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Is there still room on the Angels’ 2013 payroll?

The acquisition of Josh Hamilton was, in many ways, a two-for-one signing because it also allows general manager Jerry Dipoto to trade a suddenly-expendable player for another starting pitcher.

Question is: Can the Angels take on more payroll in the process?

Hamilton’s five-year, $125 million contract will pay him $17 million in 2013 ($15 million in salary, plus a $10 million signing bonus that’s dispersed evenly over the course of his five-year contract). That, in addition to arbitration projections and minimum contracts, puts the Angels’ 2013 payroll at roughly $159 million, which is about where they finished at last year.

Asked about expanding it further in case of adding a pricey arm, Angels president John Carpino basically said it would be considered on a case-by-case basis.

“Instead of putting [the payroll] at a place where it’s, ‘This is where we’re at,’ it’s, ‘What’s the opportunity cost of doing it?'” Carpino said at Hamilton’s Saturday news conference. “So, if something became available that’s an opportunity cost, it just comes down to wanting to win. But it also has to make sense fiscally.”

Teams are a lot more willing to give up a would-be free agent than a cost-controlled arm, of course.

That’s why, with R.A. Dickey off the board, names like Ricky Nolasco of the Marlins ($11.5 million in his walk year), Gavin Floyd of the White Sox ($9.5 million in his walk year) and Matt Garza of the Cubs (projected $10 million in his final arbitration year) seem to be the most feasible. Rick Porcello of the Tigers (projected $4.7 million in his second arbitration year) has also been mentioned.

Peter Bourjos, who’s still a year away from arbitration and will make about $500,000 in 2013, appeals to many teams. Kendrys Morales, Vernon Wells and — seemingly to a lesser extent — Mark Trumbo can also be made available.

The Angels’ preference would be to acquire a young, pre-arbitration starter who won’t add to the budget (Jeremy Hellickson and Matt Moore of the Rays comes to mind). But whether or not that situation presents itself remains to be seen.

– Alden Gonzalez

Angels positioning themselves for big move?

UPDATE, 11:24 AM PT: Josh Hamilton is headed to the Angels, a source told MLB.com’s T.R. Sullivan. According to ESPNDallas.com, Hamilton signed a five-year deal.

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It seemed like the Angels were mostly done for the offseason, after acquiring two starting pitchers (Tommy Hanson and Joe Blanton) and two back-end relievers (Ryan Madson and Sean Burnett) to push their payroll to about $140 million.

But maybe that has changed.

ESPN.com’s Buster Olney wrote via Twitter on Thursday that the Angels are “positioning themselves for a big strike in the market,” speculating that high-priced free-agent outfielder Josh Hamilton could be the target. Joe McDonnell of FOXSportsWest.com attributed a Major League source in tweeting that the Angels are in serious negotiations with Hamilton.

On Wednesday, when the four new pitchers were introduced at the ESPN Zone in Downtown Disney, Angels general manager Jerry Dipoto said: “I don’t feel like anything else is imminent, I don’t feel like anything else is pressing and I don’t think anything else is required.” And a source told MLB.com that if the Angels do make another signing, it’d probably be in January if the market dries up on a starting pitcher, prompting him to take much lower than expected.

But has owner Arte Moreno suddenly decided to stretch out the budget once more, like he did last offseason to acquire Albert Pujols? And is it a reaction to the big-ticket moves made by the Dodgers, as Olney speculated?

Perhaps.

– Alden Gonzalez

Dipoto satisfied with pitching staff after Meetings

Since they’re both pending physicals, Angels general manager Jerry Dipoto couldn’t speak very candidly on the agreed-upon two-year deals for starter Joe Blanton and reliever Sean Burnett.

But speaking from the lobby of the Gaylord Opryland Hotel on Thursday morning, minutes after the Rule 5 Draft and just as he boarded a flight back to Southern California, the second-year GM sounded like a man who’s satisfied with the pitching depth and isn’t looking to make any other significant free-agent signings.

“Sometimes,” Dipoto said, “the smartest moves you can do is just make practical decisions.”

The likes of Anibal Sanchez, Kyle Lohse, Ryan Dempster, Edwin Jackson and Brandon McCarthy will probably sign elsewhere now. Dipoto wouldn’t flatly say that they’re out on Zack Greinke, who’s expected to command a $150 million contract, but of course they are. “We’re prepared to,” he said. “You have to make smart decisions.”

In fact, if the Angels do make any other addition to their Major League roster, it would probably be to one more low-tier free agent — probably a reliever, but perhaps another starter.

Dipoto talked all offseason about building “one-through-12 pitching depth.” With Jered Weaver, C.J. Wilson, Tommy Hanson, Blanton, Garrett Richards and Jerome Williams as starters, and Ryan Madson, Burnett, Ernesto Frieri, Kevin Jepsen and Scott Downs as relievers, he feels he has “11 men in place on our Major League pitching staff, and every one of the 11 guys, when they take the field, is a competitive Major League pitcher and the innings are going to grow.”

Asked if he’d be satisfied if this were the same pitching staff that arrives in Tempe, Ariz., this spring, Dipoto said, “Oh yeah.”

The Angels’ payroll was never expected to be at $159 million like it was last season. The most likely scenario was that it would be somewhere between $140 and $145 million. Right now, it’s at roughly $140 million — and it may not go much higher than that.

“We’ve made a handful of decisions that we think are best for the club,” Dipoto added. “I can tell you there’s not another move coming today; I can’t tell you that there won’t be an addition to the club at some point. You’re always looking to get better. But I think what we did in the last few days is we put ourselves in a position where we’re stable. We’re not going to have to make further additions to be a competitive club.

“Right now, on paper, we have 11 guys that slot into Major League roles, and if the chance exists to better our club in some way, that makes sense for the Angels, we’ll take a look at it. But we have nothing imminent, we have nothing that I think is a certainty – nothing we have to do.”

– Alden Gonzalez

Angels nearing a deal for Joe Blanton

UPDATE: Blanton’s deal is expected to be two years for $15 million, according to a source, with ESPN.com’s Jerry Crasnick reporting that it includes a third-year club option.

That all but squashes the Angels’ already-faint hopes to land Greinke, who many expect to command at least an average annual value of $25 million on a six-year deal. The likes of Anibal Sanchez, Kyle Lohse, Ryan Dempster and Shaun Marcum also don’t seem to be options, with the Angels’ payroll expected to be at least $10 to $15 million less than the $159 million they ended last season with.

But that’s still unclear, because the club hasn’t publicly commented on its 2013 payroll projections.

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Shortly after agreeing to terms on a two-year contract for lefty reliever Sean Burnett, the Angels were on the verge of signing free-agent starting pitcher Joe Blanton, sources confirmed to MLB.com.

Blanton, 31, went 10-13 with a 4.71 ERA in 31 games (30 starts) for the Phillies and Dodgers last season. From 2005-12, the right-hander went 83-75 with a 4.37 ERA and a 1.34 WHIP.

How does it affect the Angels’ pursuit of Zack Greinke or others, like Anibal Sanchez, Edwin Jackson and Joe Saunders? Still unclear, but a source said Blanton is only “a piece” for the rotation and not necessarily the final piece.

– Alden Gonzalez

Angels sign left-hander Sean Burnett

The Angels finalized their bullpen search on Wednesday, signing left-handed reliever Sean Burnett to a two-year deal with a club option, a source told MLB.com.

The deal, which is still pending a physical, is expected to be just south of the two-year, $9.5 million deal Kyuji Fujikawa got with the Cubs, and way south of the three-year, $18 million deal Jeremy Affeldt signed with the Giants.

The addition of Burnett has “no effect” on the Angels’ pursuit of a starting pitcher. They’re still not totally out on Zack Greinke. Burnett joins a bullpen that includes fellow lefty Scott Downs in addition to Ernesto Frieri, Kevin Jepsen and the recently signed Ryan Madson, who’s expected to take over the closer’s role after recovery from Tommy John surgery.

– Alden Gonzalez

Angels still not sounding confident on Greinke

The Angels continue to sound like a club that isn’t counting on resigning Zack Greinke.

Obviously, things can change very quickly, and Angels general manager Jerry Dipoto has a recent track record of being very coy about his pursuit of big-name free agents (see: 2011 Winter Meetings). But the price tags continue to be sky high — with Dan Haren signing for $13 million and Shane Victorino reportedly getting a three-year, $39 million deal from the Red Sox — and the Angels continue to seem content with simply adding one middle-tier starter and one back-end reliever.

On Tuesday afternoon, Day 2 of the Winter Meetings from the Gaylord Opryland Hotel, FOXSports.com’s Jon Morosi tweeted that the Dodgers “have become [the] clear favorite to land Greinke,” echoing a sentiment that has been widely reported/speculated for most of the offseason. The Angels, who continue to be portrayed as a dark horse, want to avoid what happened last season, when they committed a lot of money to the rotation and were essentially tapped out in August, unable to add to a bullpen that badly needed an upgrade.

The Nationals dropped out on Greinke with the Haren signing, seemingly making it a three-team race. If Greinke’s price gets to $150 million, the Angels are likely out. If he’s willing to settle for something less, they have a chance.

But this is still the most likely scenario for Dipoto: Sign one No. 3 starter to slot between Jered Weaver and C.J. Wilson, and Tommy Hanson and Garrett Richards/Jerome Williams (Ryan Dempster, Edwin Jackson, Brandon McCarthy, etc.); sign one more back-end reliever to complement Ryan Madson, Ernesto Frieri, Scott Downs and Kevin Jepsen (Mike Adams, Sean Burnett, Koji Uehara, etc.).

Dipoto wouldn’t go into much detail in his daily briefing with local reporters on Tuesday, but he did re-iterate that he’s “100 percent” only looking at pitchers and that free agency — not the trade market — is almost his sole focus. The Angels did circle back with Haren, talking to him as recently as Monday, and a source said they improved on their original offer (one-year at $4 million with an $8 million vesting option) before buying out his contract.

Asked whether he was close on any pitchers, Dipoto said …

“Can’t say for certain that I’m getting warm on anything, but again, we’ve picked up the targets that we’re most interested in, we’ve had great discussions — in some cases multiple layers. We’re making progress, the extent of which I can’t tell you. I don’t know if anything gets done today, tomorrow, or post-[Winter Meetings], but I am certain that we’ll line up with a team on the field, and time will make the proper decision.”

– Alden Gonzalez

Angels continue to search for relievers

Angels general manager Jerry Dipoto said after signing Ryan Madson that he’s not done addressing the bullpen “by any stretch.” And that search has intensified at the Winter Meetings here in Nashville, Tenn., where the Angels are focused on adding one starting pitcher but are keeping their ears open for additional bullpen options.

The Angels, a source confirmed, are one of several teams with a keen interest in former Nats left-hander Sean Burnett, who has posted a 2.76 ERA and a 1.23 WHIP in 176 1/3 innings from 2010-12, averaging 7.8 strikeouts and 2.7 walks per nine innings. Acquiring Burnett would give the Angels a second lefty to complement Scott Downs, who has been reliable the last few years but struggled in the second half of 2012.

It would also let the young Nick Maronde start full-time in the Minor Leagues. Some in the organization, however, believe his future is as a reliever anyway.

Another option for the Angels is right-hander Mike Adams, who posted a 1.60 ERA and a .92 WHIP from 2010-11. The 34-year-old Adams finished last season with a 3.27 ERA with the Rangers, the highest since his rookie year in 2004, due in large part to a rough September that ended with him being shut down due to a right shoulder ailment.

The Angels checked in on Joakim Soria at the General Managers Meetings, but Soria’s preference is to sign somewhere he can close — and with Madson on board, that’s no longer a selling point for Dipoto.

Burnett, Adams and Soria are sure to use the three-year deals signed by Jeremy Affeldt ($18 million), Brandon League ($22.5 million) and Jonathan Broxton ($21 million) as a starting point. That means signing one of them would almost certainly take the Angels out of the Zack Greinke sweepstakes, though a source said they’re “not closing the door on anything.” According to Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com, the Angels have checked in on the two starting pitchers a tier below Greinke — Anibal Sanchez and Kyle Lohse.

Alden Gonzalez

Angels reportedly front-runners for Fujikawa

Japanese closer Kyuji Fujikawa is nearing a decision and the Angels are believed to be the front-runners, Tim Brown of Yahoo! Sports reported via Twitter on Friday afternoon. Fujikawa’s agent, Don Nomura, did not immediately return a call seeking comment.

Fujikawa, 32, is one of the top relievers in the Far East, racking up 202 saves to go along with a 1.36 ERA, a 0.86 WHIP and a rate of 12.4 strikeouts and 2.3 walks per nine innings in 369 2/3 frames while pitching for the Hanshin Tigers.

Fujikawa met with Angels general manager Jerry Dipoto in Anaheim last week, a source confirmed to MLB.com, as part of a five-team tour that also saw him make stops in the Dodgers’, Orioles’, Cubs’ and D-backs’ facilities. At least 10 teams are believed to have made him an offer, according to Patrick Newman of NPB Tracker, who said Fujikawa is seeking a multi-year deal.

The Angels signed Ryan Madson to potentially be their closer on Wednesday, adding him to a back end of the bullpen that also includes Ernesto Frieri, Kevin Jepsen and Scott Downs. On Friday, they freed up a spot in the ‘pen by trading Jordan Walden to the Braves for starter Tommy Hanson.

If the Angels sign Fujikawa, they’d probably be out of the Zack Greinke sweepstakes, instead going with a cheaper alternative to fill their final rotation spot.

Alden Gonzalez

Haren’s market leaning East

Former Angels starter Dan Haren, who was bought out of his 2013 option for $3.5 million, is drawing heavy interest from several teams, most of them residing in the East coast.

Haren’s most aggressive suitor thus far, according to a person with knowledge of his free agency: The Red Sox. The Nationals, Orioles, White Sox, Padres and Blue Jays are among other clubs that have expressed interest. Haren, however, is said to be in no hurry to sign, preferring to let a lot of the smoke clear before making his decision.

The Angels recently checked in on Haren, but nothing had changed from a negotiating standpoint. After trading for Tommy Hanson, only one spot is left in their rotation — and their desire to resign Zack Greinke remains. If Greinke’s price tag reaches $150 million, as has been reported, the Angels will go with a much cheaper free-agent starter and sign at least one more upper-tier reliever, joining Ryan Madson.

Haren, who wants to keep pitching in Southern California, could make sense given his price tag, track record and familiarity. For now, however, a return remains unlikely.

Haren is coming off his first rough season in quite a while, going 12-13 with a 4.33 ERA, a stint on the disabled list with lower back problems and a drop in velocity. From 2005-11, though, he was one of baseball’s most consistent starters, winning 101 games, posting a 3.49 ERA and averaging 226 innings per season.

The Angels also had the framework of a deal in place with the Cubs in early November, sending Haren to Chicago for closer Carlos Marmol. In it, an industry source said, the Cubs were slated to take on most of Haren’s salary and Marmol’s. But according to ESPN.com’s Buster Olney, the Cubs backed out due to concerns over Haren’s hip — not his back.

– Alden Gonzalez 

Angels swap Walden for Hanson

The Angels are on the verge of acquiring starting pitcher Tommy Hanson from the Braves, an industry source confirmed to MLB.com on Friday.

Hanson, 26, has gone 45-32 with a 3.61 ERA in 108 starts while pitching the last four seasons with the Braves. Last year, the right-hander went 13-10 with a 4.48 ERA in 174 2/3 innings.

In exchange, the Braves will be acquiring hard-throwing reliever Jordan Walden, who notched 32 saves in 2011 and posted a 3.46 ERA in 45 appearances this past season.

– Alden Gonzalez 

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