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Starting pitcher is at top of Angels' shopping list at winter meetings

GM Jerry Dipoto says the club is hoping to re-sign free-agent Zack Greinke, but the right-hander's price tag might be out of range. Team will explore more affordable options such as Ryan Dempster and Shaun Marcum.

December 02, 2012|By Mike DiGiovanna
  • Brewers veteran Shaun Marcum is one option the Angels might pursue to help deepen their starting rotation.
Brewers veteran Shaun Marcum is one option the Angels might pursue to help… (John Gress / Reuters )

NASHVILLE — — These should be relatively quiet winter meetings for the Angels compared with last year, when they stunned baseball with their one-day, $317.5-million splurge on free agents Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson.

"That was a splash for all time," General Manager Jerry Dipoto said. "I wouldn't think that to be a common event."

That doesn't mean the Angels aren't thinking big. They still hope to retain free-agent pitcher Zack Greinke, though there has been heavy speculation that Greinke's price tag, which could exceed six years and $150 million, already has soared out of their range.

Dipoto won't comment on negotiations with Greinke, whose suitors include the Dodgers, Texas Rangers and Washington Nationals, but the Angels aren't acting like a team confident of landing the crown jewel of this winter's free-agent class.

They acquired middle-of-the-rotation starter Tommy Hanson from Atlanta on Friday for reliever Jordan Walden, and they've been trolling in much cheaper waters for a starting pitcher, expressing interest in the likes of Ryan Dempster and Shaun Marcum as opposed to Anibal Sanchez and Kyle Lohse.

"There are still attractive pitchers out there, guys who can impact major league seasons, and right now there is heavy competition for a lot of them," Dipoto said.

"I know the guys we're interested in, the guys we've contacted and had rhetoric with. We've done our due diligence. We always have a variety of different game plans in place so should there be a shift, you're able to be flexible with the way player personnel moves."

The Angels had to shift gears over the weekend when Japanese closer Kyuji Fujikawa, a player the Angels pursued aggressively, reportedly agreed to a two-year, $9.5-million deal with the Chicago Cubs.

Now the Angels, who signed closer Ryan Madson last week, will have to look elsewhere for relief, with Mike Adams, Joakim Soria, Randy Choate and Koji Uehara among the free-agent possibilities.

They could also revive trade talks with the Cubs for closer Carlos Marmol, whom they nearly acquired for starter Dan Haren in November.

There are plenty of free-agent options for a starter, but the Angels seem more inclined to pay monster money for Greinke than to heavily overpay for second-tier starters who aren't close to Greinke in ability — think Sanchez, Lohse, Edwin Jackson — but who could still command huge deals.

There are attractive options — Tampa Bay's James Shields and Jeremy Hellickson and the New York Mets' R.A. Dickey — through trades, but after three top prospects were dealt for Greinke in July, the Angels' farm system is extremely thin.

And Dipoto doesn't want to break up a lineup that features three promising, and low-cost, young outfielders in Mike Trout, Mark Trumbo and Peter Bourjos, sluggers Albert Pujols and Kendrys Morales and a middle-of-the-infield tandem of Erick Aybar and Howie Kendrick.

"We're very comfortable with our position-playing team; it's a nice mix of accomplished veterans and impact young guys who, from May 15 through the end of the season, were one of the best offenses in baseball," Dipoto said. "I don't know that there's any glaring weakness."

The pitching staff, however, remains a work in progress, as Dipoto looks to improve a rotation headed by Jered Weaver, Wilson and Hanson while adding one or two quality relievers.

"We're trying to develop as much depth as we can, one through 12, on the pitching staff," Dipoto said. "We still have some spots to fill."

mike.digiovanna@latimes.com

twitter.com/MikeDiGiovanna

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