Angels unlikely to extend Aybar before season
GM Dipoto will continue talks with shortstop's representatives
ANAHEIM -- Angels general manager Jerry Dipoto will continue extension talks with the representatives for Erick Aybar, but he doesn't foresee anything getting done before the season gets under way."Very much a possibility," Dipoto said of an extension for his shortstop, "but there's nothing imminent and not likely to be anything that occurs before the start of the season. ... It's possible something could occur, but I wouldn't say it's likely." The Angels were previously able to work out a four-year, $33.5 million extension with homegrown second baseman Howie Kendrick, who was one season away from free agency. But with Aybar, who's also slated for free agency next offseason, the Angels instead avoided arbitration via a $5.075 million contract for 2012. Aybar won his first Gold Glove and set several career highs last year, in homers (10), RBIs (59), stolen bases (30), runs (71) and doubles (33). "We're not particularly waiting until the regular season; I just don't think it's likely," Dipoto said in a phone conversation on Saturday. "We've had multiple talks with Erick and his people. They're aware of our designs. We want to keep Erick here for the long term. As I mentioned when we went through his one-year deal, I can't say we wanted to be particularly involved in going through an arbitration case. I like to believe it's a formality that we signed Erick to a one-year deal and we can work toward an extension. We're working through that, but I won't really discuss the details, because I don't think that's advantageous to anybody." What type of deal Aybar seeks, and what the Angels are willing to offer, is still unclear. But one thing that is pretty clear is that the Angels -- after committing over $300 million to first baseman Albert Pujols and left-hander C.J. Wilson -- don't have much money left to spend. That was evident in monitoring the reliever market, as several free agents the club showed interest in took reasonable one-year deals elsewhere -- like Brad Lidge ($1 million with the Nationals), Luis Ayala ($925,000 with the Orioles) and Francisco Cordero ($4.5 million with the Blue Jays). As it stands, the only addition the Angels made to a bullpen that was tied for the American League lead in blown saves last season was LaTroy Hawkins on a $3 million contract. Why? "It's a mix of everything, but anything you're doing, with building a Major League roster, it's like everything else you're building -- you're trying to make the best of your opportunities within the parameters of what you'd like to spend to attain those opportunities," Dipoto said. "We didn't feel like the opportunity existed to find the right piece for us, where we were, and I'm very comfortable with LaTroy Hawkins. He was a good get. We're excited about having him be a part of it." With eight days remaining until the start of Spring Training, Dipoto said it's "fairly safe" to assume the 60 players the Angels have invited to camp are the 60 players that will be there. But considering the perceived excess the Angels have at first base/designated hitter, there could certainly be moves made during Spring Training. And during that time, a useful bullpen arm may become available. "There's going to be some interesting competition for our staff, as well as other [teams']," Dipoto said. "It's the one area in Major League camp that plays out very, very similarly for 30 clubs as they go in to sort through their bullpen and their fifth starter. And that's the most activity you're going to see on the waiver wire, late-spring trades, things like that, and we'll continue to keep an eye out to be opportunistic. But we were never looking to blow up and revamp the bullpen. It was just to find the right opportunity, and that's the way I framed it throughout." The Angels' front office will arrive in Tempe, Ariz., on Friday, with the Major League staff arriving the following day and pitchers and catchers reporting on Sunday. "We're particularly excited to get it going, and just to see the players running around the field," Dipoto said. "Spring's an exciting time, no matter how often you've seen it."
Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his columns and his blog, Gonzo and "The Show", and follow him on Twitter @Alden_Gonzalez. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.