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Inbox: Any interest in free agents?

Inbox: Any interest in free agents?

The Inbox is back. I apologize for not being more consistent with this popular format, formerly known as the mailbag. I keep putting it on the back burner. The Angels never seem to stop making news, keeping me busy on a daily basis. I'll try to make the Inbox a weekly habit this winter, so please keep the questions coming. I'll select those that seem to reflect the most commonly shared ideas and concerns.

What free agents do you think the Angels will sign or re-sign? How about Jose Valverde or Adrian Beltre?
-- Tristyn K., Laguna Hills, Calif.

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If I had that answer, Tristyn, I'd be on the boardwalk on Venice Beach, telling fortunes for people. I don't think anyone knows where this is headed, quite honestly. If the Angels' decision-makers have any strong ideas, they are not about to give us any hints. Some matters are best kept in-house, for a variety of reasons.

I have my doubts that any of their three big names in free agency -- John Lackey, Chone Figgins and Vladimir Guerrero -- will be back. Looking at their recent history, the Angels have no problem with letting go of athletes moving into the second halves of their careers. Lackey and Figgins have plenty of game left and will be paid accordingly. With their unmatched depth, the Angels might feel they can absorb either loss. Guerrero wants to get a fair shot at showing he can play right field, and I just don't know if the Angels see him doing that.

Clearly they would love to keep Darren Oliver, and I expect them to work something out with the versatile lefty. He's a Type A free agent, meaning a club would have to surrender a top Draft pick if it signs him. That diminishes his market value. Guerrero, on the other hand, is a Type B free agent, making him more appealing. I could see Vlad flourishing with the White Sox or with any of the Angels' three American League West rivals. Guerrero has a history of making loud noises in Oakland, Seattle and Texas, and they're smart enough to realize he's a prideful man who would have something to prove to his former employer.

Robb Quinlan figures to land in a National League city, where his versatility is a better match. As for Kelvim Escobar, he has appeal in an incentives-laden contract. There's a chance Escobar has life left in his arm -- he'll turn 34 on April 11. He could be a Comeback Player of the Year candidate if his shoulder is sound.

I don't see the Angels signing any infielders -- they're loaded there -- or catchers, relievers or outfielders. If they go after a free agent, it would likely be a starting pitcher drawing considerably less attention (and money) than Lackey.

With so much focus on Lackey and everyone speculating on how the Angels would replace him, the answer came to me that quick: Matt Palmer! Let's turn this guy loose and give him every opportunity to become a starter. What do you think?
-- Greg V., Avondale, Ariz.

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That's certainly a possibility. The Angels could let Palmer, Dustin Moseley, Sean O'Sullivan and Trevor Bell compete for the No. 5 job during Spring Training, then get into the season and see where they are. If they need a starter around midseason, they could make a move, like the one that landed Scott Kazmir last August. By the way, I expect Kazmir to have a big season in a quality rotation headed by Jered Weaver, if Lackey departs.

It's not a great market for starters after Lackey, but there are some quality arms out there. Randy Wolf, who pitched so effectively for the Dodgers, and Jon Garland, who knows the staff and the turf and could slide right back into the rotation, are possibilities. For the second tier of starters, it's a matter of how high the price goes.

Last offseason, I asked you about the possibility of Jake Peavy going to the Angels. This year's question: What about Adrian Gonzalez to Anaheim? The Angels could move Kendry Morales to a corner outfield spot. I would rather see Adrian in Anaheim than Boston, so what could the Angels have to offer? Brandon Wood has come up in the past, but I think the Padres are set at shortstop and third base.
-- Eric S., Camarillo, Calif.

I can't see the Padres moving Gonzalez, their one draw with Peavy toiling for the White Sox. I would be shocked if they let their slugger go, but it would be a great thing for Gonzalez, getting out of that airstrip and playing in a yard that would enable him to show that he's in the same class as Albert Pujols and Ryan Howard. Sure, I'd love to see Gonzalez in Anaheim. He would be a dominant slugger in that lineup.

As for Wood, he could be part of a package, replacing Gonzalez at first base. Brandon has shown he can handle the glove there as adeptly as on the left side. If the Angels sign Figgins, Wood probably would be best off moving, perhaps for a starting pitcher. I am a big Wood fan, but I don't think he has the stroke to succeed as a part-time player. He needs to play every day -- if not in Anaheim, somewhere else.

If Vladdy and Figgy go away, what do you think the chances are that the Angels can acquire Carl Crawford from Tampa Bay? He could assume leadoff duties from Figgins and seems like a great fit for the team.
-- Jim B., Seaside, Calif.

Crawford has no bigger fan than yours truly. He would be a fit anywhere, but especially in Anaheim, in the run-and-stun game. He might be a little too pricey for the Rays, which could put him on the market. But if that happens, I think the price tag might be out of the Angels' range. I'm not sure they have what Tampa Bay would demand in return.

Would the Angels be willing to do a swap of Gary Mathews Jr. to the Cubs for Milton Bradley? With both players seeming likely to be on the move and their contracts similar, it seems like a fit for both clubs and players. Do you think that could happen?
-- Eric Y., Chino Hills, Calif.

This is an intriguing suggestion. The Cubs could use Matthews' defense in center field and his ability to lead off, and Bradley had his best season in the AL West with Texas in 2008. Bradley can play a corner outfield spot, but he is probably best suited to DH. But I don't think there's a pressing need there, which means Matthews' versatility probably makes him more valuable to the Angels in spite of Bradley's superior offensive numbers.

If Figgins comes back, they need to move Wood. What about sending him to the Orioles for starter Jeremy Guthrie?
-- Tim B., Orange, Calif.

I think you might be on to something here. Guthrie would thrive in a bigger park, surrounded by championship talent. He has quality stuff. And Wood would have major appeal in Baltimore, where his power would play in a big way.

What moves would you make if you were general manager of the Angels for a day, and money was no object?
-- Aaron B., Apple Valley, Calif.

I'd sign Lackey, Figgins, Guerrero and Oliver and happily take my chances. Alas, only the Yankees have that kind of cash.

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

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