Payroll puts Angels among top five in Majors

Payroll puts Angels among top five in Majors

Payroll puts Angels among top five in Majors
ANAHEIM -- During the open-air Vernon Wells news conference at Angel Stadium last week, Angels owner Arte Moreno was asked about the public perception that he'd become "cheap" in the aftermath of his team's inability to land such high-profile free agents as Carl Crawford and Adrian Beltre.

In response, Moreno made a joking reference to his wife's wardrobe and how she could dispute that claim. What he might have added is that only four Major League clubs -- the Yankees, Phillies, Red Sox and Mets -- have higher payrolls for 2011 than the Angels.

That hardly meets the standard of cheapness, on any reasonable scale.

After arbitrators ruled in favor of the Angels in Jered Weaver's hearing on Thursday, giving the right-hander a $7.365 million salary, the team payroll stands at $135.165 million.

Add the renewals anticipated for a half-dozen roster players not yet qualified for arbitration, and the total figures to settle at about $140 million. That probably would move the Angels past the Mets into fourth in the Majors.

The Angels' total payroll for 2010 was $123.8 million.

"This year it stretches, especially because of the two left-handers [Hisanori Takahashi and Scott Downs] we picked up," Moreno said. "We have plenty of flexibility next year."

According to the most recent calculations by Baseball-Reference.com, the Yankees ($197.8 million), Phillies ($158.1 million), Red Sox ($155.9 million) and Mets ($130.8 million) are the only teams with more invested in 2011 player personnel than the Angels.

The Angels' American League West rivals are well down the list. The defending champion Rangers are at $80.7 million, the Mariners at $79.5 million and the Athletics at $65.7 million.

Sizing up these comparative figures, it's not hard to see why the Angels would be reluctant to take on the $16 million Texas owes Michael Young for each of the next three seasons without sending significant salary back to the Rangers in any swap.

The Angels have Maicer Izturis, Alberto Callaspo and Brandon Wood, making about $5.6 million combined, on the depth chart at third base.

The Rangers reportedly would like a starting pitcher and a position player in a deal for Young, who is 34 and grew up in Southern California. He has requested a trade, with the Angels among eight teams on his list of acceptable locales. His role in Texas is somewhat up in the air following the signing of Beltre, but accommodating the club's acknowledged leader might not be easy given his price tag.

The only plausible deal that would make it close from a financial standpoint for the Angels would involve sending Scott Kazmir ($12 million this season, $2.5 million buyout of a $13.5 million 2012 option) and Bobby Abreu ($9 million this season, vesting '12 option for $9 million or $1 million buyout) to Texas in exchange for Young.

The problem with that exchange is that it would cost the Angels their fifth starter in Kazmir and a player who gives them much-needed production at the top of the order in Abreu, who projects as the primary designated hitter and swing outfielder this season.

Abreu, who turns 37 next month, is coming off his worst Major League season (.255 batting average, .352 on-base, .435 slugging). But the Angels anticipate a bounce-back performance from a durable athlete whose career line of .296/.400/.488 reflects the kind of production he has delivered.

Young's career slash line is .300/.347/.448. He was at .284/.330/.444 last year. Even in his worst season, Abreu reached base at a significantly higher rate and was comparable in slugging while playing in a neutral home park. Rangers Ballpark is among the acknowledged hitter-friendly parks in the Majors.

As for Kazmir, the Angels are banking on a new winter training regimen under their supervision having him in premium condition in an effort to rebound from a dismal 2010 season.

At 27, Kazmir theoretically should be in his prime. But he struggled last year to find his slider, and his fastball lost some of its former zip. His changeup, always effective, carried him through some rough spots when he was searching for command of his heater.

If he can dial it back to his form in Tampa Bay when he was a two-time All-Star who led the American League in strikeouts at age 23, the Angels would have a dominant rotation.

If Kazmir can be a serviceable No. 5 starter, it's a top-quality rotation fronted by Weaver and Dan Haren, with Ervin Santana and Joe Pineiro solid in the 3-4 slots.

Lyle Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.