Hanson, Nelson and Gutierrez, who was designated for assignment to make room for new reliever Joe Smith five days ago, were no-brainers to become free agents prior to the 9 p.m. PT deadline.
Williams offered up an intriguing dilemma.
Since being acquired from independent ball in June 2011, Williams has provided the Angels with some valuable flexibility as an innings-eating reliever and part-time starter, posting a 4.46 ERA in 79 appearances (46 starts).
In a vacuum, they probably would've considered paying Williams his projected arbitration salary to return in the same role. But when Joe Blanton will be making $7.5 million despite having no place on the staff, and Josh Hamilton and Albert Pujols absorbing much of the payroll, Williams' presence became a luxury for which the Angels weren't willing to allocate that much money.
Now, they project to be roughly $15 million below the luxury-tax threshold of $189 million, giving them more flexibility to add at least two starting pitchers to a staff that only has Jered Weaver, C.J. Wilson and Garrett Richards returning.
"We wanted to remain as flexible as we could as we worked through the offseason," Angels general manager Jerry Dipoto said, "and we felt like this was the best move for the club in order to do that."
Hanson, projected to make about $4 million next season, was acquired from the Braves for Jordan Walden last November and struggled mightily in his first exposure to the American League. His stuff continued to erode, he had a hard time holding runners, and by Aug. 7, upon his demotion to Triple-A, Hanson had a 5.59 ERA and an opponents' OPS of .838.
Nelson -- claimed off waivers in mid-May -- is slated to make $1 million in his first year of arbitration eligibility, but he batted .219/.283/.365 while playing every day in August, missed the last month of the season with a hamstring injury and has no role with Freese on board.
With a bullpen that already includes seven notable arms in Frieri, Smith, Salas, Jepsen, Sean Burnett, Michael Kohn and Dane De La Rosa, there was no real room for Gutierrez or Williams, either.
"It's always a tough decision when you're making determinations whether to move forward with a player or not, whether to sign a player to a contract or not, whether to do a trade or not," Dipoto said. "Obviously we still have plans for what we both want and need through the remainder of the offseason, and we just wanted to put ourselves in a position of flexibility and felt like, with making this move, we were able to do that."