Everyone wants to know what the Angels plan to do now that Masahiro Tanaka has chosen to spurn the offer they never actually made to him in favor of the Yankees' real, tangible, borderline insane offer. How he could turn down literally nothing and take $155 million is a mystery we can solve another time as the current matter at hand demands our full and undivided attention. That, of course, would be determining what the Angels are going to do to finish filling out their roster?
Alas, that is a question that can only be answered by answering a different but very much related question: do you believe what the Angels are saying?
All winter long Jerry Dipoto, and occasionally Arte Moreno, have been feeding us a basic set of rules for their offseason plan: they wont pay the luxury tax, they won't surrender their first round pick and they want one more starting pitcher. They've hammered on these points over and over again, but that doesn't mean they are actually telling the truth so much as it means they have a very clear and unified communication strategy. Not to cast aspersions on any of their characters, but the powers that be in Angel franchise don't have a sterling reputation for being fully truthful and forthcoming in the media in recent years.
We all know how they played coy on their interest in Albert Pujols. We saw how they denied interest in Josh Hamilton right up until they signed him. Dipoto has derided expensive long-term contracts being given to middle relievers only to give an expensive long-term contract to a middle reliever just over a month ago. And there is always the infamous tale of Arte Moreno and his promises of a "big splash."
Of course, their past lies, omissions and obfuscations don't necessarily mean that they are always lying. As such, we must consider the various plans they could pursue depending on which of their statements they will actually stand behind and which they won't.
Being honest and truthful is an honorable virtue, but in this case, it would mean that the Halos don't have much of a move left up their sleeves. Their vow not to breach the luxury tax threshold functionally rules out their pursuit of Matt Garza. Assuming Raul Ibanez's incentives vest (which they likely will), the Angels have, at best, $12 million in tax room. $12 million per year is probably the absolute bottom of where most see Matt Garza signing. He's far more likely to get a much bigger deal than that, especially given Arizona's professed interest and indirectly exposed desperation.
That's too bad, because Garza is clearly the class of the remaining rotation options. Anyone that would sign for a value that would fit under the tax line is far less attractive. Paul Maholm, Scott Baker, Jason Hammel, Bronson Arroyo and Chris Capuano are the primary options here. Their price ranges should range from $5 million to $10 million in average annual value. Those figures work, but whether or not the pitcher they sign will be any good is much more of a question.
What really hurt is that those deals are just barely expensive enough to also rule out a proposal many have put forward, which is to sign Grant Balfour as bullpen reinforcement and use the rest of their money on the final rotation member. With Balfour likely to earn around $7 million per year, that limits the Halos' rotation options further. They'd be more in the market for the likes of Aaron Harang, James McDonald, Erik Bedard and Joe Saunders. At that point, one questions whether it is even worth spending the money when they can keep it instead and just hand the rotation spots to Hector Santiago and Tyler Skaggs.
There is even a question of truth that now crops up revolving that Balfour option as Dipoto just said yesterday that they aren't looking for relievers with closing experience. So even that option now appears to be off the table, if we are to believe Dipoto.
Their only hope of adding a quality pitcher and avoiding the luxury tax is by reneging on a different promise, the one about not forfeiting their draft pick. If they relent on that stance, they could pursue Ervin Santana or, more likely, Ubaldo Jimenez. They are of comparable talent and risk to Garza, but they each face limited, if not totally non-existent, markets thanks to their attached compensation. In theory, that should suppress their price, hopefully by just enough to come in where the Angels can afford them.
Given how vehemently Dipoto has been on the topic of draft pick forfeiture and his commitment to rebuilding the farm system, this very much seems like the one line from the Angels that we actually can believe them on. Desperate times can cause things to change, but their commitment to keeping the pick looks to be very firm.
All of this assumes that the Angels actually do intend to sign another rotation member. They had said it for some time after the Skaggs and Santiago acquisition, but then promptly proceeded to twiddle their thumbs. Even though they quickly bailed on Tanaka, they didn't go after anyone else, at least publicly. If they had really given up on Tanaka weeks ago, what was stopping them from going after the lower-tier pitchers? Many believed Tanaka was holding up the market for Garza, Santana and Jimenez, but as we covered already, those players should already be off the Halo radar according to their mandates. So does that mean they are lying about the tax and draft pick promises or just waiting out the market until the last possible moment or maybe is it they are lying about their intent to add another starting pitcher?
Well, technically it wouldn't be a lie because the Angels have since added another starting pitcher. That would be Mark Mulder, who hasn't pitched since dinosaurs roamed the earth, but is still a starting pitcher according to the loosest definition of the term. While some actually have high hopes for Mulder, considering him to be rotation insurance is awfully risky.
When you sum it all up, if you believe the Angels to be pure of heart, then their options are both limited and uninspiring. It is basically them waiting out the market until they decide to pick someone off of the fifth starter pu pu platter. So what happens next really just boils down to which elements of their story you choose to believe.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Practically at the same time that this post was published, Grant Balfour signed with the Rays and Garza signed with the Brewers.