Arte Moreno never has stared down the New York Yankees or Boston Red Sox in a bidding war for a free agent. If Torii Hunter is correct, the Angels’ owner will have to do just that in order to sign Carl Crawford this winter.
Hunter, who speaks regularly with Crawford, said on Wednesday that he expected the Angels and Red Sox would be the finalists to sign him.
“The Yankees are not going to go after him,” Hunter said. “They’ve got Cliff Lee. Boston might be the team.
“I think Boston and the Angels, that will be the bidding war.”
The Angels have identified Crawford as their primary target in free agency, and they are prepared to make the left fielder the first $100-million player in club history.
The Yankees have identified Lee as their top target, and General Manager Brian Cashman flew to the pitcher’s Arkansas home Tuesday. Hunter said he anticipated Moreno would soon make a recruiting visit to Crawford’s Texas home.
“In the near future, I think Arte and all the guys will take a trip and go see the guy,” Hunter said.
Hunter said Crawford’s flashy on-field style contrasted with a “down-to-earth” and “low-key” off-field persona that would play well in Anaheim, particularly after nine years under the sparsely peopled dome in Tampa Bay.
“We’ve got the weather, the sun shining, and 40,000 fans every night, win or lose,” Hunter said. “When you get off turf, this is where you want to be.
“He’s been saying great things about Anaheim. He needs to go through the process and take his visits. That’s what I encouraged him to do. If he comes out here and takes a visit, we’re going to win him over.”
The Angels plan to monitor Lee’s free agency but do not expect to get seriously involved, particularly after the Yankees took the Angels’ bids for Mark Teixeira and CC Sabathia and trumped each by $20 million. The Angels believe Lee is bound for New York.
“He would make any staff better,” Angels Manager Mike Scioscia said. “If the winter takes you in a different direction, I’m sure he’s a guy [General Manager] Tony [Reagins] will consider.
“There are a lot of different scenarios Tony has worked through. There are different branches the winter can take. One thing is for sure: We’ll be a better team.”
Scioscia insisted that would be true even if the Angels fail to sign Crawford.
“The biggest free agent we’re signing this year is Kendry Morales,” Scioscia said. “Kendry Morales is more important than anybody.”
Morales, the first baseman and probable cleanup batter, hit .306 with 34 home runs in 2009. He was limited to 51 games last season because of an ankle injury.
“Getting Kendry back is like picking up a free agent,” Hunter said, “but we still need a guy at the top of the lineup, a presence with speed and on-base percentage.
“I don’t even know if he wants to lead off. If he wants to hit third, who cares?”
Hunter said the Angels could fortify themselves at third base, in the bullpen and on the bench this winter, but he said none of those were absolute needs.
“We need Carl Crawford,” Hunter said. “Put it like that.”
DiSarcina in fold
Gary DiSarcina, newly hired as a special assistant to Reagins, said his job would be a hybrid of player instruction and evaluation. DiSarcina said he would spend five days with the Angels each month and 15 more with the triple-A and double-A affiliates, in addition to working at the winter meetings, spring training and the fall instructional league.
DiSarcina had been a minor league manager and instructor for his hometown Boston Red Sox, but he jumped at the chance to rejoin the Angels. He is the last Angels shortstop to make an All-Star team — in 1995 — and he spent his entire 12-year career with them.
“I drove over to the stadium, and the memories came back,” DiSarcina said. “It’s where I grew up. It’s where I met the most influential people in my life — Jim Abbott, Jimmie Reese, Gene Autry, and I could go on.
“This is where I grew up. This is where I was shown how to be a big leaguer.”