11/11/11 8:19 PM EST
Dipoto maps out Halos' free-agent priorities
Big names loom, but starting arm tops list as GM Meetings near
By Ken Gurnick / MLB.com
Dipoto -- who confirmed that Angels manager Mike Scioscia's entire coaching staff will return in 2012 -- said he's looking to add starting pitching, late-inning relief and catching depth. Without ruling out a run at top free-agent sluggers like Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder, he said a top-heavy acquisition is not Plan A. He added that he doesn't want to lose Draft picks as required by signing "Type A" free agents.
"I don't particularly think it's the right way to go," he said. "That said, you have to remain open-minded. There are 30 teams interested in a first baseman that can hit, drive in runs and drive in runs when it matters. It can stay on the back burner, but I can tell you it's not something we're going to press. In our present setup, neither one fits. I'd like to say we'll pursue Pujols, we'll pursue Fielder. It's not logical. It's also not logical to rule it out. It would be a pleasant surprise."
That present setup includes a payroll without a lot of flexibility, although Dipoto countered that moving a big contract could provide the flexibility to add one.
"Flexibility with the payroll sometimes is as easy as taking one piece and reallocating it, so that gives you infinite possibilities," he said.
He said he had a lot of "assets" on the roster he could deal, but was reluctant to part with the younger ones.
If that puts 37-year-old Bobby Abreu and his $10 million salary on the block, however, Dipoto wasn't showing his cards.
"At this stage in his career," Dipoto said, "you start to see some regression in production, but you don't have to turn back the dial too far from his best production and last year, regardless of the perception, he had tremendous on-base percentage and he's still a good baserunner. Those are unique skills for a player in his late 30s."
Dipoto will be joined at the Meetings in Milwaukee by new assistant GM Scott Servais. He said he hopes to announce a few more front-office hirings in the next few days and said former Angels shortstop Gary DiSarcina, who rejoined the organization a year ago as assistant to the GM, will have a "pivotal" role in player development.
Dipoto said he was looking for the best starting pitcher he could find, regardless of which arm he uses, and didn't shy away from acknowledging that C.J. Wilson was intriguing.
Dipoto said he believes the current crop of free agents has a lot of candidates that would fit his new club's needs, even with the removal of Jonathan Papelbon (four years, $50 million) from the market earlier in the day. He said hadn't made a run at the right-hander, who left Boston for Philadelphia.
Jordan Walden, who had 32 saves but blew 10 others in a surprising rookie season, is "part of the solution rather than part of the problem," but Dipoto clearly wants a veteran to at least share the late-inning load.
At third base, he said there needs to be a counterbalance to Alberto Callaspo and Howard Kendrick, presumably meaning power. But he knocked down suggestions that Mark Trumbo would move across the diamond from first base and sounded only lukewarm in interest for Aramis Ramirez.
The uncertainty over Kendrys Morales' ankle is enough to keep Trumbo at first. Morales, said Dipoto, has begun soft running and hitting off a tee, but more strenuous baseball activities will wait for January, and he can't be counted on for Opening Day.
"His upside is greater than anything on the free-agent market," Dipoto said of Morales, "but you can't hold the 25-man roster hostage. You don't walk away, either, from someone who's been an Angel his entire career."
On the international front, Dipoto said he wants to become more aggressive scouting around the world. He seemed to show more interest in Japanese pitcher Yu Darvish, who could be posted by his club this winter and come to the Major Leagues, than in Cuban outfielder Yoenis Cespedes, who definitely will sign with a Major League team.
As for the returning coaching staff, that would be hitting coach Mickey Hatcher, pitching coach Mike Butcher, third-base coach Dino Ebel, first-base coach Alfredo Griffin, bench coach Rob Picciolo and bullpen coach Steve Soliz.
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.