Dipoto satisfied with current makeup of Angels
Deals for Blanton, Burnett fortify pitching staff; one spot on 40-man roster open
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- More than two months remain in the offseason, but Angels general manager Jerry Dipoto sounds like a man who's mostly done shopping.
On Wednesday, the Angels agreed to two-year contracts with starting pitcher Joe Blanton and reliever Sean Burnett, upping the club's payroll to roughly $140 million, putting the 40-man roster at 39 players and essentially leaving one spot open on the 12-man pitching staff.
The Blanton and Burnett deals, confirmed through various sources, aren't official until a physical examination is complete, so Dipoto did not talk about them specifically.
But speaking from the lobby of the Gaylord Opryland Hotel & Convention Center on Thursday morning, minutes after the Rule 5 Draft and just before boarding a flight back to Southern California, the second-year GM said his pitching staff is now "in pretty good shape" and gave the impression that no other top-tier starters would be added.
"Sometimes," Dipoto said, "the smartest moves you can do is just make practical decisions."
Anaheim's already-faint hopes to sign Zack Greinke, who pitched for the team down the stretch and is by far the best available arm, have all but vanished now. The Angels, Dipoto said, "are prepared to" move on from the ace right-hander, who's expected to command a $150 million contract that has long been considered out of the Angels' reach.
The likes of Anibal Sanchez, Kyle Lohse, Ryan Dempster, Edwin Jackson and Brandon McCarthy, representing the next tier down, will likely end up somewhere else, too.
"We've made a handful of decisions that we think are best for the club," Dipoto said. "I can tell you there's not another move coming today; I can't tell you that there won't be an addition to the club at some point. You're always looking to get better. But I think what we did in the last few days is we put ourselves in a position where we're fortified and we're stable. We're not going to have to make further additions to be a competitive club."
The Angels' payroll finished up at $159 million last year, but it was never supposed to be that high in 2013. A more likely scenario -- though the club hasn't publicly commented on the subject -- was the number would between $140-145 million, slightly ahead of the 2011 figure.
Once Blanton ($15 million) and Burnett ($8 million) pass their physicals, the Angels will be awfully close to that range.
All offseason, Dipoto has talked not of making the big splash at the top of his rotation, but of building "one-through-12 pitching depth." He also said there were many ways to do it, that he would remain flexible in his approach and that he wouldn't be hamstrung by Greinke's lingering free agency.
Faced with a pitching market that has seen price tags get rather inordinate, and coming off an August when he couldn't add to a needy bullpen because the rotation cost so much, Dipoto, in some ways, went for quantity over quality.
Blanton has averaged 178 innings the last eight years, but he has a 4.79 ERA in the last three and was fairly low on the totem pole of available starters. By agreeing with him and trading for ex-Braves starter Tommy Hanson, who's expected to make about $4 million in his first year of arbitration, Dipoto's approach is now pretty clear: go cheaper on the rotation and heavy on the bullpen.
Now, Jered Weaver, C.J. Wilson, Hanson, Blanton and Garrett Richards make up the staff, with Jerome Williams likely returning to a long-relief role. In the bullpen, Ernesto Frieri, Kevin Jepsen, Sean Burnett and Scott Downs make up the back end, with the recently signed Ryan Madson likely serving as closer.
Asked if he would be satisfied if this were the same pitching staff that arrives in Tempe, Ariz., this spring, Dipoto said, "Oh yeah."
"Right now, on paper, we have 11 guys that slot into Major League roles, and if the chance exists to better our club in some way, that makes sense for the Angels, we'll take a look at it," he added. "But we have nothing imminent, we have nothing that I think is a certainty -- nothing we have to do."
Deals done: Coming off a week in which they signed Madson and traded for Hanson, the Angels agreed to terms on two-year contracts, with options, for Blanton and Burnett. Clearly, Dipoto opted to get more aggressive on relievers and pay less for starters, rather than wait out a high-end starting-pitching market that figures to get too expensive for his liking.
Rule 5 Draft activity: With their 40-man roster at 39 once Blanton and Burnett pass their physicals, the Angels opted against making a selection. Utility infielder Angel Sanchez, signed to a Minor League deal and expected to compete for a spot on the Angels' roster this spring, was plucked from the White Sox.
Goals accomplished: They may not have done it in the headline-grabbing manner fans may have preferred, but the Angels nonetheless fortified their pitching staff via their agreements with Blanton and Burnett. They now have what Dipoto considers to be 11 viable pitchers for the 12-man staff.
Unfinished business: With their payroll at roughly $140 million, once you factor in arbitration projections and minimum contracts, the Angels seem done, at least with regards to significant additions. Dipoto said, "I don't consider anything set, ever." But he also sounded as if he's very content with the roster he has now. If the Angels make another signing, it would probably be one more low-tier pitcher -- probably a reliever, but perhaps another starter for depth.
Team's bottom line: "We came in with a very clear plan to try and create one-through-12 depth, and we feel like we made some end roads to that. The last 10 days, we've acquired Ryan Madson, Tommy Hanson, Joe Blanton and Sean Burnett. And if we reach agreement with the last two, with one hurdle to overcome [the physicals], I think we're in pretty good shape." -- Dipoto
Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Gonzo and "The Show", and follow him on Twitter @Alden_Gonzalez. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.