The Los Angeles Angels have one major priority heading into the Hot Stove season, and that’s to re-sign right hander Zack Greinke. Unfortunately for GM Jerry DiPoto, a resolution isn’t expected to come quickly.
Greinke is hands-down the top available starting pitcher this off-season and as such, the enigmatic hurler doesn’t figure to sign quickly. The Angels will try to clear payroll space and are likely to decline contract options on fellow starters Dan Haren and Ervin Santana.
Within these first five days after the World Series, the Angels must make a decision on the club options for Haren ($15.5 million) and Santana ($13 million). Those price tags, coupled with the desire to save money for Greinke, will push them to decline at least one and perhaps both.
Additionally, free agent outfielder Torii Hunter is on the list of players the Angels would like to keep, but they’re likely trying to do so at a reduced salary. Hunter, 37, is coming off a strong 2012 campaign and while the Angels would like to keep him, the smarter move may be to let him walk. He’s unlikely to reproduce his .313/.365/.451 line as his age advances and the Angels already have a glut of outfielders with Mike Trout, Mark Trumbo, Vernon Wells, and Peter Bourjos already under contract for 2013.
DiPoto will struggle to create the same kind of media craze this year that he caused when he signed both Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson on the same day during the Winter Meetings in 2011, but landing Greinke would go a long way toward that goal.
By declining on guys like Haren and Santana, and I get the feeling they’ll decline on both, DiPoto will be taking a huge risk. If they sit back and watch while 40 percent of their rotation walks away, the need to keep Greinke will reach drastic levels. And the longer the Grenike situation takes to play out, the more likely it becomes that DiPoto’s Angels could wind up losing out on all three starters.
That’s an awfully big risk to take. If it works, however, and they keep Greinke, the Angels would enter 2013 in great shape to challenge the Rangers and A’s for the AL West once again. By the time Greinke signs, there could be very few options left on the market for the Angels to plug into their rotation, should they miss out on the former Cy Young award winner.
By waiting on Greinke, the Angels run the risk of being significantly worse in terms of starting pitching in 2013. DiPoto’s best bet may be to work toward retaining either Haren or Santana at a lower cost and hedge his bets on Greinke. If not, he could be setting his club up for another disappointing finish next year.
UPDATE: According to Jon Heyman, the Angels will spend the next few days exploring trade possibilities for Haren and Santana before making a decision on their respective options.