The Angels moved closer toward filling the vacant spot in their rotation Wednesday, agreeing in principle to a deal with free agent Joel Pineiro.
But with the 31-year-old right-hander needing to pass a physical before any contract can be signed, both sides were being coy with the news.
General Manager Tony Reagins did not return calls, leaving it to Angels Vice President Tim Mead to issue a statement saying the team continues "to look at options to improve our club."
Pineiro's agent, Adam Katz, was equally vague.
"I have no comment," he said.
However, the New York Mets, who were also in the bidding for Pineiro, weren't so guarded, saying that Pineiro's representatives had informed them he was declining their offer to accept one from the Angels, reportedly for $16 million over two years.
The Dodgers had also been in the running for Pineiro, although in recent days Katz was said to be focusing more on the Mets and Angels.
Pineiro is coming off a stellar season in which he won 15 games for the St. Louis Cardinals, posting a 3.49 earned-run average and leading the National League with two shutouts. But more important for the Angels is the fact that he also threw a career-high 214 innings, averaging just more than a walk every nine innings, the best percentage in baseball.
And Pineiro is familiar with the American League West, having spent most of his 10-year career in Seattle, winning a combined 30 games for the Mariners in 2002 and 2003.
Pineiro received $7.5 million in base pay last season and was reportedly looking for as many as four years and as much as $40 million this season, though he found no takers. So he settled for a contract worth just slightly more than the two-year, $15-million free-agent deal Jason Marquis signed with the Washington Nationals last month. Statistically, Marquis' 2009 season was nearly identical to Pineiro's.
The Angels are expected to start spring training with Pineiro slotted in the back of a rotation that includes left-handers Joe Saunders and Scott Kazmir and right-handers Jered Weaver and Ervin Santana. All have won at least 22 games over the last two seasons.
Pineiro still has big shoes to fill, however, since John Lackey, the man he's replacing, averaged 13 wins over the last seven seasons before leaving for Boston as a free agent. Yet, Lackey, who is a month younger than Pineiro, lost significant time to arm problems each of the last two seasons and hasn't pitched as many as 177 innings since 2007, when he won 19 games and led the league with a 3.01 ERA.
Reagins began the off-season hoping to keep this year's payroll in line with last season's, which totaled nearly $114 million. When Pineiro signs, the Angels will have a 2010 payroll of roughly $103 million with Saunders, infielders Erick Aybar and Maicer Izturis and catcher Jett Mathis still unsigned.
Those four players are requesting a total of $10.9 million in arbitration.