and the Angels are growing more concerned that Teixeira might be slipping away, primarily because they’d like to sign him for six or seven years, not the eight or nine it might take.
“At the appropriate time, we will make an offer,” Reagins said. “We’re prepared to be responsible and reasonable.”
Would he consider a 10-year deal responsible and reasonable?
“Right now,” Reagins said, “I don’t have a clear expectation of what the deal will be.”
The Angels have other options such as Raul Ibanez, Adam Dunn, Bobby Abreu, Pat Burrell and Juan Rivera. They could move Chone Figgins from third to left and pursue trades for third basemen such as Adrian Beltre, Garrett Atkins or Mike Lowell.
If Teixeira signs elsewhere, the Angels probably would start Kendry Morales at first.
“There will come a time in the not-too-distant future when we’ll have to make a call on certain opportunities,” Reagins said. “At some point, we have to determine whether we’re in or out [on Teixeira], and we’re not at that time yet. But we’re still working on Plan B, C, D and, in some cases, E.”
The Yankees appear to be the front-runners, especially after GM Brian Cashman, who met with Sabathia on Sunday and Monday in Las Vegas, reportedly flew to San Francisco on Tuesday to meet with Sabathia and his wife.
The Brewers, Red Sox and Giants have expressed serious interest, and Dodgers Manager Joe Torre spoke openly about his interest in Sabathia, saying his presence could decrease the pressure on his young pitchers.
Dodger General Manager Ned Colletti feels his club has “some shot” at landing Sabathia but added, “I wouldn’t handicap it as strong.”
Despite Moreno’s comments, the Angels appear somewhat interested in Sabathia, and Reagins has spoken to the pitcher’s agent here. Could the Angels afford Teixeira and Sabathia?
“That would be like Christmas Day,” Manager Mike Scioscia said. “I know Tony and Arte, as they put together the numbers. . . . I think that would be unlikely, but I don’t think it’s been ruled out.”
Colletti said he had a half-hour meeting Monday night with Boras, who is also Ramirez’s agent.
“Manny would still like to be a Dodger,” Colletti said. “He still has interest in the Dodgers, pending the terms and the finances.”
Colletti hadn’t spoken to Boras since he made Ramirez a two-year, $45-million offer more than a month ago. He said the offer wasn’t back on the table.
Asked what the next step in the negotiations would be, Colletti replied, “I don’t know if there is a next or not.”
Staff writer Dylan Hernandez contributed to this report.