Angels in hot pursuit of Cleveland’s Cliff Lee
The Angels’ hopes of acquiring Toronto ace Roy Halladay are fading, but the team remains in active pursuit of Cliff Lee, the Cleveland ace and 2008 American League Cy Young Award winner, as well as several late-inning relievers.
Like Halladay, Lee, who is 7-9 with a 3.14 earned-run average in 22 starts, is signed through 2010 -- there is a team option on him for a reasonable $8 million next season -- but the Angels and Indians don’t appear to be a good match for a trade.
With Friday’s non-waiver trade deadline approaching, Cleveland General Manager Mark Shapiro recently told reporters that “any deal we make, we’re looking for pitching, pitching and more pitching.”
With starters Ervin Santana, Joe Saunders and Jered Weaver struggling and few high-end starting and relief prospects in the organization, pitching is the commodity the Angels can least afford to part with.
The Indians, however, are believed to be looking for a young second baseman, and the Angels could sweeten an offer with Howie Kendrick, who has struggled offensively this season but was a career .306 hitter before 2009.
The sticking point in talks for Halladay appears to be shortstop Erick Aybar. Toronto wants Aybar, the slick defender who has emerged as an offensive force with a .317 average and 15 doubles entering Monday. The Angels would prefer not to trade Aybar.
According to several reports, Toronto has asked for Aybar, a big league starting pitcher -- Weaver or Saunders -- infield prospect Brandon Wood and another high-end prospect such as double-A pitcher Trevor Reckling or outfielder Peter Bourjos.
“No player is untouchable, but there are definitely players who are very close to untouchable,” Angels GM Tony Reagins said. “We haven’t limited ourselves in any way. We’ve had some opportunities to improve the club. For whatever reasons, we haven’t matched up.”
The Angels inquired about Oakland reliever Michael Wuertz, who is 5-1 with a 3.23 ERA, 62 strikeouts and 13 walks in 47 1/3 innings and is under club control through 2011, but the A’s aren’t motivated to trade him.
A source familiar with the Angels’ thinking but not authorized to talk about it publicly said Wuertz was “off the table” as of Monday.
The Angels also pursued San Diego closer Heath Bell, who has a 2.06 ERA and 24 saves, but the right-hander appears to be well out of reach.
Among the Angels’ other relief targets are Toronto’s Scott Downs and Brandon League, Baltimore’s George Sherrill, Arizona’s Chad Qualls and Cincinnati’s David Weathers.
“In this market, anything you do with respect to pitching is going to be costly,” Reagins said. “It’s a matter of how much you want to give up to acquire an arm.”
Juan not gone
Juan Rivera, who sat out eight games because of a tight right hamstring, ran the bases at full strength Monday afternoon and was cleared to play against the Indians.
Rivera batted cleanup as the designated hitter. Manager Mike Scioscia said he hopes to fold Rivera back into left field by this weekend.
Torii Hunter, on the disabled list since July 10 because of a strained muscle on his right side, increased the intensity of his agility work Monday and said there is a possibility he could start a brief minor league rehabilitation assignment next week.
Where: Angel Stadium.
On the air: TV: FS West; Radio: 830, 980, 1330.
Pitchers: Jered Weaver vs. David Huff.
Update: Since throwing his third complete game of the season, a five-hit, 119-pitch shutout of San Diego on June 14, Weaver is 3-1 with a 6.92 earned-run average and three no-decisions in seven starts, allowing eight home runs in 40 1/3 innings. Weaver, who is 1-1 with a 4.88 ERA in six career starts against the Indians, leads the Angels with 112 strikeouts in 131 innings and has held opponents to a .230 average. Huff, a former Huntington Beach Edison High, Cypress College and UCLA standout, was promoted to the Indians on May 17. He is coming off Thursday’s win over Toronto in which he allowed four earned runs and eight hits in 7 2/3 innings.
-- Mike DiGiovanna