Angels making big push for Albert Pujols
Reporting from Dallas — The Angels reached an agreement with veteran reliever LaTroy Hawkins on a one-year, $3-million deal Wednesday night, but they were busy trolling the winter meetings waters for much bigger fish.
While emerging as one of two finalists for pitcher C.J. Wilson, the Angels also jumped head-first into the bidding for Albert Pujols, according to two people who are familiar with negotiations but not authorized to speak publicly about them.
One day after appearing to have no interest in Pujols, the Angels are believed to have offered the three-time National League most valuable player a 10-year deal for at least $210 million.
It appeared Pujols would be heading back to St. Louis after the Miami Marlins pulled their 10-year, $220-million offer to the slugger earlier Wednesday. The Cardinals have offered Pujols nine years and more than $200 million.
The Chicago Cubs are believed to be the only other team in negotiations with Pujols’ agent, Dan Lozano, but it is unclear how serious their pursuit is.
Pujols, 31, has played his entire career in St. Louis, putting together a Hall of Fame resume that includes a .328 average, .420 on-base percentage, 445 home runs and 1,329 runs batted in.
His bat would provide a significant boost to an Angels lineup that ranked 10th in the American League with 667 runs last season.
The Angels could offset some of Pujols’ 2012 salary by not tendering a contract to Kendrys Morales, whose status is uncertain after missing the last 1 1/2 seasons because of a broken left ankle. Morales is due to make $3 million next season.
With the contracts of outfielders Torii Hunter ($18.5 million) and Bobby Abreu ($9 million) expiring after 2012, the Angels would have more room to absorb a Pujols deal, and they could move first baseman Mark Trumbo to right field.
They can also mitigate the risk of a long-term deal by using Pujols as a designated hitter in the latter half of the contract.
Asked earlier Wednesday about Pujols, Angels General Manager Jerry Dipoto said, “We’re trying to improve our club in a variety of different ways ... but that’s not necessarily where our focus is.”
But Dipoto also said he would “cast a wide net” in his efforts to upgrade the team.
“We’ll continue to have parallel talks, and that’s not solely limited to a starting pitcher,” Dipoto said. “You have to have the ability to break off and move in a different direction.”
The Angels have about $20 million to spend under Arte Moreno’s stated 2012 payroll of $140 million, but the owner has always said he would surpass the budget “for the right player.”
After losing out last winter on Carl Crawford, who signed a seven-year, $142-million deal with Boston, Moreno said, “It’s crazy. I paid $183 million for the team in 2003, and now we’re talking $142 million for one player? Seven years is huge risk financially.”
But Moreno is also tired of the Angels’ reputation as winter bridesmaids — the team also made lucrative offers to Mark Teixeira after 2009 and Adrian Beltre after 2010, and both signed elsewhere — and he seems determined to bid strong on Pujols.
It is unclear whether the Angels can afford Pujols and Wilson, but they are very much in play for the free-agent left-hander, who visited with the Marlins in the winter meetings hotel Wednesday night and is expected to make a decision Thursday.
Texas appeared to drop out of the running for Wilson, reportedly offering its former ace four years and $60 million. The Marlins reportedly offered Wilson a six-year deal, and the Angels are believed to have offered five years and more than $70 million.
Wilson’s agent, Bob Garber, went back to the Angels on Wednesday night to see if they would bump their offer to six years.
If the Angels stand firm, Wilson must choose between a longer deal in Miami and a shorter deal in Anaheim, which is home for Wilson, a former Fountain Valley High, Santa Ana College and Loyola Marymount pitcher.
“I have not made a decision,” Wilson told mlb.com earlier Wednesday. “It’s like I’m being torn in different directions.”
One thing was certain Wednesday: The Angels upgraded their bullpen with Hawkins, a 39-year-old right-hander who went 3-1 with a 2.42 earned-run average in 481/3 innings for Milwaukee in 2011.
Hawkins opened 2011 on the disabled list because of shoulder surgery ,but he regained the velocity of his fastball, which tops out at
He has pitched for nine teams in 17 major league seasons, compiling a 63-85 record and 4.48 ERA.
“We want an experienced guy who can be a sounding board, take some [pressure] off [rookie closer Jordan Walden] and help get the game to him,” Dipoto said. “I see a bullpen as a relay team. Each one is handing the baton to another, and the primary objective is for Walden to be the anchor man.”
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