Angels sizing up potential Hot Stove partners
Dipoto may part with young hitters as club seeks pitching this offseason
ANAHEIM -- The three-day General Managers Meetings in Orlando, Fla., concluded last Thursday, and though no deal was consummated, Jerry Dipoto said there was "a fair amount" of interest in Angels hitters he's exploring trades for, namely Mark Trumbo, Peter Bourjos, Howie Kendrick, Erick Aybar and others.
"We've got a talented group," Dipoto said. "Our offensive players are fairly accomplished, some at a very young age. There have been a lot of inquiries on a lot of them. We've not predetermined to move any of them."
Perhaps it hasn't been predetermined, but the reality that this may be the Angels' best bet to address a leaky rotation has certainly been accepted throughout the organization.
The process began in July, when Dipoto was given the green light to explore what kind of pitching the Halos could get in return for hitters not named Mike Trout, Albert Pujols or Josh Hamilton. Now, with more teams involved and a lot more time on their hands, those talks are ramping up considerably.
And Dipoto faces some tough questions.
1. Is now the best time to part ways with Bourjos? Some industry folks believe he's the most likely to be traded simply because his loss would hurt the Angels the least (Trout can play center, with J.B. Shuck and Kole Calhoun being options in left). But after compiling only 391 plate appearances the last two years and coming off wrist surgery, Bourjos' value has never been lower. At the end of the season, Dipoto said, "We need to get a healthy Peter Bourjos out there and find out where he is." But maybe Bourjos will be gone before that happens.
2. Can the club really afford to give up Trumbo? The Angels would prefer not to because of the production and versatility he brings. Trading Trumbo doesn't just mean parting ways with a local product and a great clubhouse presence. It means the Halos will severely lack firepower if an aging Pujols and Hamilton can't bounce back from bad seasons. But if they're not willing to trade Trumbo, it may mean they're not getting top-flight pitching via trade.
3. Can the Angels have their cake and eat it, too? In other words, can they improve a rotation that ranked 11th in the American League in ERA without trading valuable offensive pieces? One method would be to sign Japanese star Masahiro Tanaka, since his posting fee won't count towards the luxury tax. But he isn't available yet, and several teams -- including the deep-pocketed Yankees and Dodgers -- will bid if and when he is.
Besides that, the Halos don't have a lot of wiggle room before getting into the $189 million luxury-tax threshold -- especially if they re-sign Jason Vargas -- and probably can't put together the package of prospects that can land a major upgrade.
Parting ways with offense is looking like the only way. And though cost-controlled starting pitching is by far the hardest asset to come by -- "It's gold in this game," Dipoto said -- an array of teams could be a match for the Angels this offseason.
Below are 10 of them, an alphabetical-order list compiled with input from industry sources and fellow MLB.com beat reporters.
Cardinals: Shortstop appears to be priority No. 1 in St. Louis. And though Aybar may not top the Cards' list, he can certainly be an option for them down the road. St. Louis has become a hub for cost-controlled pitching, with eight pre-arbitration pitchers -- Michael Wacha, Shelby Miller, Lance Lynn, Joe Kelly, Carlos Martinez, Trevor Rosenthal, Seth Maness and Kevin Siegrist -- making big contributions in a pennant-winning season.
Indians: Cleveland is seeking the right-handed power Trumbo brings and could be willing to part ways with top prospect Trevor Bauer, who's coming off a rough 2013 season and was drafted by Dipoto when the GM was in Arizona. Another interesting name is little-known right-hander Corey Kluber, who had a 3.85 ERA in 147 1/3 innings last year. But the Indians need Kluber much more now that they're likely to lose Ubaldo Jimenez and Scott Kazmir in free agency.
Mariners: The Angels and Mariners hooked up last December in the one-for-one trade that sent Kendrys Morales to Seattle and brought Vargas back to Southern California. This offseason, the Mariners seek outfield help. It'd be hard for them to part ways with top pitching prospects Taijuan Walker or Danny Hultzen, but the young Erasmo Ramirez and Blake Beavan, among others, could be had.
Marlins: They like Trumbo in their search for more power, have previously been linked to Bourjos, could turn to Chris Iannetta for catching help and have plenty of young cost-controlled starting pitching to give up in return. Closer Steve Cishek, who has a 2.54 ERA and a 1.18 WHIP over the last three years, could also be made available, given that he's now in his arbitration years.
Pirates: The Bucs were reportedly in on Trumbo before the non-waiver Trade Deadline and are expected to be interested again now that Justin Morneau is a free agent. No doubt, Pittsburgh really likes Trumbo. Enough to part ways with someone like, say, top pitching prospect Jameson Taillon? That remains to be seen.
Rays: David Price, who has two years of arbitration left and is expected to cost about $13 million in 2014, will no doubt be one of the most-talked-about pitchers this offseason. And Tampa Bay is always looking for offense. Trumbo would be a great fit for the middle of the Rays' lineup and at first base. But it'll take more than just Trumbo to get Price, and a lot of other teams will have interest.
Red Sox: The reigning World Series champions currently have holes in center field and first base, and they could look towards the trade market if they don't meet the price demands of free agents Jacoby Ellsbury and Mike Napoli. Boston has six starting pitchers under contract for next season, which could make someone like lefty Felix Doubront expendable.
Reds: If Brandon Phillips is traded, they may need a replacement at second base. And one pitcher they could part ways with is 27-year-old right-hander Homer Bailey, who's a year away from free agency and has shown little interest in signing an extension with Cincinnati. The Halos would prefer someone they can control a little longer, though.
Royals: Kansas City is looking for offense at second base and could look towards Kendrick. With Ervin Santana and Bruce Chen now free agents, the Royals don't really have an array of starters to trade -- unless you count Wade Davis and Danny Duffy, who made five starts post-Tommy John surgery at the end of the season -- but they do have plenty of bullpen depth.
Tigers: Max Scherzer, who's expected to approach $14 million in his final season before free agency, may not be feasible. But perhaps someone like 24-year-old ground-ball machine Rick Porcello is. Detroit needs to replace Omar Infante at second base, and the Tigers are looking for an upgrade in left field and could turn to Kendrick or Bourjos.
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.