Dipoto faces high-priced pitching at GM meetings

Jerry Dipoto said this week’s general managers meetings were “like a setup,” a chance to meet agents and GMs in the casual atmosphere of an Indian Wells resort and lay the groundwork for potential free-agent signings and trades, not to consummate deals.

“We tried to digest as much information as we could,” the Angels GM said.

Some of that information might be hard to stomach. One report said pitcher Zack Greinke, the Angels’ top winter target, is seeking a six-year, $150-million deal. Another said pitcher Anibal Sanchez, a quality right-hander but part of a not-so-appealing group of second-tier free-agent starters, wants six years and $90 million.

Dipoto, who would like to acquire at least two front-line starting pitchers, was neither scared off by nor overly concerned about what might be perceived as a sudden spike in the market.

“You’re always going to get inflated expectations at the start of the off-season, not just for free agents but in the trade market,” Dipoto said. “Nobody comes in and low-balls you. We’re watching the landscape and will see how things unfold.”

Dipoto met with Casey Close, Greinke’s agent, this week but would not say much about negotiations with the right-hander who went 6-2 with a 3.53 earned-run average in 13 starts for the Angels after being acquired from Milwaukee for three prospects July 27.

“I’m not going to give you a progress report,” Dipoto said. “The market doesn’t run like that,” he added, snapping his fingers.

Case closed?
With Rafael Soriano rejecting the New York Yankees’ qualifying offer Friday and the Detroit Tigers reportedly not that interested in the relief ace, might the Angels aggressively pursue Soriano?

Don’t count on it.

Yankees President Randy Levine said agent Scott Boras believes he can command a deal in the four-year, $60-million range for Soriano, who went 2-1 with a 2.26 ERA and 42 saves. Dipoto considers that kind of long-term investment in the volatile relief market to be extremely risky.

“You’re never really looking for big-ticket items in the bullpen,” Dipoto said. “You’re looking for guys who can handle the role.”

Dipoto did not pursue closers such as Heath Bell, Jonathan Papelbon and Ryan Madson last winter, going into the season with Jordan Walden as closer before acquiring Ernesto Frieri, who went 4-2 with a 2.32 ERA and 23 saves, from San Diego in early May.

“With starting pitchers, you have track records, and you have a good idea what you’re going to get out of position players,” Dipoto said in October. But spending lavishly on relievers “is akin to going to Las Vegas and throwing it down on double-zero green.”

Short hops
The Angels named Mike Hampton, a former All-Star who went 148-115 with a 4.06 earned run average in 16 big-league seasons, as their pitching coach at double-A Arkansas on Friday, one of a number of baseball operations hires and promotions.

Hampton, whose career was derailed by injuries after the left-hander signed an eight-year, $121-million contract with the Colorado Rockies in 2001, retired before the 2011 season.

Hampton will be working under new double-A Manager Tim Bogar, who was hired after spending the past four years in the Boston Red Sox organization, including 2012 as the major league bench coach.

Former Chicago Cubs middle infielder Bobby Scales was named director of player development, and former Arizona scout Michael Noboa was named coordinator of Latin American operations.

The Angels also officially announced the hiring of former major league first baseman Paul Sorrento as minor league hitting coordinator and the promotions of former big league reliever Jim Gott to minor league pitching coordinator and Mike Micucci to minor league field coordinator.

Intern Nate Horowitz was promoted to coordinator of scouting, intern Jonathan Strangio, was promoted to coordinator of baseball operations, and former Class-A Orem general manager Brett Crane was named minor league equipment manager.

Mike DiGiovanna