When the off-season started, the Hot Stove League was abuzz with speculation that Arte Moreno was going to throw financial caution to the wind and make a big free agent splash (well, three splashes, actually) by signing Carl Crawford, Adrian Beltre and Rafael Soriano. One painful bellyflop and a few tiny splishes later and the Angels don't have much to show for their off-season except a giant pair of Beltre-induced blue balls.
But relax, Angel fans, all hope is not yet lost. Sure, Carl Crawford is gone, but I believe someone named after a school cafeteria entree once said that two out of three ain't bad. Ever since the Halos lost out on Crawford, they've turned their full attention towards Adrian Beltre. He has thus far spurned his advances, but the Angels remain his strongest (and possibly only suitor). As for Soriano, the Angels have been suspiciously disinterested in signing him despite the obvious need. But considering that Soriano has even fewer interested parties than Beltre, the Angels might have a unique opportunity to use that to their advantage and snag not one, but two prized free agents in one fell swoop.
Allow me to explain...
Could signing Soriano also mean they get Beltre? WIth Scott Boras involved, that could very well be the case.
Scott Boras has himself quite the predicament this winter. He is representing what should be two of the marquee names to sign at their respective positions, Beltre at third and Soriano at closer, but he is now nearing the turn of the calender to 2011 and neither player has yet to find a home nor do they appear to be close to doing so either. Sooner or later something has to give and Boras will have to back off his standard negotiating ploy of "wait it out long enough, and someone will pay" and get a little more creative. Surely there must be a team out there that has a major need for each of his remaining stars?
Turns out there is a team for each, and in both instances that team is the Angels.
The Laurentian Abyss-sized hole that the Halos have at third base is well documented, so there is no real sense is rehashing why Beltre is such a perfect fit, so just trust me when I tell you that he is. But making Soriano fit with the Angels is slightly less obvious. Tony Reagins has restocked his beleaguered bullpen with two quality lefties, Hisanori Takahashi and Scott Downs, and is on record as saying he is now satisfied with his revamped relief corps, but that might just be posturing since anyone can see that they lack that lockdown closer that teams love so much. Sure, Fernando Rodney has closing experience (though it is a mostly traumatic one) as well as Jordan Walden, who has future closer written all over him, but when is that future? Cases could also be made for promoting Kevin Jepsen or Scott Downs to the closer's role, but they'd be pretty weak cases. At best, the Angels seem poised to implement a closer-by-committee approach, an approach that I am a proponent of, that could work well for them if properly executed. But there is a whole lot of ifs involved in that equation.
So why not make things easier on themselves and go out and get that late-inning hammer? Soriano has the velocity, the stuff, the make-up and the experience to be a top-level closer for the Angels if they would just go out and get him. Their lack of interest so far probably has a lot to do though with their reluctance to make another hefty investment in a closer since they might still be licking their wounds after getting burnt by the Brian Fuentes deal.
Signing Soriano though is more about investing in a closer though, because by giving Soriano the deal that he has thus far been fruitlessly looking for might just be what it takes to convince Scott Boras to give up on waiting for the Angels to give him that extra year and those extra millions. Consider it a package deal of sorts. The Angels get Beltre for a deal they consider to be fair and then add Soriano as well, even though they clearly deem him to be more of a luxury than a necessity. On the flip side, Boras gets to make sure that both of his clients get quality deals in a sparse market, thus taking away any chance that Boras might actually wind up looking bad should one of them have to settle for another one-year "make good" deal, which, as it just so happens is what each player is coming off of. It is a win-win situation.
There is one slight problem with such a pretty package deal, and that is the overall price the Angels would pay. Though they haven't done much this off-season, they are already pressing up against their self-imposed payroll ceiling, but adding both Beltre and Soriano would tack on an additional $25 million (give or take) to their bill. The Halos definitely have some contracts they could dump (i.e. Rivera, Napoli, Rodney, Kendrick) to clear some budget space, but at best they could whittle $15 million of their payroll. That's good enough to sign one of Boras' boys, but not both, not unless some buffoon is willing to take on all of Scott Kazmir's contract for this season (sorry, I don't think anyone is planning on hiring Steve Phillips right now).
That doesn't mean this conspiratorial deal won't come to pass, just that it means Arte Moreno is going to have to swallow is pride and big chunk of his profit margin to make it happen. It also means that Scott Boras would have to be amenable to what would amount to a sweetheart deal, by his standards anyway. But would that really be so bad for him? I have to think that maybe not getting the best deals humanly possible for Soriano and Beltre would look a lot better than having to explain to one of them (and other potential future clients) why it is he is going to have to take another one-year deal and try again next off-season.
If I'm the Angels, I think it is a tact at least worth trying. Their patience has to be wearing thin with the Beltre talks anyway. Nor would it be a bad idea to do Boras a favor, knowing that some tough negotiations for Jered Weaver and Kendry Morales are coming down the line. C'mon, Tony Reagins, give it a shot!