Reporting from Milwaukee -- They stayed in the same hotel, attended many of the same meetings and mingled with reporters in the same lobby all week.
But by the end of the general managers and owners meetings on Thursday, General Managers Jerry Dipoto of the Angels and Ned Colletti of the Dodgers seemed to be in completely different places. Dipoto was at the starting line, Colletti nearing the finish.
Not because Dipoto is in his first month of a three-year contract and Colletti will soon face the job uncertainty that comes with an ownership change.
It’s because Dipoto has the entire off-season and numerous possibilities in front of him, while Colletti, handcuffed by budget constraints, has the bulk of his off-season work already behind him.
This is not necessarily bad for the Dodgers. Colletti has secured his franchise player, center fielder Matt Kemp, to an eight-year, $160-million deal that officially will be announced Friday.
He bolstered his defense by signing veteran second baseman Mark Ellis to a two-year, $8.75-million contract and veteran catcher Matt Treanor to a one-year, $850,000 deal this week.
He signed backup outfielder Juan Rivera, a viable right-handed-hitting option against the left-handers who have been tough on Dodgers lefties, to a one-year, $4.5-million deal.
But with his payroll dropping from $110 million to something closer to $90 million, Colletti will not be able to address his team’s biggest need, a slugger such as Albert Pujols or Prince Fielder.
“We set out two months ago hoping to sign somebody who could hit in the middle of the order with Kemp and Andre [Ethier],” Colletti said. “We’re not in a position to do that right now.”
Colletti is in position to acquire a starting pitcher, but not a top-dollar one. Hiroki Kuroda, who went 41-46 with a 3.45 earned-run average for the Dodgers the last four seasons, is the primary target, and the team has narrowed the rest of the field to a small group that includes Aaron Harang, Chris Capuano and Jeff Francis.
“They’re going to be patient waiting for as high an offer as they can get,” Colletti said of the pitchers. “So we either have to be patient with them or move on.”
How would Colletti feel if he started the 2012 season with his current group?
“Luckily, we don’t have to start the season today,” he said. “We still have some more work to do.”
That will require creativity in a trade market that is stingy when it comes to power hitters. Colletti has never shied away from trades, but most of all, he needs players on the payroll to bounce back from subpar years.
“We need three guys, Andre, James [Loney] and [Juan] Uribe, to have their typical years,” Colletti said. “None of those three would say the numbers they attained last season [were] the numbers they thought they would attain.”
Dipoto needs similar rebounds from veteran outfielders Vernon Wells and Bobby Abreu, who both struggled in 2010. But unlike Colletti, he has a little wiggle room in the budget — about $20 million — to upgrade his team.
The new general manager’s first target was pitching. Dipoto had a three-hour dinner Monday night with the agent for C.J. Wilson, the top pitcher on the free-agent market. Wilson, a former Fountain Valley High star, will begin his tour of potential destinations with a visit to Anaheim on Monday.
The Angels have three superb starters in Jered Weaver, Dan Haren and Ervin Santana, but if they land Wilson, they would not only subtract the staff ace from their division rivals, the Texas Rangers, they would rival Philadelphia for the best rotation in baseball.
Or, they could add Wilson and use Santana, who threw a no-hitter last season, in a trade to acquire an impact bat, late-inning relief help or both.
“I don’t know if you can ever have too much pitching,” Dipoto said. “It’s a 162-game season. If you want to play 163 games and beyond, you’ve got to have a lot of pitching, because it runs out quick.”
Dipoto is also expected to pursue second-tier starters such as Kuroda, Harang, Francis, Bruce Chen and Roy Oswalt. Wilson appears to be the Angels’ top target, but they could also make a run at left-hander Mark Buehrle.
The Angels appear hesitant to pursue an expensive closer such as Ryan Madson or Heath Bell, but Dipoto had discussions this week with agents for five to 10 right-handed relievers, a list that is thought to include Francisco Cordero, Octavio Dotel, Todd Coffey and Matt Capps.
Dipoto described the discussions with Wilson’s agent, Bob Garber, as “preliminary,” but he thinks the 31-year-old left-hander is as interested in pitching for the Angels as the Angels are in signing him.
“I don’t think [the agent] was in it for a steak dinner,” Dipoto said. “I enjoyed the conversation, and I think the interest was reciprocal. C.J. put himself in this position by pitching extremely well. He has a lot in front of him.”
As does Dipoto.