Zack Greinke might not be wearing an Angels uniform next season. (Jeff Gross / Getty Images )
NASHVILLE — Jerry Dipoto will never say never, because you never know when an opportunity might arise or when Angels Owner Arte Moreno might hand him the equivalent of a blank check to pursue a player, as he did with Albert Pujols last winter.
But based on the general manager’s actions over the past 10 days and his comments as he left the winter meetings Thursday, it is very clear that Zack Greinke, the star pitcher who was thought to be the team’s top target this winter, will not be returning to Anaheim.
“We’re prepared to move on from Zack,” Dipoto said. “Sometimes the smartest thing you can do is make practical decisions.”
The Angels signed closer Ryan Madson to a one-year, $3.5-million deal and acquired starter Tommy Hanson, who will make about $4 million next season, from Atlanta for reliever Jordan Walden last week.
On Wednesday, they agreed to terms with starter Joe Blanton on a two-year, $15-million deal and reliever Sean Burnett on a two-year, $8-million deal, according to multiple people who are familiar with negotiations but not authorized to speak publicly about them.
Because the deals, which both include third-year options, are pending physicals, Dipoto could not talk specifically about the pitchers. But it was the Blanton deal that essentially killed any hope Angels fans had of Greinke or top starters such as Anibal Sanchez, Kyle Lohse or Edwin Jackson pitching in Anaheim next season.
If the Angels, who have a projected payroll of about $142 million next season, were serious about pursuing Greinke or any of the second-tier free-agent pitchers, they would have used the resources they allocated to Blanton for them.
“Nobody operates without a ceiling,” Dipoto said, when asked if budget constraints pushed him away from Greinke and other top starters and toward Blanton. “We’re trying to make practical decisions.”
The Angels had a team record $159-million payroll this past season, but they have shown no willingness to surpass, equal or even approach that figure in 2013. Otherwise, they might have taken a run at Greinke, who could command a deal in the six-year, $150-million range.
Instead, the Angels added Hanson, who has battled injuries for the past year and a half, and Blanton, a durable innings-eater and a No. 5 starter in recent years, to a rotation headed by Jered Weaver and C.J. Wilson. Garrett Richards and Jerome Williams will compete for the fifth spot.
The bullpen appears drastically improved, with Madson, Ernesto Frieri, Kevin Jepsen, Scott Downs and Burnett giving Manager Mike Scioscia five legitimate late-inning options.
“In the last 10 days, we’ve added four accomplished major league pitchers,” Dipoto said. “Some have upside, some have durability, some have general track records. I feel the moves have been practical. We’ve plugged holes in a quality way.