LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — For a general manager heading into what could be his walk-the-plank year, Jerry Dipoto appears calm and assured. His contract guarantees him nothing beyond next season, and the playoffs have gone on without the
"You can't operate out of fear," Dipoto said.
Unfortunately for the Angels, they have two fail-safe mechanisms in place to guard against Dipoto making moves in the short-term interest of his job rather than the long-term interest of the club. Dipoto cannot sign a major free agent to a crazy deal or gut the farm system in a trade, because the Angels have very little money left to spend and no impact prospects to trade.
As the winter meetings open Monday, no one in the Angels' front office expects a third consecutive Christmas surprise from ownership. Santa brought
After all, the limit goes no higher next year, when
In 2014, the final season in which the Angels can pay Trout whatever they like, he figures to get between $500,000 and $600,000. He then becomes eligible for salary arbitration.
The highest salary awarded to a player through the arbitration process is $10 million. Trout could get $15 million in his first year of arbitration, $20 million his second year and $25 million his third and final year, according to a person familiar with the process.
The Angels have engaged in preliminary talks about a long-term extension with Trout, but they have no incentive to sign one any time soon, since that would trigger a luxury-tax payment this year. That buys the Angels a year to get the salaries of
The team-building part is trickier.
The Angels need starting pitching, desperately. They have addressed other needs first this winter — adding third baseman
How tight? The Angels declined to offer
Williams is a valuable swingman, and he would have offered insurance and depth for a team currently without a fourth or fifth starter. He projected to make about $4 million in arbitration —
They could not afford the risk. They have about $15 million left to spend, and they need every penny.
They would like to sign one starting pitcher and trade for another, with the idea that acquiring a young and cheap pitcher would leave more money to sign a better free-agent pitcher. But, at a time
The Angels and Dodgers had agreed on the outline of a trade last summer, with second baseman
The Angels offered Kendrick to the
The best pitcher available in trade should be
They do not want to surrender the draft pick necessary to sign
That leaves the Angels looking at the likes of
"As an offensive team, we're in very good shape," Dipoto said. "In the bullpen, we're in good shape. In the starting rotation, there's still work to be done."
And, perhaps, one last winter to try to do it.