The Tony Reagins-era Angels are infamous for dropping Take-it-or-leave-it-and-we're-leaving contract proposals on players, and just when that strategy might have worked they decided to let the players take their time. They waited too long to see what Carl Crawford would take and Jayson Werth went and upturned this applecart of a market.
No doubt that coming up empty-handed in each free agent pursuit makes them more vulnerable to tougher trade extractions in talks with other teams and higher dollar demands from free agent representatives. This corner they have been painted into looks to get tighter if division rival Texas signs Cliff Lee. Pray for visions of sugarplums instead of visions of a three year Magglio Ordonez deal as Scott Boras shrugs his shoulders to the Reagins led Adrian Beltre overtures.
But is there any advantage in this for them? While Tom Petty sang that "The Waiting is the Hardest Part", but in baseball he might have only been singing about the fans ... Arte Moreno knows his classic rock well enough to know the Mick Jagger role of crooning "Time ... is on My Side" ... and it might be the only tune he can carry with any strength at this juncture.
Folding up the tent and programming the phone to forward calls to voice mail allows the Angels a few advantages:
•Free agents wanting a signing bonus might want the better tax rates that 2010 will deliver than 2011 is likely to. $3 million on December 31, 2010 yields a lot more than if collected on January 1, 2011. At some point, the seller screams "uncle" ... as in "Uncle Sam's cut" in this case...
•Arbitration awards are coming. After monster contracts to Werth and Crawford, and with Lee likely signing before any arbitration figures are exchanged, it is painfully apparent that every player out there will be getting bigger raises than imagined. Waiting to make a trade pays off for the Angels because once team budgets are maxed out on arbitrator-enforced decisions, some decent young players may be available (check out this not-quite-updated list). If the Angels can offer $108 million to Crawford and still be considered "in" on Rafael Soriano and others, a fiscal headache to some middle market club may be just what the Los Angeles Doctor of Anaheim ordered.
•Those Crawford bidding details are not some fan-blog-only secret ... everybody knows that not only are the Angels serious about spending, everybody's seen everything about their finances except Arte's PIN number. Everybody's wife will be turning the nag switch on by this time next week to tell him to call the Angels. That's how it goes... everybody knows. Thanks, ladies!
•Those arbitration deadlines are certainly something the club can wait for. Biding one's time until some GM panics on January 18 after salary figures are exchanged, or February 21 when the hearings are finished, or after pitchers and catchers report.... biding one's time is putting that time on your side. The Angels need to improve but they don't have to make a deal now. It would be nice. Recall that in 2004 they did not sign Vladimir Guerrero until January of that year. And there is no rule against making the needed trade in the middle of Spring Training if need be.
You and I are impatient. But if there is one trait this organization has, it is patience. At this critical juncture, it might be the best bargaining tool of all. Take it away Mick...