12/9/2013 8:05 P.M. ET
Pujols completely healthy, happy with winter progress
By Alden Gonzalez / MLB.com
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Albert Pujols' left foot is now "completely healed," Angels general manager Jerry Dipoto said Monday from the Winter Meetings.
The Angels' first baseman, who was recently on a mission trip to the Dominican Republic with his foundation, got "a thumbs-up" from the team's medical department in Southern California last week, indicating that the partial tear of his left plantar fascia has completely healed. Pujols has been hitting since the first day of the offseason and will begin defensive work and agility drills later in the winter, as usual.
Pujols entered Spring Training this year limited by offseason arthroscopic surgery on his right knee, then plantar fasciitis -- a more aggressive form than he'd ever dealt with -- crept up in March. Pujols lasted only 99 games -- 65 of which were spent as a designated hitter -- and posted an uncharacteristic .258/.330/.437 slash line before his season abruptly ended on July 26.
On ESPN Deportes Radio in mid-November, though, Pujols said his foot is "99.9-percent healthy."
Now, apparently, he's got that extra .1 percent.
"The last time I spoke with Albert, he felt great about where he is in his offseason progression," Dipoto said. "He was more aggressive out of the chute because of his downtime in the regular season and how quickly he got out and started swinging the bat, maybe earlier in the process than he ordinarily does. Those are all positives for us.
"Albert's in good shape. He's not yet started his defensive work and agilities, but everything else is on or ahead of schedule of what he would normally have in an offseason, and that's our expectation. He's ready to go."
Trout contract talks could heat up around Opening Day
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Come Opening Day, the stage could be set for a mega-extension with Mike Trout.
A source said the Angels have yet to engage in serious discussions with Trout's agent, Craig Landis, who was publicly upset when the team paid his client only a little more than the Major League minimum this past season.
Part of the reason is there's really no comparison for Trout's price ceiling after the outfielder posted double-digit Wins Above Replacement scores in his ages 21 and 22 seasons.
But the biggest reason for the time frame is that a Trout extension would greatly increase the Angels' Collective Balance Tax Payroll -- the average annual value of all 40-man-roster contracts, plus benefits -- and they're already only $15 million short of the luxury-tax threshold of $189 million.
But if the deal is signed after Opening Day, Trout's contract would count for the 2015 CBT payroll, not '14, and Vernon Wells' contract will finally be off the books, creating significant wiggle room.
Asked if there's any sense of urgency to extend Trout, Angels general manager Jerry Dipoto remained mum.
"It's something we're definitely aware of, I know it's something Mike's aware of, but it's nothing that we'll talk about publicly," Dipoto said. "Those are private conversations that we'll have with Mike and his people at the appropriate time."
And when exactly is that appropriate time?
"Whenever we deem it to be, and when I say 'we,' I mean Mike and his people and the Angels," Dipoto said. "I don't think it's fair to discuss any type of contractual negotiation publicly. It's not fair to the club, it's not fair to the player."
Dipoto not concerned with moves throughout AL West
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- The American League West looks a lot tougher now, Angels general manager Jerry Dipoto can safely admit, but he's also determined not to let moves by the A's, Rangers, Mariners and Astros influence how he goes about his business.
"Really, all you can do is measure your needs, and that's what we're doing," Dipoto said. "We're not trying to necessarily see how we match up with other teams position-by-position. We're trying to find the best combination of 25 players that we can put on the field. Anything beyond that, you're thinking about other peoples' business and not your own."
The A's acquired closer Jim Johnson, added Luke Gregerson to a bullpen that is now probably the deepest in baseball, signed Scott Kazmir to a two-year, $22 million deal and traded prospect Michael Choice for Craig Gentry -- win-now moves for a team that has been eliminated in the AL Division Series each of the past two seasons.
The Rangers, who have won at least 90 games in four straight seasons, swapped Ian Kinsler for Prince Fielder and are still looking for another bat.
The Astros handed out a three-year, $30 million contract to starter Scott Feldman, whom the Angels were mildly interested in, and traded for former Rockies center fielder Dexter Fowler.
And the Mariners reeled in the biggest free agent of the offseason, snatching Robinson Cano from the Yankees via a 10-year, $240-million, Albert Pujols-like contract, a deal that could be the first big step in making Seattle a competitor again.
"Great player," Dipoto said of Cano. "The division is getting better around us. Now it's on us to make sure we keep up."
Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. Read 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.