Left field looks like no big deal for the Angels

Left field looks like no big deal for the Angels

With the Angels still paying the contract of Josh Hamilton, right, owner Arte Moreno, left, is reluctant to go after a big-name bat.

(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

The Dodgers have been astounded at the level of negativity within their fan base in recent weeks. The winter is not over, they argue. Judge us when it is, they plead.

But Zack Greinke is not walking through that door. The Dodgers drew a financial line in the sand, and the pitcher who put up the best earned-run average of the last 20 years is gone.

Greinke also put up a .343 slugging percentage. The Angels’ left fielders put up a .317 slugging percentage, the worst of any major league team at that position.

That was the Angels’ glaring weakness, with four glittering options to fill it. On Wednesday, with Jason Heyward off the board but Yoenis Cespedes, Alex Gordon and Justin Upton still available, Angels owner Arte Moreno drew his financial line in the sand.


“We’re probably going to be out,” Moreno said.

Billy Eppler, the Angels’ general manager for all of two months, has worked diligently to plug his team’s holes at a reasonable price — Yunel Escobar for third base, Geovany Soto for catcher, Cliff Pennington for infield depth, Daniel Nava and Craig Gentry for outfield depth. That appeared to leave money for left field, the one position where talented free agents were plentiful.

If, that is, the Angels were willing to make a nine-figure investment in Cespedes, Gordon or Upton.

“It’s not those three guys or bust,” Eppler said.


However, if it’s not one of those three guys, it’s a lesser free agent — or a lesser team, with the Angels probably trading from the pitching depth they so desperately need to maintain. Eppler already traded the Angels’ top two prospects for shortstop Andrelton Simmons, and the rest of the farm system is more about projects and suspects.

Greinke is not walking through the Angels’ door. Neither is David Price, and neither are any of those outfielders.

“Any of those players, you would like to have,” Moreno said. “If you had an opportunity, you’d really like to have four or five of them. You could do anything you want. It really gets down to economics.”

It is no secret that Moreno is reluctant to pay a luxury tax. The Angels have crept within $4 million of the payroll figure that would trigger a tax payment, according to Moreno.

“Right now, we’re $20 million higher than we’ve ever been,” he said.

Yet it is not just the tax, Moreno said. It is the tax, and the contract — all those dollars, and all those years.

To Albert Pujols, 10 years and $240 million, through age 41. To Josh Hamilton, five years and $125 million, through 36.

To C.J. Wilson, five years and $77.5 million, through 35. To Jered Weaver, five years and $85 million, through 33.


And, of course, six years and $145 million to Mike Trout, through 29. His salary jumps from $5.25 million last season to $15.25 million next season and $33.25 million in 2018. That one probably will look like a bargain by the time it ends, in 2020.

The others? Fair to poor, tilting poor.

Moreno said the Angels made no offer to Heyward, who got eight years and $184 million from the Chicago Cubs. The current asking prices for Cespedes, Gordon and Upton include contracts from five to seven years, Moreno said.

“When you start looking at seven-year deals, they’re tough,” Moreno said. “You really stretch the franchise out. If there’s a mistake or injury and it doesn’t work out, it really hinders what you’re trying to accomplish.”

The winter is not over in Anaheim, but the winter appears cold and bitter. The Angels will pay $24 million to a left fielder next season — Hamilton, whom they will subsidize as he plays the position for the Texas Rangers.

The two guys the Angels would platoon there if the season started today? Nava and Gentry — two more guys outslugged by Greinke last season.

Twitter: @BillShaikin