Angels General Manager Jerry Dipoto is all smiles during a news conference… (Stephen Dunn / Getty Images )
Jerry Dipoto has been on the job less than three months and he's already accomplished so much as Angels general manager.
First, his pedigree as a former major league closer, scout, player development official and interim GM impressed owner Arte Moreno as he sought a replacement for the ousted Tony Reagins after a distant second-place showing behind the American League champion Texas Rangers, the second straight year the Angels failed to make the playoffs.
Then Dipoto, 43, moved quickly to upgrade the roster, landing Hall of Fame-bound free-agent slugger Albert Pujols, 31, and Texas ace C.J. Wilson on Dec. 8, a day after reaching agreement with veteran reliever LaTroy Hawkins.
Dipoto, en route last week to organizational meetings near his Arizona home, has also striven to bring long-term security to the clubhouse by extending the contract of All-Star second baseman Howie Kendrick, reportedly working to do the same with infielder Erick Aybar and avoiding arbitration with recovering-from-surgery first baseman/designated hitter Kendrys Morales.
What got you the job?
"I'd like to think a well-balanced background in the game. My experiences as a player in the field, in scouting, the front office. [Moreno] never said it directly, but he alluded to it impressing him. My set of experiences was important. Honestly, any way you cut it, you get a job based on your experiences."
What were Moreno's marching orders?
"Get better. I don't know that I can state how he said it directly, but it was clear he was demanding it. The first time Arte sat down with me, he said, 'What's your plan?' In this game, I know you've got a variety of different angles . . . every highway has multiple exits and a variety of options to get you where you want to be. That's how I look at it. We want to be in the left lane of the superhighway."
So what were some of the key conversations about that allowed you to land Pujols?
"I knew what we were hoping to do and that it'd come down to how we could manage the high side. Arte's very open and giving. I was talking to Arte leading up to the winter meetings, not specifically about one thing, but the state of the team, its health, the game, roster building. Then I and our baseball people had a variety of discussions with [Pujols' agent] Dan Lozano, and we set up conference calls with Arte and Albert. That was one of the key elements of why this got done. These were two respectful people; Albert respected Arte's character and position, and it was entirely reciprocal from Arte. These are two very philanthropic people. They enjoyed speaking to each other."
Tell me how you were able to juggle the negotiations not only with Pujols, but with Wilson and Hawkins.
"They were all going simultaneously and we were drawing them to conclusion in a six- to eight-hour period. It's a credit to Arte and our baseball people, Scott Servais, John Carpino . . . and a credit to the agents. The amount of work they went through. Looking back, it was entertaining. On the final night, the hotel setup in Dallas [for the winter meetings] was two towers and we had Dan Lozano and [Wilson's agent] Bob Garber in different towers. And I had to leave the hotel entirely to meet with [Hawkins' agent] Larry Reynolds. Believe me, there was zero chance to get Lozano moved through the lobby to our tower. So we did all our moving through the service elevators and the channels underneath the hotel. The people at the hotel were great about it."
So you dressed up in a room service uniform to get Pujols?
"Ha. No, but I was willing to do whatever it took."
You're obviously closely watching the recovery of Kendrys Morales. What do you consider the team's most pressing need right now?
"Protection on the roster from anything that could happen. Maybe bullpen depth, too. No one's ever comfortable with their pitching depth."
I'm sure you're aware of speculation, even in columns we've written, that the most powerful baseball voice in this organization has not been the GM's, but Manager Mike Scioscia's. Is that true?
"I've gotten along extremely well with Mike. I can tell you I don't crave being the guy who walks into a room with the most powerful voice. I want to coordinate the best decision. We'll do that. With player personnel, our job, working with scouting and player development, is to make the strongest 25- to 40-man team possible. Mike takes those 25 players and manages the team. He's been open and clear that that's the way he wants it. That's what he's done, and the fans have heard him answer those questions publicly. I make decisions and will call Mike. Every decision's a cooperative effort."