First, they signed free-agent first baseman Albert Pujols and left-hander C.J. Wilson during the offseason.
Now they have snagged the biggest prize on this year’s trade market, right-hander Zack Greinke.
The Angels acquired Greinke from the Milwaukee Brewers on Friday for shortstop Jean Segura and Double A right-handers Johnny Hellweg and Ariel Pena.
Greinke, 28, is eligible for free agency at the end of the season, but the Angels are one of his preferred choices for a long-term deal, according to major-league sources.
The addition of Greinke to a rotation that already includes Wilson and right-handers Jered Weaver and Dan Haren will make the Angels even more formidable in their race against the Texas Rangers in the AL West.
The Rangers, Atlanta Braves and Chicago White Sox were the other finalists for Greinke, sources said.
The Brewers, sources said, did not insist upon either of the Rangers’ top position prospects, shortstop Jurickson Profar or third baseman Mike Olt. They wanted left-hander Martin Perez, but the Rangers still felt the total package was too much and passed.
The Angels, meanwhile, completed the deal without including perhaps their best trade chips, outfielder Peter Bourjos and right-hander Garrett Richards. Sources said they still want to add one more piece — a late-inning reliever.
Tampa Bay Rays right-hander James Shields and Miami Marlins righty Josh Johnson are now the top remaining pitchers available, along with Chicago Cubs righty Ryan Dempster, who has enough service time to block any deal and wants to be sent to the Los Angeles Dodgers, sources said.
The Brewers’ leverage in their talks with other clubs about Greinke increased after the Philadelphia Phillies took left-hander Cole Hamels off the trade market Wednesday, signing him to a six-year, $144 million contract extension.
However, the Brewers still weren’t assured of receiving a strong package due a new rule in the collective-bargaining agreement. Teams that acquire a player in the middle of a season no longer receive a draft pick if that player leaves as a free agent at the end.
The Angels, then, will be left with nothing if Greinke signs with another club this offseason. Yet, they still were willing to part with three of their top nine prospects according to Baseball America’s preseason rankings. Segura was No. 2, Hellweg No. 4, Pena No. 9.
Segura likely will become the Brewers’ future shortstop, and Hellweg and Pena will be welcome additions to a team that is thin on pitching prospects and faces the losses of righty Shaun Marcum and Randy Wolf to free agency this offseason.
The Brewers attempted to sign Greinke and discussed with him the parameters of a five-year contract in the $100 million range, sources said. But Greinke declined to entertain serious discussions with the club and now will benefit from a rise in the market due to two recent six-year deals — Matt Cain’s $127.5 million contract with the San Francisco Giants and Hamels’ $144 million extension.
Some clubs fear that Greinke, who has battled depression and social anxiety disorder, will not thrive in a large-market setting. The Angels, however, play in Anaheim, not Los Angeles, and the atmosphere is less intense than it would be in the middle of a major city.
The Brewers acquired Greinke and shortstop Yuniesky Betancourt from the Kansas City Royals on Dec. 9, 2010, in exchange for shortstop Alcides Escobar, outfielder Lorenzo Cain and pitchers Jake Odorizzi and Jeremy Jeffress.
Escobar developed into the Royals’ starting shortstop. Cain a promising outfielder, Odorizzi a top pitching prospect. But the trade proved a success for the Brewers, who reached the 2011 National League Championship Series behind Greinke.