Angels leave winter meetings with a loss, but all is not bleak

Tony Reagins did not check out of the Indianapolis Marriott on Thursday with a front-of-the-rotation starter such as John Lackey or Roy Halladay.

He did not leave with a proven bat that could bolster his offense.

In fact, the winter meetings this week were a net loss for the Angels general manager, who left town minus his leadoff batter and third baseman, Chone Figgins, who signed a four-year, $36-million deal with the Seattle Mariners.

But the winter meetings were not a total loss for Reagins, who is confident his work here will bear fruit this month.

“I had a lot of discussions that were good, and we have a better idea of where certain opportunities are and how they’re going to progress,” Reagins said. “The next 10 days or so should be interesting . . . and busy.”

Though Reagins would not confirm that he met face to face with new Toronto GM Alex Anthopoulos to discuss Blue Jays ace Halladay, he acknowledged that he “had a lot of dialogue with Toronto.”

There were reports late Wednesday night that the Angels offered pitcher Joe Saunders, shortstop Erick Aybar and top outfield prospect Peter Bourjos to the Blue Jays for Halladay.

But at least two sources familiar with the Angels’ thinking shot down that rumor.

Reagins has not ruled out trading Aybar, who emerged as one of baseball’s top young shortstops last season, but the Angels are very reluctant to do so.

And if they are going to include Aybar in a trade, the package surrounding the speedy switch-hitter probably would not feature as much talent as one that did not include Aybar.

When asked about the rumor Thursday, Reagins chuckled.

“I have no reaction,” he said. “There are a lot of rumors in this environment, a lot of things that get thrown around. It’s up to someone else to decipher them, not me.”

The Blue Jays have targeted Saunders, catcher Mike Napoli and Bourjos, among others.

Reagins said it’s “possible” a deal for Halladay could be expanded to include other Blue Jays coming to Anaheim.

“We’ve talked about a lot of things,” Reagins said of his discussions with Toronto. “They have a lot of pieces that are attractive.”

The Angels made it clear here that pitching is their priority, with Manager Mike Scioscia saying the team had “more pressing needs” than what free-agent left fielder Jason Bay -- one of two premium bats on the market -- could bring.

The Angels remain in negotiations with free-agent starter Lackey, who is looking for a deal comparable to the five-year, $82.5-million contract A.J. Burnett signed with the New York Yankees last winter.

But the Angels, concerned about the fact Lackey has missed the first six weeks of the last two seasons because of elbow injuries, would prefer to go four years on the 31-year-old right-hander.

“There’s still a level of interest there,” Reagins said, “and we’ll leave it at that.”

If they’re able to supplement the offense, it will probably be with a less-expensive hitter such as World Series most valuable player Hideki Matsui, Vladimir Guerrero or Jermaine Dye, all veteran free-agent outfielders in their mid-30s.

The Angels probably will open 2010 with Brandon Wood at third base, but the slugging prospect isn’t necessarily guaranteed an everyday spot.

Scioscia said utility infielder Maicer Izturis, who plays shortstop, second and third, is “a natural to lead off,” and if the switch-hitter emerges as the team’s best leadoff option, he will probably cut into Wood’s playing time at third.

“Izzy is a versatile player,” Scioscia said, “so I think we could get him in the lineup enough on the defensive side where he would get enough at-bats to contribute.”

If the Angels are unable to make a significant move, Reagins says he still thinks they’ll be good enough to win the American League West for the sixth time in seven years.

“It’s still a pretty good club -- I like it,” Reagins said. “We’ve done a good job of being prepared to defend the division every year, and that’s what we’re going to do. We have a good manager and staff, and at the end of the day, I’m confident in what this team can do.”