Without Greinke, Angels must move forward

December 11, 2012

LOS ANGELES – The Angels have a news conference scheduled for late Wednesday morning to officially introduce their four new pitchers, none of whom will be Zack Greinke.

When it came time to choose his team, sign his contract and pose for photos wearing his team’s jersey and cap, Greinke picked the Dodgers, not the Angels.

Greinke spent two months in Anaheim last season, but any hope the Angels had that he would like it enough to return dissolved in dollars and years. They simply chose not to compete with the kind of offers he was getting from the Dodgers.

It’s not that they’re unwilling to invest. Last winter, they were the team making the biggest splash, signing Albert Pujols and pitcher CJ Wilson to mega-deals that made them favorites to win the World Series.

But there has been a seismic shift in power and resources. The Dodgers have new owners and an apparent unlimited budget, and they’re flexing their financial muscle at a level that would shame the New York Yankees. In two days, they announced the signings of Korean pitcher Ryu Hyun-Jin and Greinke to long-term deals valued at more than $200 million.

The Angels, meanwhile, will trot out pitchers Joe Blanton, Tommy Hanson, Ryan Madson and Sean Burnett, whose total deals are worth about $30.5 million.

Money is clearly no object to the Dodgers. When someone asked Magic Johnson, one of their owners, about that Tuesday, he stepped up to the podium and said, “I can answer that real quick. We want to win.” Then he sat down.

So where does that leave the Angels? They’re obviously not quite as formidable without Greinke in their starting rotation, but general manager Jerry Dipoto has made his bullpen better, at least on paper.

His primary purpose at the recent winter meetings in Nashville, Tenn., was to improve his pitching staff from top to bottom, starters and relievers, and he appears to have done that. He still has one of the game’s best No. 1 starters in Jered Weaver, and Wilson was an All-Star before hitting an 11-start slump in the second half in which he failed to win a game. But if he’s fully recovered from arthroscopic surgery in the offseason to remove bone spurs from his elbow, he’s a strong No. 2.

At the moment, the rotation is filled out by Garrett Richards, Blanton and Hanson, who will take the spots of Greinke, Ervin Santana and Dan Haren. That doesn’t look like a win-win for the Angels, which is why Dipoto fortified his bullpen with the signing of Madson, potentially the Angels’ new closer, and the trade for Hanson, who is entering his first year of arbitration and is expected to earn about $4 million next season.

With a bullpen that already has fastballer Ernesto Frieri, Scott Downs and Kevin Jepsen coming back, the addition of Madson and Burnett gives the Angels a strong, deep relief group that probably will get an abundance of work in 2013.

Signing Greinke would have been nice, but with so many financial commitments to other players, the Angels preferred to take a more frugal route. At least the Angels can be assured their team made a pitch.

“I think they were very interested,” Casey Close, Greinke’s agent, said. “I think there came a point that they made a decision that they wanted to alter their strategy and go in a different direction. But I think they were very interested. Jerry was very engaged, and we had a lot of good discussions throughout the entire process.”

That’s a small consolation, but it shows the Angels were trying. When it came to dollars and cents, they just couldn’t match the Dodgers.

These days, no one can.