The Angels agreed to terms with right-hander Joe Blanton on a two-year, $15-million deal Wednesday night, a move that adds rotation depth but would appear to end any pursuit of Zack Greinke or top free-agent starters such as Anibal Sanchez, Kyle Lohse and Edwin Jackson.
The Angels, who also agreed to terms with reliever Sean Burnett on a two-year, $8-million deal, have six starting pitchers in Jered Weaver, C.J. Wilson, Tommy Hanson, Blanton, Garrett Richards and Jerome Williams, who could slide into a long-relief role.
Wednesday’s moves will push the Angels’ 2013 payroll to about $142 million, and the club has shown no indication it will surpass last season’s record $159-million payroll.
As of Wednesday, Greinke had not ruled out a return to Anaheim, but a person familiar with the team’s thinking but not authorized to speak publicly said the Angels were unwilling to surpass $20 million a year for Greinke, who could command a six-year, $150-million deal.
“Like Jerry says, he’d never close the door on anything,” the person said, referring to General Manager Jerry Dipoto. “But I know he feels good about things presently.”
Angels fans, judging from their harsh reaction on Twitter and Internet message boards, do not. Most feel Blanton, who has an 83-75 record, 4.37 earned-run average and gives up home runs in bunches, is a pricey and rather dubious back-of-the-rotation choice.
Dipoto met with reporters at 3 p.m. PST, before news of an agreement with Blanton, who split last season between Philadelphia and the Dodgers. Blanton was 10-13 with a 4.71 ERA, 166 strikeouts, 34 walks and 29 home runs given up in 191 innings.
Asked after the Burnett signing whether there was enough money to pursue a high-end starter, Dipoto said, “We’ll see. We’re looking at one-through-12 depth. The goal is to get the best starter we can, in conjunction with building the best bullpen.”
Burnett, a left-hander who was 1-2 with a 2.38 ERA in 70 games for Washington last season, will team with Ryan Madson, Ernesto Frieri, Kevin Jepsen and Scott Downs to give the Angels, who led the American League with 47 blown saves in the last two seasons, five attractive late-inning options.
The 30-year-old, who complements a sinking 90-mph fastball with a slider and changeup, struck out 57, walked 12 and gave up four home runs in 562/3 innings last season.
“He has a solid sinker, a funky, across-the-body delivery and lower arm slot that is tough to pick up, and he keeps the ball on the ground,” Dipoto said. “It’s a nice package for a left-hander.”
Burnett’s deal, pending a physical, includes a vesting $4.5-million third-year option based on games pitched in 2013 and 2014. Some thought Burnett would command a deal in the three-year, $18-million range, but his value may have slipped after he had surgery in October to remove bone spurs from his elbow.
“I’ve been working out, I’ll start tossing soon, and there’s no reason to worry about it,” Burnett said by phone from West Palm Beach, Fla. “I’m looking forward to joining a bullpen with so many quality arms and guys with proven track records.”
Blanton, whose deal includes a third-year option, has a reputation as a guy who, when effective, keeps his team in the game for five or six innings.
But his presence won’t ease the expected loss of Greinke, who was acquired from Milwaukee for three decent prospects in July — with the intent of pushing the Angels toward the World Series — and was 6-2 with a 3.53 ERA in 13 starts.
Not only did the Angels not reach the playoffs, they will not receive draft-pick compensation if Greinke signs elsewhere.
Re-signing Greinke “was not our primary objective in trading for Zack,” Dipoto said. “Our primary objective was what he could do for us in 2012. We knew the day we acquired him that the likelihood of Zack discussing a contract extension during the season was zero.
“Zack is a curious guy, an intellectual, and he wanted to see what free agency is about. We respected that. I wish him the best. Zack is a good person, he works hard, and he’s an outstanding pitcher. What he gets, he gets.”