The Angels seemingly fortified their bullpen with Wednesday's low-risk, high-reward signing of Ryan Madson, who could re-emerge as one of baseball's best closers if his recovery from Tommy John surgery goes smoothly.
But it may only be the beginning of general manager Jerry Dipoto's bullpen transformation.
If Zack Greinke gets the type of money recent reports say he will, then going conservative with the rotation and continuing to fortify the relief corps -- which blew an American League-leading 47 saves the last two years -- could be the Angels' preferred route.
The Winter Meetings are four days away, but Greinke's price tag is already getting rather inordinate. Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com and Ken Rosenthal of FOXSports.com expect him to net a $150 million contract over six years; ESPN.com's Buster Olney suggested that he could top CC Sabathia's record seven-year, $161 million deal; and the majority of those around baseball expect the Dodgers -- with the near-endless revenue streams that come with a potential $7 billion television deal -- to finish with the winning bid.
With Greinke's price soaring, CBSSports.com's Danny Knobler wrote on Tuesday that the Angels are "now unlikely to sign him."
Asked about that when reached by phone on Wednesday night, Dipoto declined comment, saying, "If I responded to every rumor, I'd waste all the time in my day. We'll let it play out as it's going to play out."
Is Greinke's price really that high, or is it the usual Internet fodder and agent manipulation that tends to dominate this time of year? Tough to say. But this much can be gathered, per industry sources.
The Angels are unlikely to pay $150 million for Greinke if he ends up commanding that much.
The trade market remains an unviable option because their farm system is barren and because Dipoto is against trading valuable young talent from his position-player club for a short-term rotation fix.
If Greinke prices himself out of Anaheim and he has the expected trickle-down effect on the likes of Anibal Sanchez and Kyle Lohse, the Angels may have to go an alternate route: signing one mid-rotation starter, one innings eater and at least one more top-tier reliever.
It's a modern roster strategy -- combating a less-than-stellar rotation with a lights-out bullpen -- but a source said Dipoto is very open to this kind of plan.
The Yankees did just that two offseasons ago, signing Rafael Soriano to pitch the eighth inning even though they already had the capable David Robertson as a bridge to Mariano Rivera. The 2007 D-backs team Dipoto was part of did it that way, too, using Jose Valverde, Brandon Lyon, Tony Pena and others to counteract a rotation that was weak beyond Brandon Webb.
Dipoto is against spending top dollar on a closer, but he isn't against spending money on a collection of relievers who can shorten the game and make the bullpen a strength, especially in a market that may be deeper in relievers than it is in starters.
If that's the route he takes -- and this is still the point in the offseason when everything is on the table -- that means C.J. Wilson will begin the season as the Angels' No. 2 starter, behind ace Jered Weaver.
Dipoto, who signed Wilson to a $77.5 million contract at last year's Winter Meetings, would be fine with that.
"That's what his performance merits," he said. "He's been a consistent 200-inning, mid-teens winner, made two All-Star teams in the last three years, received Cy Young votes. [A No. 2 starter] is what C.J. is in a Major League rotation, and that's what we signed him to be."
Arbitration-eligible Angels to be tendered contracts
Before Friday's 8:59 p.m. PT deadline, the Angels are expected to tender contracts to all four of their arbitration-eligible players: designated hitter Kendrys Morales, third baseman Alberto Callaspo, and pitchers Jerome Williams and Kevin Jepsen.
Since the Basic Agreement prohibits teams from trimming a player's salary by more than 20 percent, teams tend to non-tender arbitration-eligible players, thus sending them into the free-agent market -- because they don't want to pay them the salary they'll command the following season.
The only player seemingly on the bubble was Williams, who's in his second year of arbitration and pitched mostly in long relief last season. But the 30-year-old right-hander will be back, perhaps competing with Garrett Richards for the fifth spot in a rotation that still needs to be solidified.
The Angels owe about $100 million to nine players in 2013 -- Vernon Wells, Jered Weaver, C.J. Wilson, Albert Pujols, Howie Kendrick, Erick Aybar, Scott Downs, Chris Iannetta and Ryan Madson -- plus $4.5 million for buying out Dan Haren's contract and trading Ervin Santana.
Factoring in MLBTradeRumors.com's arbitration projections for Morales ($4.8 million), Callaspo ($4.2 million), Williams ($1.9 million) and Jepsen ($1.1 million), that puts them at roughly $117 million -- plus salaries close to the minimum for the remaining 12.
Angels claim shortstop Field off waivers
The Angels claimed shortstop Thomas Field off waivers from the Twins on Wednesday.
Field, a 25-year-old right-handed hitter who also has experience at second base, spent his entire playing career with the Rockies, the team that drafted him in the 24th round of the First-Year Player Draft in 2008.
Field has posted a .264/.359/.414 slash line in his Minor League career, totaling 47 homers and 47 steals in 524 games. He batted .246 with eight homers while playing in his first season of Triple-A this year, and appeared in 18 games with the Rockies from 2011-12.
Field, claimed off waivers by the Twins on Nov. 2, joins Angel Sanchez and Brendan Harris as offseason additions who could compete with Andrew Romine for the backup infielder spot, vacated by Maicer Izturis when he signed with the Blue Jays.
The Angels would look to trade Vernon Wells if a team is willing to take a reasonable portion of the $42 million owed him over the next two years, an industry source said, but there have been no takers.
Minor League first baseman C.J. Cron, who's rehabbing from shoulder surgery, was selected to the Topps Class A All-Star team after a 27-homer, 123-RBI season for Inland Empire.
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.