Source: Angels deny matching Sox offer

BOSTON -- As it turns out, the race for Carl Crawford went right down to the wire at the winter meetings.

The Los Angeles Angels, with ebullient star Torii Hunter personally lobbying Crawford, were also aggressively seeking to sign the free agent left-fielder.

On Wednesday, according to a baseball source, Crawford's agents sent word that they were setting an 11 p.m. deadline. If either the Boston Red Sox or Angels offered seven years and $142 million by that time, the player was theirs.

Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein, the source said, placed a phone call to England, awakening his owner, John W. Henry, who was in Liverpool to watch his soccer team. The Red Sox at that stage already had offered seven years, but Epstein needed permission from the owner to increase the average annual salary of their offer by a couple of million a year.

Henry signed off on the idea, and around 10:50 p.m., 10 minutes before the arbitrary deadline, the Red Sox made their offer, which was accepted. It was 4 in the morning in Liverpool when Epstein e-mailed Henry with the news that they had gotten Crawford.

The Angels matched the Red Sox offer at the deadline, according to the source, but by then Crawford had already committed.

The Angels dispute that version of events, according to another major league source. The last offer they made was a six-year deal for $108 million, with a vesting option of $18 million for a seventh year, pushing the total value of their package to $126 million.

That was the last offer the Angels made, insisted the source, who also denied a published report that club officials had boasted in Orlando they were certain of signing the player. There may have been a perception that the Angels were favored to sign him, the source said, but they were as uncertain as the Red Sox were during the process.

The deadline probably worked to the Red Sox's advantage. If talks had continued, other teams could have gotten involved, including the New York Yankees, especially if New York loses out on the bidding for pitcher Cliff Lee. Unthinkable? Hardly. The Texas Rangers are the favorites in some circles to sign Lee.