The Angels returned as a central figure in the Manny Ramirez giveaway, but the club is not any closer to getting him now than it was a year ago. A much greater possibility seemed to gain momentum, though, in the form of Braves first baseman Adam LaRoche.
The Red Sox, in need of a closer, have expressed interest in either Francisco Rodriguez or Scot Shields and they also like right-handed starter Ervin Santana. Orlando Cabrera has surfaced as a possibility to fill Boston's need at shortstop while outfielder Juan Rivera is another player that could fill out the potential deal.
But where a deal for Ramirez begins to unravel is not what he can bring but where he would go. A well-placed source within the Angels organization said Ramirez is not a good fit for the team, which already has four outfielders with three of those slated to fill the designated hitter slot on a rotating basis.
Ramirez would have to share left-field duties with Garret Anderson, appearing as the DH on days that Anderson is in the outfield. But he can't play right and wouldn't be able to do the same on days that Vladimir Guerrero needs a rest, a role Rivera filled last season and is projected to again in 2007. Gary Matthews Jr. is in center.
"The question you have to ask is: Does it make your club better and does it help your organization?" general manager Bill Stoneman said.
At issue on most of the proposed deals in front of the Angels is their pitching -- other teams want their young arms and the Angels would prefer to hang on to them. At the beginning of last season, the Angels had both Bartolo Colon and Jeff Weaver in the rotation.
By August, Jered Weaver and Joe Saunders were both in the rotation full-time, which has poked a hole in their depth. Two of their top pitching prospects, Nick Adenhart and Jose Arredondo, are at least a year away and the Angels are grooming Arredondo for the bullpen.
All which has made Stoneman extremely cautious over any deal that includes one or more of his young pitchers.
"People would like to have one of these guys. The reason our pitching is the way it is is we've worked hard to have it that way," Stoneman said. "Any deal has to make us better."
The Red Sox have posted a soft deadline of Wednesday when they will stop seeking offers for Ramirez. The club will listen to offers after that point but will not actively shop him.
That leads to Atlanta and LaRoche.
The Braves need a second baseman and a leadoff man and have shown interest in Chone Figgins. They've also asked about Casey Kotchman and could possibly want another player for LaRoche, who would satisfy the power void at first base.
LaRoche hit .285 with 32 homers, 38 doubles and 90 RBIs last season, a bargain at $420,000. The 26-year-old is also the son of former Angels and Major League pitcher Dave LaRoche.
"It doesn't matter if it is a well-known player if it makes us better," Stoneman said.
No pressure: The stakes were apparently raised late in the summer when owner Arte Moreno promised his team would make a major acquisition this offseason. On Tuesday, Moreno said in a Los Angeles Times article that he may have made a mistake. Stoneman said, though, that he never felt his job or his methods were in question.
"Arte from Day 1, he has really supported what we want to do," Stoneman said. "To me, he is a fan but a very bright business guy and a great owner. That is how I took that. But the comments were not taken really more than support."
Buzz: With the Angels unwilling to move pitchers, their interest in Arizona corner infielder Chad Tracy has waned. ... The Rockies have reportedly expressed interest in free agent Darin Erstad but project him in center. ... The A's hired Angels Minor League hitting instructor Ty Van Burkleo as their hitting coach. Van Burkleo spent the last six seasons in the Angels organization. ... Third baseman Adrian Beltre's name has surfaced as a possibility for the Angels, but the Mariners do not appear interested in moving him.
Mike Scarr is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.