A dozen or so Japanese media members gathered around Tony Reagins as the Angels general manager checked into the winter meetings hotel Monday afternoon, ready to pounce with their questions about free-agent slugger Hideki Matsui.
Reagins didn’t disappoint.
“He’s a person we’ve talked about,” Reagins said of Matsui, who earned World Series most-valuable-player honors by hitting .615 with three home runs and eight runs batted in to help the New York Yankees defeat the Philadelphia Phillies in six games. “But we have a lot of scenarios we can attack, whether through trade or free agency.”
Matsui, 35, hit .274 with 28 homers and 90 RBIs in 142 games for the Yankees in 2009, but he appears to be more of a fallback option for the Angels because of a knee injury that relegated the left fielder to designated hitter all season.
Manager Mike Scioscia likes players with defensive versatility and would prefer to rotate four outfielders through the DH spot. It appears unlikely Matsui would be able to play the field regularly without risking injury.
Much higher on the Angels’ wish list is free-agent left fielder Jason Bay, who has averaged 33 homers and 110 RBIs the last two seasons and reportedly turned down a four-year, $60-million offer from the Boston Red Sox, for whom he played in 2009.
Reagins described negotiations with Joe Urbon, Bay’s agent, as “new and developing -- we just haven’t had a chance to sit down.” He also called Bay “a guy we find appealing . . . we’ll see where it takes us.”
Bay reportedly also was being pursued by the Seattle Mariners and the Red Sox.
The Angels have reportedly expressed trade interest in Detroit outfielder Curtis Granderson, though there are conflicting reports about whether the Tigers will deal him.
Reagins also did not rule out a return by Vladimir Guerrero, whose six-year contract with the Angels expired after the season.
“He’s in our thought process -- he’s a talented player,” Reagins said of Guerrero, the 35-year-old right fielder and DH who hit .295 with 15 homers and 50 RBIs in 100 games. “We’ve told him we see him as an option.”
On the starting pitching front, John Lackey, as expected, declined the Angels’ offer of arbitration, and there was one Internet report that claimed the right-hander was seeking a six-year deal.
Reagins is also expected to meet several times this week with Toronto GM Alex Anthopoulos to resume his pursuit of Blue Jays ace Roy Halladay, who has one year and $15.75 million remaining on his contract.
The Yankees, Red Sox, Phillies and St. Louis Cardinals are also believed to be pursuing Halladay, a dominant, 32-year-old right-hander who has a 148-76 career record and 3.43 earned-run average in 11 seasons and won the 2003 American League Cy Young Award.
A deal for Halladay would probably cost the Angels left-hander Joe Saunders; one of their two catchers, Jeff Mathis or Mike Napoli; and outfield prospect Peter Bourgos.
The Angels, who went hard after Halladay before the July 31 trade deadline, would also prefer a window to negotiate a contract extension with him before any deal is consummated.
There is also some speculation here that the Angels are in on Detroit right-hander Edwin Jackson, who has been the subject of heavy trade speculation.
“We have a lot of concepts out there that we’re trying to attack here,” Reagins said. “We have a number of issues to address in a short amount of time, so we’ll be busy.”
One issue the Angels won’t be addressing is Chone Figgins, their former third baseman who has agreed to terms on a four-year, $36-million deal with the Seattle Mariners.
Reagins would not say whether they lost the leadoff batter because they were reluctant to add a fourth year to their offer, which was reported to be three years and $24 million.
“We felt our offer was strong, fair, reasonable,” Reagins said.
Is the sting of Figgins’ loss more severe because he is going to an AL West rival?
“Every team is trying to get better,” Reagins said. “A lot of people say we have a weak division, but it’s a strong division, the teams are getting better. We have to get better, too.”