ANAHEIM -- With shortstop Erick Aybar signed to a four-year extension, the Angels now have six players locked up through at least two of their upcoming free agent years: First baseman Albert Pujols (through 2021), Aybar ('16), starters Jered Weaver ('16) and C.J. Wilson ('16), second baseman Howie Kendrick ('15) and left fielder Vernon Wells ('14).
That's a whole lot of money, and very little financial flexibility moving forward.
The Angels currently rank fourth in the Majors in payroll at about $155 million and already have a lot of money tied up down the road, even with the contracts of Torii Hunter and Bobby Abreu expiring at the end of the season. The Angels are already on the hook for $120.8 million in 2013 if they exercise their team options on Dan Haren, Ervin Santana and Chris Iannetta. Plus, they already owe $94.9 million in 2014, $79.05 million in 2015 and $74.2 million in 2016 -- without counting arbitration-eligible players, zero-to-three service time guys and, of course, additions they'd like to make to the roster.
That makes younger, cheaper, homegrown players like Peter Bourjos, Mark Trumbo and Jordan Walden even more valuable.
"What it'll do is it'll put an onus on our scouting and player-development systems to develop more players to add to our Major League roster, to create the kind of flexibility we need, both in terms of payroll and to the 25-man roster," general manager Jerry Dipoto said of the limited payroll flexibility.
"The easiest way you're going to create flexibility, and both forms of flexibility [on the payroll and on the roster], is to build from within. You have to do it. It's how this organization got where it was 10 years ago, and it's how we're going to maintain that position."
A big appeal for Dipoto in signing Kendrick (four-year, $33.5 million deal) and Aybar ($35 million) to extensions before they hit free agency was building a consistent foundation up the middle.
In the end, the Angels spent an additional $68.5 million on their double-play combo. But both deals were team-friendly when considering what they might have garnered via free agency, and both gave Dipoto two more long-term pieces for what he believes is a championship-contending core.
"What is it that you're trying to attain? You're trying to attain prime years for middle-of-the-field players who can go do positive things, on contracts that I think, quite frankly, are good for the club and good for the player," Dipoto said. "They achieved what their goals would be -- they got to stay where they wanted to stay and their families are going to be taken care of -- and we achieved what we wanted to achieve. And we get good players for the next four or five years that are going to impact our team."