NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The Angels further solidified their pitching staff at the Winter Meetings on Wednesday, agreeing to terms with starter Joe Blanton and reliever Sean Burnett on two-year deals, multiple sources told MLB.com. The question now is: Are they done with their offseason signings? Or, at the very least, done with their pursuit of top-tier starters, namely Zack Greinke? One would think so.
Burnett's contract is for $8 million -- plus a $4.5 million club option -- while Blanton's deal is believed to be worth $15 million, the two signings coming a week after Angels general manager Jerry Dipoto signed potential closer Ryan Madson and traded for ex-Braves starter Tommy Hanson. Those signings gave the Angels up to six capable starters, plenty of depth in the back end of the bullpen and -- after factoring projected arbitration salaries and minimum contracts -- a current payroll of roughly $140 million. How much further will Angels owner Arte Moreno stretch the payroll to add another starter the club doesn't need to have? That's the big question. The Angels finished last season with a payroll of about $159 million, and 2013's isn't expected to be so high. The more likely scenario is that it's at least $10-15 million less than that, but the club has not publicly stated a projection. The Angels' already-faint hopes to land Greinke, who many expect to command at least an average annual salary of $25 million over a six-year deal, have seemingly vanished. The likes of Anibal Sanchez, Kyle Lohse, Ryan Dempster and Edwin Jackson -- part of a pitching market that has seen inordinate amounts of money distributed -- would seemingly be ruled out, too. But several people briefed on the subject left the door open for the Angels to continue shopping, though to what degree is hard to tell. One source said Blanton is simply "a piece" for the rotation, not essentially the final piece. Barring another move, Blanton will slide in the middle of a rotation that sports Jered Weaver and C.J. Wilson in the front, and Hanson and Garrett Richards in the back, with Jerome Williams probably providing additional depth as a long reliever. Blanton, 31, went 10-13 with a 4.71 ERA in 31 games (30 starts) for the Phillies and Dodgers in 2012, the final season of a three-year, $24 million deal. The right-hander has been a durable innings-eater, but he has also been plagued by the long ball and consistently posted rather mediocre results, going 83-75 with a 4.37 ERA and a 1.34 WHIP from 2005-12. During that span, Blanton -- limited to 11 appearances in 2011 because of an elbow injury -- topped 190 innings six times, but he also gave up at least 27 homers in each of his last three full seasons. Burnett joins a bullpen that includes fellow lefty Scott Downs and righties Ernesto Frieri, Kevin Jepsen and Madson, who's expected to take over the closer's role after recovery from Tommy John surgery. Jordan Walden, who was traded to the Braves for Hanson, is gone, and the acquisition of Burnett probably means Nick Maronde goes back to starting in the Minor Leagues next season. "A lot better," Dipoto said when asked how he currently feels about a bullpen that was tied for the American League lead in blown saves last year. "I think we're starting to build the depth in the bullpen that we envisioned having." Burnett, 30, has posted a 2.76 ERA and a 1.23 WHIP in 176 1/3 innings while pitching for the Nationals from 2010-12, averaging 7.8 strikeouts and 2.7 walks per nine innings. Burnett throws sidearm, uses a heavy sinker to get a lot of ground balls -- 53.3 percent for his career -- and can also get right-handed hitters out. He had bone spurs removed from his pitching elbow in the offseason, but is expected to be fully healthy for Spring Training. "It's not like you're getting a straight situational lefty," Dipoto said, speaking to local reporters minutes before the Blanton deal was revealed. "This guy can handle left-handed hitters, he can handle the turnarounds, he's got a solid sinkerball, and he can attack. He's funky, he's tough to pick up, he puts the ball on the ground. It's a nice package for a left-hander, and like I said, I think he fits us very well."
Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Gonzo and "The Show", and follow him on Twitter @Alden_Gonzalez. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.