This in turn could bring the Angels back into the picture, enabling them to be competitive in the market and, hopefully, reunite a rotation that manager Mike Scioscia called "the best and deepest" in his 10 years on the job.
The Mets also have given indications that they'll pursue Lackey as a No. 2 starter behind Johan Santana, but they do not appear likely to venture into the neighborhood Lackey's camp reportedly has set as its target.
The Red Sox also have been mentioned as potential Lackey suitors along with the Mariners, but the level of interest of those clubs has not been clear.
"We've dialogued quite a bit," Angels general manager Tony Reagins said, calling the conversations with Lackey's agent, Steve Hilliard, "reasonable." The GM added that he would not divulge any specific terms, a club policy.
Retaining Lackey, 31, for something in the five-year, $70 million range would free the Angels to focus their attention on the offense. Reagins said there are "a lot of scenarios we can attack through free agency," and the trade market also is being explored.
Vladimir Guerrero remains a possibility to return as a DH/RF, and Jason Bay clearly intrigues the Angels. But Boston's big bopper is expected to command a salary that could be out of reach if Lackey returns to the fold.
A player who could be a perfect fit for the Angels is Tampa Bay's Carl Crawford, but the Rays appear determined to retain their left fielder as he enters the final year of a contract that will bring him $10 million this season.
That could change if Crawford, 28, determines he doesn't want to continue his career on the Tropicana Field artificial surface. The Rays could test the market to determine what the gifted All-Star would bring in exchange, and the Angels -- who worked out the Scott Kazmir deal with the Rays last Aug. 28 -- conceivably could put together an impressive package.
A rumored swap of Carlos Quentin of the White Sox for Crawford apparently had no legs.
There is the possibility that the Angels will conclude they have enough weapons to be highly competitive again, with Brandon Wood and Maicer Izturis in place to fill the void left by Chone Figgins at third base and Mike Napoli a strong candidate to take DH at-bats.
Napoli flourished in the DH role in 2009, with a .359 batting average, .431 on-base and .594 slugging marks in 18 games. As a catcher, by comparison, those numbers were .259, .338 and .479, respectively.
Deploying Napoli as a DH on a more regular basis would give more starts behind the plate to Jeff Mathis, who has demonstrated superior defensive skills and emerged as an offensive force in the 2009 postseason. Bobby Wilson, a solid all-around receiver and capable contact hitter, is available to back up Mathis.
With excellent depth in the infield and outfield as well, the Angels wouldn't necessarily have to do anything to upgrade the offense if Lackey returns.
"We like our team," Reagins said. "We'll see how things fall together. We have some things we're working on."