12/08/11 7:08 PM EST
Dipoto's Angels tenure off to resounding start
New GM orchestrates mega deals, pays tribute to Moreno
By Alden Gonzalez / MLB.com
Barely a month into his new job with the Angels, the first-year general manager reeled off the greatest pair of signings in franchise history, agreeing to terms on contracts with first baseman Albert Pujols (10 years at a reported $254 million) and starting pitcher C.J. Wilson (five years, $77.5 million).
With that, Dipoto and the Angels turned serious heads just before the Winter Meetings wrapped up from the Hilton Anatole on Thursday morning.
Way before that, though, he had already made an impression on his new baseball-operations department.
Angels sign Pujols, Wilson
Dipoto talked earlier in the week about having "peripheral vision" and "parallel negotiations," a sign that he was simultaneously considering an assortment of different options to make the Angels better -- even ones nobody would've ever anticipated.
He and his staff pulled a near all-nighter on Wednesday, staying up until about 6 a.m. CT and getting hardly two hours of sleep. Shortly after they awoke, the work paid off in the way of agreements from Wilson and Pujols -- both of which came within minutes of each other.
"We're in a unique position, as it pertains to our market, our location and the attractive nature of our club," Dipoto said. "I think many players around baseball desire to come to play for the Angels, and this was a really good fit for our franchise, and I believe it's an excellent fit for the players we're talking about here."
Going in, the Angels were believed to have between $15 million and $20 million to spend on additions this offseason. Some money can still be freed up if they dump salary -- getting rid of Bobby Abreu's $9 million contract can help facilitate that -- but the Angels will still have gone well over their projected 2012 payroll of roughly $140 million with these signings.
Ultimately, that's a decision that rested with owner Arte Moreno.
Dipoto said there was no one moment when Moreno declared he could stretch the budget beyond earlier projections to sign Pujols and Wilson; it was basically one of a multitude of options that were talked about from the very early stages.
"Arte Moreno is as competitive an owner and as genuine a person as there is in the game," Dipoto said. "And this is, in large part, a tribute to him."
With regards to Wilson, the Angels' interest was obvious from the get-go.
But on Wednesday, Wilson was less than an hour away from choosing the Marlins, his agent, Bob Garber, said.
The Rangers -- who will put Neftali Feliz in the rotation in 2012 -- made no formal offer, were never willing to go past a four-year contract and thus had little chance of re-signing Wilson.
Wilson landed at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport at about 7:30 a.m. CT. By 9 a.m., the Marlins were offering six years and the Angels had also only committed four years. Wilson started growing a bit impatient.
"He told me, 'We're signing with the Marlins in 45 minutes, unless [the Angels] go to five [years],'" Garber recalled.
But the Angels stayed in it, keeping Wilson's attention, and by 2 a.m., Garber had negotiated the deal his client ultimately signed -- $77.5 million, with a full no-trade clause the first two years and a partial no-trade clause (for eight teams) in the last three.
Wilson was relatively understanding, but noticeably disappointed with the Rangers' offer. He also admitted that pitching in his hometown swayed his decision: "I turned down way more money to go to the Angels. If it was just about money, I'd be a Marlin right now."
As for Pujols, the Angels popped up as a third "mystery team" on Tuesday night, with the Marlins and Cardinals fighting it out, but that report was dismissed the following morning. Then on Wednesday night -- with the Marlins giving up on Pujols despite a sizable offer, and the Cardinals looking like the only team in the race -- they resurfaced.
St. Louis' offer was for nine years and a little less than $200 million, according to ESPN.com. USA Today said the Marlins' offer was actually worth $275 million, with incentives and the lack of state income tax pushing the value to nearly $300 million.
But in the end, the no-trade clause and the allure of playing in the American League -- where Pujols has the option of being a designated hitter in the final stages of his career -- might have given the Angels the edge.
Dipoto isn't sure exactly what it was.
He's just happy with the end result.
"I received a message this morning that [Pujols] had made his decision; that he had informed the Cardinals of his decision," Dipoto said. "It was a fairly exciting moment for everybody in the Angel family."
Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his columns and his blog, listen to his podcast and follow him on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.