Reporting from Dallas -- Jerry Dipoto won’t enter his first winter meetings as Angels general manager with an Arte Moreno-signed blank check, so don’t expect him to fill his entire off-season wish list — reliable starting pitcher, short reliever, big bat — this week.
But with $15 million to $20 million to spend within Moreno’s budget parameters — the owner would like to cap the 2012 payroll at $140 million — Dipoto can certainly make a dent on that list.
The question is, where?
The Angels have aggressively pursued C.J. Wilson, a highly sought-after left-hander who, as the top free-agent starting pitcher, could command more than $16 million per year for at least five years.
They’ve also expressed serious interest in free-agent third baseman Aramis Ramirez, a veteran slugger who is looking for a three-year deal in the $14-million-per-year range.
They need a right-handed reliever, and their options range from the highest-priced Ryan Madson, who could command $11 million per year, to the more reasonably priced Francisco Cordero, Luis Ayala, Matt Capps, Octavio Dotel, Scott Linebrink and Frank Francisco.
So many needs … with limited funds.
“What comes next, I wish I could tell you for certain,” Dipoto said. “All along, we’ve talked about the idea of several moves. You’re constantly trying to fit the pieces of the puzzle together.
“You’re juggling different ideas because the market will only move as fast as it moves, and it’s a two-way street. Free agents are seeking the best fits, and so are we.”
Dipoto made his first moves last week, acquiring catcher Chris Iannetta from Colorado for pitcher Tyler Chatwood, then trading catcher Jeff Mathis for Brad Mills, a 26-year-old lefthander with 14 big league appearances over three seasons.
The rest of the off-season will probably hinge on his next move.
If the Angels nab Wilson, they can’t afford Ramirez unless they trade away a chunk of payroll, with right-hander Ervin Santana ($11.2 million) and infielders Maicer Izturis ($3.9 million) and Alberto Callaspo ($3.1 million projected) possible chips.
If they sign Ramirez, they could pursue a less expensive starter such as Mark Buehrle, Hiroki Kuroda and Roy Oswalt and a cheaper reliever.
Assuming Moreno’s payroll cap is firm, Dipoto can’t afford the most attractive free-agent options in his three areas of need, but the general manager already has stated his preference for trades over free-agent signings, so he could go that route.
The list of potential trade candidates includes starters Jair Jurrjens (Atlanta), Wandy Rodriguez (Houston), John Danks (Chicago White Sox) and Jeremy Guthrie (Baltimore), relievers Andrew Bailey (Oakland), Huston Street (Colorado), Jeremy Affeldt and Ramon Ramirez (San Francisco) and third baseman David Wright (New York Mets).
“Free agency is not foreign to me, but you’re constantly exploring opportunities for trades,” said Dipoto, who as Arizona’s interim general manager dealt pitcher Dan Haren to the Angels for Joe Saunders and three prospects in July 2010.
“The only other 21/2 -month period of time I did this job was right in the middle of trade deadline, so I’m very comfortable in it.”
The agents for Wilson, who had a 16-7 record and a 2.94 earned-run average for Texas last season, and Ramirez, who hit .306 with 26 home runs and 93 runs batted in for the Chicago Cubs, said their clients could choose teams this week.
“We think we’ve done a good job expressing interest in players we’re interested in, and there’s another layer of players we’re reaching out to,” Dipoto said. “But you don’t want to have so many tentacles spread out that you can’t control the information. It’s a methodical process.”