The Big A: “Just In Case”

With all of the free agent chatter centered on the Angels, it seems only a matter of time before a press conference is called to announce a nine-figure signing. Or not.

Incumbent first baseman Mark Teixeira is seeking a similar contract to Alex Rodriguez, who received ten-year deals from the Rangers ($252 million in 2000), and Yankees ($275 million in 2007). Teixeira -- who Rangers owner Tom Hicks said declined an eight-year, $140-million deal last year -- is rapidly starting to look like a white elephant, with demands that virtually force the team to maneuver its off-season shopping spree toward the rotation.

That puts the limelight on C.C. Sabathia, the workhorse lefty who has gone 36-17 in 494 innings the past two seasons. He is reported to be looking for a deal comparable to the six-year, $137 million contract the Mets inked Johan Santana to last year. Speculation abounds the Yankees are offering up to $150 million for the hurler, a figure that might make the Angels blanch.

Should that happen, what other arms would be out there for a rotation the team is making a priority? Let's take a look...

Ben Sheets

He's got talent -- on any given night, the right-hander has the innate ability to shut out the '27 Yankees. His tragic flaw?  Injuries. In addition to the six career DL trips on his resume, his latest malady, a flexor muscle tear, disabled him during the playoffs. Sheets has said he will be fine for spring training.

His value, pundits have predicted, will be commensurate to what the other starters are getting paid ahead of him. A good move for the Halos would be to try and get him ahead of the pack for a fraction of what Sabathia would cost them; once a few of the top-shelf arms are signed, desperation may force a team to ignore the warning signs and overpay.

Obviously a gifted pitcher like Sheets would be a nice prize for the Angels to unveil next spring, but given his injury history (think Jason Schmidt), no one would fault them for passing.

Oliver Perez

The kid's got some serious stuff, racking up more than a strikeout an inning in seven big league seasons. After a disastrous 2006, in which he went 3-13 with an ERA north of six, Pittsburgh jettisoned him to the New York Mets. He was a successful reclamation project in the Big Apple, going 25-17 in the past two years, and regaining his moxie.

The native of Culiacan, Mexico looks like the best pitcher from the country since Fernandomania swept the southland. And with the right marketing, the quirky southpaw could draw fans in droves like his predecessor. 

Agent Scott Boras is marketing Perez as one of the "Top five left-handed starting pitchers" in the game today, comparing the burgeoning hurler's career path with those of Sandy Koufax and Randy Johnson. In other words, someone's gonna pay. Early whispers look like a 4-year, $50 million commitment.

Should it be the Angels? Maybe.

Perez, already with six years of seasoning, is only 27, an age ballplayers traditionally enter the peak years. If they can't sign Sabathia, Perez would be a nice fit.

Randy Johnson

It wasn't too long ago Johnson would have headlined this list.  As is, the 45-year-old southpaw proved in 2008 he can still pitch. Making all 30 starts, Johnson went 11-10 with a 3.91 ERA, while walking few (44) and striking out many (173).

Paid $16 million last year by Arizona, the team declined an offer from Johnson to sign with the team for half as much so he could remain close to his Phoenix home. That said, the Angels are at an advantage to get a hometown discount by default. 

There's reason to be concern over his past back injuries, but a past season of health allays those fears somewhat. With 295 career wins, whoever signs him should have a nice Kodak moment to throw in future Jumbotron montages.

Sure he doesn't measure up to his old self, but he's still an above-average major league pitcher. I'd much rather see Johnson's aging heater than Jon Garland's soft tossing for another year. A one-year, incentive-laden contract around $9 million would be a mutually beneficial arrangement.

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