The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim will have their work cut out for them in 2011. Fierce competition looms ahead, but not from the defending AL West Champion Texas Rangers or improved Oakland A’s.

This season, the Angels’ greatest challenge will be overtaking the Seattle Mariners—for third place in the division.

Hope for more optimistic aspirations dried up yesterday along with the ink from Adrian Beltre‘s signature when he finalized a six-year, $96 million deal with the Rangers. He joins Carl Crawford in a long, previously reported list of free agent failures for the Angels.

Once again, they offered a contract just big enough to feign an interest, but small enough to minimize the risk of bidding for his services.

Losing Beltre is actually a double-punch to the gut for the Angels. Not only are they left with a massive power outage at third base and no source of alternative energy to fix it, but their division rivals now shine that much brighter.

Like everything in Texas, Beltre’s offensive influence will be bigger. A lot bigger than, say, in Anaheim, where pitchers tend to have the advantage.

He wouldn’t have saved the Angels, but as the last viable third base option on the market, he could have made them competitive again.

Angels General Manager Tony Reagins already missed out on other infield options earlier this offseason while he was busy not signing Crawford, who wound up in Boston. Ty Wigginton, Edwin Encarnacion, Dan Uggla, Juan Uribe—all could have helped the Halos but none ever came close to getting the chance.

Currently, third base is a shared position between Alberto Callaspo and Maicer Izturis, presumably to shift back and forth based on whoever has the hot glove and the fewest injuries.

Brandon Wood still looms on the horizon, but after having the worst season in 90 years among players with at least 200 at-bats, his days as a starting infielder in Anaheim appear to be over.

The Angels outfield is thin as well, but like the Rangers, another divisional foe managed to swipe the remaining options off the table before Reagins had a chance to answer the phone.

Oakland has quietly had one of the best offseasons of any team in baseball. The A’s finished ahead of the Angels last season and with a revamped lineup, they’re now poised to replace them as the Rangers’ biggest threat.

Perhaps the most overlooked move of the offseason came when the A’s stole David DeJesus away from the Kansas City Royals. Last July, DeJesus was the hottest player not named Cliff Lee on the market before a wrist injury ended his season and his trade prospects.

Now on the mend, the A’s were able to add his productive bat and speedy legs in center field for relatively little: a fifth starter and a minor league pitcher.

The Angels, meanwhile, are banking on the hope that Peter Bourjos will improve his offense enough to lock down the starting center field job. His defense is, quite honestly, unmatched, but his .204 batting average won’t be tolerated for long.

Over in left, where the Angels expected Crawford to be, they’re now looking at a platoon of Bobby Abreu and Juan Rivera, two rapidly aging sluggers whose skills on offense are diminishing and on defense, were never there to begin with.

Once Crawford was off the board, Reagins should have turned his sights to the next best left field options, but it was Oakland GM Billy Beane who pulled the trigger first and landed Josh Willingham from the Washington Nationals.

While Willingham is not the type of player to lead his team offensively, he is still a solid bat in the middle of the order. He’ll also provide a fitting complement to another Oakland addition, former Angel Hideki Matsui.

Matsui belted 21 homers and drove in 84 RBI for the Halos, who have made no corresponding moves in the wake of his absence. For those keeping track, that is a 100 percent loss in offense for a team in desperate need of it.

There is still time though, about a month before pitchers and catchers report for warmups, another week or so after that until the rest of the players filter in. In around two months, Spring Training begins and one month later, the regular season finally gets underway.

That’s almost exactly three months for Reagins and the rest of the Angels’ brass to search high and low for a third baseman, an outfielder, a designated hitter. Perhaps a closer. Anything to bring them back to contention in their own division. Or at least something to bring the fans back to the stadium.

Owner Arte Moreno claims he didn’t want to spend big on free agents at the expense of raising ticket prices.

He made tickets affordable for fans, but at what cost to the team?

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