Winter Meetings interview with Jerry Dipoto

Winter Meetings interview with Jerry Dipoto

TIM MEAD: Good morning -- or good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. We appreciate you coming here for this afternoon's press conference. I'd like to introduce general manager Jerry Dipoto, with some opening comments about our transactions earlier today, and then we will open it up for questions. So, Jerry.

JERRY DIPOTO: Thank you everybody for joining us this morning. Just wanted to take what I'm sure will be more than a couple of minutes this morning to acknowledge that we have agreed in principle to deals with free-agent first baseman Albert Pujols and free-agent left-handed starter C.J. Wilson on contracts, obviously pending passing a successful physical.

It's a very exciting day for the Angels community, for Southern California as a whole. And we're very excited about what this can do to our future and what it means to this organization today. An exciting day.

I'll be available for any questions you'd like to ask. The one thing I will not discuss is the terms of either of the agreements.

Q. How did this thing come about and when? Sort of go through a reconstruct on the Pujols deal?

JERRY DIPOTO: I think it's a tribute to the aggressive nature, competitive nature and quality of our ownership with the Angels. We're in a unique position, as it pertains to our market, our location and the attractive nature of our club. I think many players around baseball desire to come to play for the Angels and this was a really good fit for our franchise and I believe it's an excellent fit for the players we're talking about here. We're talking about an iconic offensive player in his generation, to be sure. And we're talking about an ace-type starting pitcher, who's pitched on back-to-back American League championship clubs.

And we feel like the two of them, in addition to what we have in place with the Angels, gives us a very unique opportunity once we are secured and ready to move forward.

Q. Can you talk about how much thought you've given to your roster construction and particularly as it relates to Trumbo and Morales?

JERRY DIPOTO: This is, again, just based on the opportunity. You have the opportunity from an offensive perspective to plug one of the great hitters of all time into the middle of your lineup. And we feel like you can never have too much depth. As it pertains to Mark Trumbo and Kendrys Morales, we still have the benefit of playing in the American League, where we have first base at-bats, we have DH at-bats, corner outfielders at-bats. And we've discussed as we've gone through and into this season to date, Mark Trumbo is particularly athletic for his size. The power leads you to believe first base, but he's got a little bit of history at third base and in the outfield. We know those DH bats are there. We are still unaware of exactly the timetable for Kendrys Morales, but if we have all three healthy and clicking on all cylinders we're going to be in a really good position.

Q. Did you use the Winter Meetings here to really launch an aggressive pursuit of Albert Pujols? When did things speed up as far as getting face to face with Lozano, and how did you find out this morning you had the deal done?

JERRY DIPOTO: I'll answer the first question first. Just in the last couple of days, the pursuit, the interaction between ourselves and Albert's camp, Danny Lozano, has ramped up in these last couple of days.

But to answer the question how much thought we had given to this, a fair amount, as you might expect. These aren't quick, knee-jerk decisions. And you think through what you'd like to do for a roster, for an organization. As I led off with, the contributions that we believe these two players can make to our team. And I don't even want to make it all about these two players, because we feel like this is a tremendous addition. But we've also acquired via trade, Chris Iannetta, and also LaTroy Hawkins, we feel we've gotten deeper. Obviously none of them supersede the excitement of the day today.

I received a message this morning that he had made his decision, that he had informed the Cardinals of his decision and it was a fairly exciting moment for everybody in the Angel family.

Q. You talk about deliberating this and contemplating this. How big an obstacle is that 10-year commitment? How much do you have to overcome this, it's obviously a very long commitment?

JERRY DIPOTO: I won't address the length or terms of the contract. I appreciate the question. I won't go there.

Q. Did you ever imagine until obviously just recently that you'd be able to go out and sign both of these guys? How did that work with your owner and him giving you the go ahead to go ahead and pursue both of them?

JERRY DIPOTO: Obviously this is -- it's not a one-man show. We're a family. Arte Moreno is as competitive an owner and as genuine a person as there is in the game. And this is, in large part, a tribute to him. I don't want to undersell the involvement of C.J. Wilson and Albert Pujols and Danny Lozano and Bob Garber, but we all know this happens with this push; this domino effect is kicked into gear by Arte Moreno. And this is a pretty unique opportunity. Arte has made it very clear, he wants to win championships, he wants to win rings. And we think this is a way to move toward that goal. We still have to play 162 of them, but we feel like we're better today than we were yesterday.

Q. A couple of questions. One, you said you got a message this morning that Albert was coming your way. Could you be a little more specific, text, voicemail, how did you get the message?

Also, could you talk a little bit more about the extent of Arte Moreno's involvement in the negotiations. I understand that he met with Albert, once, maybe twice, could you talk about that and where and how that all came to be?

A. I won't discuss any of the particulars to the negotiation other than the fact that we have spoken with Danny. We have spoken with Albert. And I was informed this morning via text and call.

Q. In regards to C.J. Wilson, was there any consideration at all in talks with him that by getting him, you could take away from the team that won your division last year, subtracting from them in addition to adding to you?

JERRY DIPOTO: I'd like to tell you that was a focus at all, but truly, our thought was, C.J. Wilson has been one of the premier starting pitchers in the American League over the last few years, and we felt it was a fantastic opportunity for us to add a quality left-handed starter to our lineup. However that affects other teams is just how it affects other teams. I can't say that that was a primary focus.

Q. Looking at Albert's numbers the last three years, there's a clear decline. Why is that not a concern as you went ahead? What is it that makes you confident that the numbers will rebound?

JERRY DIPOTO: I don't necessarily see it as a clear decline. I see Albert Pujols as the most consistent offensive player of his generation. And if a decline still places you in the top five MVPs in the league, and we understand that players will go through peaks and valleys of sort, Albert has spent many years operating at the peaks. And if we want to call a decline going from superhuman to just great, I don't think we've seen the last great days of Albert Pujols, obviously, or we wouldn't be sitting here today.

Q. Did you go into this winter just looking to add a big bat or was it Albert? Did you come in thinking this is the guy we want and if we don't get him it wasn't like you had a plan B for Prince Fielder or somebody else, it was an Albert Pujols strategy?

JERRY DIPOTO: I think I've been clear in the off season, getting into this offseason was to address needs which we had cited as our starting rotation, creating more depth in our bullpen, changing the functionality or diversity in our Major League lineup, and we wanted to upgrade behind the plate in terms of the overall player, two-way player. I think we addressed all those. I can't say in my wildest dreams I thought we'd be sitting here today. And again, that is a tribute to C.J. Wilson, Albert Pujols and Arte Moreno, and the people on the Angels side. A lot has to go into making trades, signing players.

And you always have to be prepared. I used the term, make sure you keep your peripheral vision clear, because you're going to have to adjust along the way. In this particular regard I think we wound up in a situation where if once we get through these physicals we're going to be in a very exciting position for the organization.

Q. Obviously before you got -- long before you got here the Angels have been very aggressive in trying to take that L.A. market as their own. We all know what Albert can do on the field. What can he do for the Angels as a brand, as a business, with media rights and into your L.A. market?,p> JERRY DIPOTO: Obviously we're excited to have, as I said before, an iconic player. Albert's proven over the course of the last 11 years to be the best player in baseball. And whether it's offensively, overall impact, we feel like Albert brings so much more than just a bat in the lineup. You're talking about a Gold Glove defender, the leadership, the makeup, the character of the human being, the impact in the community. All of the things that he has consistently brought to the table through the years make this so much more than just a great baseball player. So we're very excited for what that does.

How it affects our market, Southern California, winning breeds interest. And we are setting ourselves up to start next season with an opportunity to be good.

Q. Was the strategy all along to come in and swoop in and make the offer or did something change, like, OK, in this certain moment, let's go for it, let's make our offer to this guy?

JERRY DIPOTO: I'd have to say, Bob, I didn't hear the first part of that.

Q. Was the strategy to kind of swoop in at the last minute with the offer or did something change or say, OK, let's go for this at the last minute?

JERRY DIPOTO: No, honestly there was no swooping strategy. We bided our time. I believe we exercised patience. We created a lot of different options in regard to the plans we had to improve our roster and when an opportunity like this exists you take advantage. And again, that's something that I can attribute to Arte's involvement.

Q. And were you monitoring the Pujols talks all along to see what the Marlins were doing, what the Cardinals were doing?

JERRY DIPOTO: Only inasmuch as you can. Only inasmuch as you can. I think we all get sucked into speculation. But truth be told, you never know what to believe and what not to believe. We went to a position where we were comfortable, that this was an option for the Angels. And we moved forward on it.

Q. Two questions: One, there's been some speculation over the years about just how old Pujols is. Are you comfortable and confident that he is 31?

And the history of these long-term contracts, mega long-term contracts has not been very positive. Why do you think, I assume you think, it will be positive for you guys, why?

JERRY DIPOTO: I will say that Albert Pujols' age to me is not a concern. He's an honorable man. I think he's a very respectful man, and I'm not a scientist. I can't tell you where he is. But I can tell you he hits like he's 27. I won't go into the next one, quite frankly I won't discuss the term of the contract, et cetera.

Q. I understand you're not discussing the term, but we know it's not a two-year contract or a three-year contract. In general, these long-term contracts have not been positive. Do you have a philosophy about giving out these kind of contracts? Why would you feel comfortable giving it out to anyone?

JERRY DIPOTO: I'll say this, that in regard to the evolution of a hitter, as hitters begin to age, into their 30s, to whatever point you can project, there's a certain quality or trait in a hitter, the patience, that they exhibit. Albert has had an extraordinary career in regard to maintaining control over the strike zone. And I have watched him play, like we all have, for so many years. We've had many discussions on how we feel he as a player will continue to evolve. Albert is still as big an impact bat after 11 years as there is in the game. And we feel confident that that's what we're placing into the Angels lineup.

Q. I wanted to ask you, we understand this is Arte Moreno's commitment, it's Arte Moreno's money, I want to know when did it first begin? Did you go to Arte and say, this would be a good way to remake this team. If we're going to be able to remake this team, this is the way we want to do it or was this Arte's inspiration?

JERRY DIPOTO: The reality is, we have talked. And I think our guys who have been with me on a daily or weekly basis, we have talked about so many different players, so many different opportunities or avenues, projected so many different potential rosters based on the dollars that we were allocating toward payroll in 2012 and beyond. And as you alluded to, I have discussed every one of the options with Arte Moreno, with Mike Scioscia, with our group, our front-office group. And once we had the opportunity to move on to Albert Pujols it became -- quite frankly, I won't limit it to Albert Pujols, because we had another very large signing today or agreement today. And this is obviously the moment where we have thrown our hat in the ring and said this is the team we wanted to put together.

I think Arte is particularly excited about where we sit today. And he made his decision, as you said, he's writing the check. But this is something that we provided where a number of different options and now we'll choose the opportunity that we think makes the most sense for the Angels.

We feel like we're an open window right now. With Weaver and Haren and Santana, now having the potential of waking up in 48 hours, 72 hours, with this type of roster is pretty enticing and exciting. We feel like we have a very good nucleus. And as I said before, you have to play 162 games to get beyond that and we feel very confident about what we've accomplished here in Dallas.

Q. You've referred several times to when you got the opportunity to move. When did that opportunity appear and can you sort of give us a little timeline of how that came about?

JERRY DIPOTO: As I said to start, this ramped up in the last couple of days. It certainly has since we've been here in Dallas.

Prior to that, like everything else, just spreading that net wide, understanding I mentioned to everybody who's asked, we've spread our net wide. We've contacted a variety of agents. We've had discussions with a variety of teams exploring all the different ways that our club could improve. And obviously we feel like this was an improvement for our club.

TIM MEAD: Thank you very much. We appreciate it. Jerry, thank you.