Well that was an exciting yet ultimately disappointing Winter Meetings, wasn't it? Sure the Angels made a few moves and more or less locked in their roster for the season, but they kind of forgot to bring in that one big piece that was going to make it all worthwhile, that would be a Mr. Zack Greinke.
Maybe I'm being presumptive, but with the money and roster spot they dropped on Joe Blanton all but signals that the Halos have fulfilled the prophecies of the rumor reporters and gracefully bowed out of the Greinke bidding. But does that mean that they are, in fact, done with their shopping?
Perhaps they are, perhaps they aren't. Despite the aforementioned roster and salary limitations, the Halos do still have a few paths to chose from before they pack it up and call it an off-season.
Option #1 – Stand pat
This… won't be a popular option. If the Halos really are done overhauling the pitching staff, it is going to leave a lot of us left wanting. The bullpen is definitely deeper, more talented and more reliable, but it is also potentially more obsolete since the rotation is less reliable, less physically fit and more risk-laden. The rotation is also significantly cheaper, which is a good thing and might actually be the one factor that prevents this option from being selected. As of right now, the Angels' Opening Day roster is estimated at $135 million, give or take a few million depending on how arbitration works out. That payroll figure is just barely high enough for the Angels to ride into the season with, but there is also plenty of wiggle room in there for them to add one more mid-tier starting pitcher and still come in at budget. One could even argue that available cash is too big for them to ignore given how uninspiring this rotation looks.
Option #2 – Go all in
The Angels ended up spending just shy of $160 million on salary last season. Given the $135 million estimate we just discussed, they could, theoretically still make a play for Zack Greinke and come in at the same number as last season. The caveat, of course, is that there has been little indication that Arte Moreno is ready to pony up that kind of dough again regardless of the new TV deal. Still, he's been talked into crazier expenditures before, isn't that right, Vernon Wells?
Option #3 – Wait for July
If they really do insist on sitting on that approximate $10 million in payroll space, there is always the possibility that they could use it later, like at the trade deadline. There aren't a lot of teams capable of taking on major money in July, so it would give them a distinct advantage in trade talks for a big ticket player. That's the theory anyway. The gigantic flaw in this plan is that no amount of cash is going to cover up the fact that the Halos have farm system stinks, so they don't have the kind of prospects they need to make a major trade. If only they hadn't flushed three of their best prospects down the toilet so they could rent Greinke for two months of a failed playoff push they'd have the ability to… well, trade three of their best prospects for some other rental player that would likely do nothing to improve their playoff chances come this July 31st.
Option #4 – One more small signing
Consider this the "splitting the baby" plan. The rotation clearly isn't good enough but Jerry Dipoto clearly doesn't want to drop major coin to improve it. So, instead of wildly overpaying Greinke or Sanchez or Lohse, he could make another Blanton-esque signing to give the rotation more stability. Sorry, but Garrett Richards just isn't blowing anyone's skirt up right now and given the perilous state of Tommy Hanson's shoulder, it doesn't seem wise to enter the season with the rotation as currently constituted. If Dipoto were to tack a few million per year and maybe a third-year on to Blanton's contract and offer it out to the Brandon McCarthy/Edwin Jackson/Joe Saunders/Shaun Marcum contingent, the Angels could surely land one of them and upgrade the talent in the rotation enough for everyone to sleep a little better at night. Let's face it, there is a big difference between having Blanton as a fifth starter rather than the number four. Plus, they'd still have Garrett Richards around as a quality reliever who could double as a decent rotation insurance policy.
Option #5 – One more big trade
AKA Option 4 on steroids. Screw this Brandon McCarthy crap. The Angels still need another undisputed high quality starter to give themselves the kind of rotation that can win a championship. Outside of Greinke, that kind of pitcher isn't available via free agency, but one could dig such a pitcher up on the trade market. Yeah, I know, I just said that the Halos don't have trade assets, but that was when we assumed Richards was a guaranteed member of the rotation. Blanton's addition now makes him expendable. While there are rumors that the team has soured on Garrett due to his inconsistency and attitude, the talent is still there and could be seen as very intriguing to the right team. If the Angels were to build a package around Richards and maybe Hank Conger and one more prospect, they would really have something that could at least get other GMs on the phone. That package isn't about to pry Cliff Lee loose, but maybe it would be good enough to acquire James Shields, R.A. Dickey or Matt Garza.
So there you have it. Five different choices for Jerry Dipoto to make. Which one will he actually choose? I suspect it will be option #4 as he will patiently wait out the market once Greinke signs and all the other teams make their panic moves to plug rotation holes. Then Dipoto will come in and scoop up the best guy left standing once the dust settles. However, I also fear that he is perfectly content going with option #1, leaving all of us with no choice but to cross all our digits as we hope Tommy Hanson's shoulder and back magically healed up to give the Halos that high quality third starting pitcher.