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Free agents' futures will set next step

Free agents' futures will set next step

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Club needs:
Power-hitting corner infielder: The Angels will satisfy this need if they can outbid a crowded field for free-agent first baseman Mark Teixeira. That signing would enable them to stick with Chone Figgins at third base, even though the versatile leadoff man doesn't fit the slugging profile. Kendry Morales appears to be the backup plan at first, with power-hitting Brandon Wood and Matt Brown available at third if Figgins is moved to another position.

Starting pitcher: Offered arbitration, hurler Jon Garland could eliminate this need if he accepts by Sunday's deadline and returns with a one-year deal. If he declines, the team will look at free agency and possibly the trade market.

Closer: Francisco Rodriguez is expected to depart as a free agent, creating a void that could be filled from within (Scot Shields or Jose Arredondo) or from outside with a market rich in closers.

Corner outfielder: No longer a position of abundance. The potential loss of free agents Garret Anderson and Juan Rivera would create a vacancy in left, while right fielder Vladimir Guerrero's recovery from offseason knee surgery will be monitored carefully. In-house candidates include Gary Matthews Jr., but he probably won't be available until at least a month into the season -- after his recovery from knee surgery. Figgins could be moved from third, and the versatile Reggie Willits excelled in 2007 before a series of injuries idled him for most of '08.

Whom they can or need to trade:
Matthews -- His health (recovering from knee surgery) and contract (three years, $31.5 million left) make it unlikely, but he would have appeal for clubs in need of a fleet center fielder if he comes back strong.

Willits -- Versatile, with the ability to play all three outfield roles while being selective and fast, Willits has shown he can be a capable Major League leadoff man.

Right-hander Justin Speier -- Owed $10 million for two seasons, he's coming off a down season, but the veteran right-hander has an impressive resume and can be expected to rebound well. He was effective with runners on base, but was hurt badly by the long ball.

Shortstop Erick Aybar -- A spectacular talent with a high ceiling, Aybar just needs to stay healthy to become a top-flight defensive player with intriguing skills as a switch-hitter.

Infielder Maicer Izturis -- Steady, dependable and versatile enough to hit all over the lineup, Izturis, like Aybar, needs only to remain on the field to be a valuable asset.

Wood -- He found his confidence in September and delivered a solid month that stamped him as a legitimate power prospect after several mammoth Minor League seasons. It would take a lot to pry him loose.

Infielder Robb Quinlan -- A professional hitter with the ability to handle all four corner positions, he can't seem to find enough at-bats to flourish in Anaheim.

Righty Nick Adenhart -- His 2008 season was disappointing, but three Major League starts represent a small sample. At 22, he's still the premier pitching prospect in an organization loaded with young arms. It's highly unlikely he'll be dealt.

Brown -- His clutch run-producing performance in the Beijing Olympics for Team USA heightened his appeal as a corner infielder with muscle and solid defense.

Righty Kevin Jepsen -- Brown's Team USA teammate also flourished in the Olympics and is projected as a potential closer. He could join the middle relief cast on a full-time basis this season.

Outfielder Terry Evans -- Hampered in 2008 by a shoulder injury, Evans has impressive Minor League power credentials and could have trade appeal, perhaps as part of a package deal.

Right-hander Jason Bulger -- A veteran perennially on the cusp of breaking through, Bulger showed his tremendous stuff at Triple-A Salt Lake and at times after joining the Angels in September. Like Jepsen, he's a candidate for middle relief in Anaheim.

Top prospects:
Infielder Sean Rodriguez, Wood, Adenhart, righy Jordan Walden and catcher Hank Conger -- These blue-chip talents are close to untouchable, but the Angels would move any of them in the right deal.

Brown, Evans, Jepsen, right-hander Nick Green, right-hander Anthony Ortega, right-hander Rafael Rodriguez, outfielder Peter Bourjos, lefty Trevor Reckling, righty Sean O'Sullivan, first baseman Mark Trumbo and right-hander Mason Tobin -- These are valued prospects who could figure in deals with teams looking to build for the future.

Big contracts they might unload:
Matthews (three years, $31.5 million total); Speier (two years, $10 million total).

Arbitration eligible:
Figgins, Izturis, catcher Mike Napoli, Quinlan and righty Ervin Santana.

Free agents:
Teixeira, Anderson, Francisco Rodriguez, Garland, Rivera and lefty Darren Oliver.

Payroll summation:
The Angels will try to keep it in the $120 million range. Teixeira is their main target, and he would absorb about half of the estimated $40 million they have at their disposal this winter. K-Rod, Garland, Oliver and Anderson or Rivera also could be retained, depending on their price tags.

Lyle Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

{"content":["winter_meetings" ] }
{"content":["winter_meetings" ] }
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