ANAHEIM -- This is a very different offseason for the Angels, for one major reason: Prudence.
Unlike two years ago, when the $240 million Albert Pujols contract left them with no money to spend on a thin bullpen, or one year ago, when the $125 million Josh Hamilton splurge handcuffed their ability to add starting pitching, the Angels -- for better or worse -- seem determined to stay flexible and not get cajoled into contracts they're uncomfortable with this winter.
Further evidence of that came Thursday, when starting pitcher Matt Garza -- a player the Angels targeted since November -- appeared to have slipped from their grasp by nearing agreement on a reported four-year, $52 million contract with the Brewers.
Four guaranteed years with an average annual value of $13 million is a relatively fair market price for the 30-year-old Garza, who has averaged 10 wins with a 3.76 ERA over the last six years and isn't tied to Draft-pick compensation. And had the money been equal, indications are that Garza, a California guy, would've preferred the Angels.
But the AAV would've pushed the Angels right up against the $189 million luxury-tax threshold, and four years for a guy who has been on the disabled list each of the last three seasons with arm injuries might have made them a little skittish. So, the Angels, begrudgingly, turned away.
If nothing else, it's consistent with how they've gone about their entire offseason.
The Angels wanted to re-sign Jason Vargas, but wouldn't give him four guaranteed years and watched him sign a four-year, $32 million contract with the Royals.
They liked Masahiro Tanaka, but given the certainty that his contract would exceed $100 million -- ultimately $155 million over seven years, courtesy of the Yankees -- they didn't even bother to meet with him.
So, what's next?
Patience -- more of it.
The Angels' projected starting rotation currently consists of Jered Weaver, C.J. Wilson, Garrett Richards, Hector Santiago and Tyler Skaggs, the latter two acquired in exchange for Mark Trumbo, putting them in a situation where they don't feel they need to add starting pitching. Joe Blanton (if not released), Mark Mulder (if he accepts a Minor League assignment), Wade LeBlanc and Matt Shoemaker currently make up their starting-pitching depth, an area they'll look to shore up in the coming weeks.
The Angels still aren't expected to give up their 15th overall Draft pick to sign Ubaldo Jimenez or Ervin Santana, and it seems very unlikely that A.J. Burnett would want to pitch on the West Coast -- or pitch at all -- in 2014.
So, in the three weeks leading up to pitchers and catchers reporting, the Angels will seek a bargain from the lower tier of free-agent starters or, perhaps, do nothing at all, holding onto their remaining funds in hopes of potentially adding a starting pitcher in-season.
"We're keeping an eye on the pitchers on the market that we feel like make sense for us, and maintaining a rhetoric with those guys," Angels general manager Jerry Dipoto said Wednesday. "If opportunity knocks, we'll be there, and if it doesn't, we're very happy moving forward with the group we have."
Below is a look at five free-agent starters who may still be options for the Angels, provided that Garza's deal with the Brewers ultimately gets finalized:
Bronson Arroyo: He's 36 but durable, averaging 207 innings since 2004 and never once going on the DL. During that 10-year span, Arroyo has posted a 4.10 ERA, a 1.27 WHIP and a 2.54 strikeout-to-walk ratio. He gives up a lot of homers (a Major League-leading 252 since '06) and doesn't strike out a lot of batters (5.8 per nine in his career), but his numbers have been very respectable in a tough pitcher's park like Cincinnati's Great American Ball Park. The Dodgers' reported interest may price him away from the Angels, though.
Jason Hammel: The 31-year-old right-hander may make sense on an incentive-laden contract. Hammel missed seven weeks with a flexor strain in his pitching elbow last season with the Orioles, and finished with a 4.97 ERA, a 1.46 WHIP and a 2.0 strikeout-to-walk ratio. But his average fastball velocity was 92.7 mph in 2013 and he had a solid 2012, posting a 3.43 ERA in 20 starts despite knee surgery.
Chris Capuano: The 35-year-old lefty spent 40 days on the disabled list with groin and left shoulder injuries in 2013, finishing his Dodgers season with a 4.26 ERA, a career-high 10.6 hits per nine innings, the lowest strikeout rate since his shortened rookie season (6.9) and a lost September. Strangely, though, the Tommy John product's average fastball velocity was the highest of his career, jumping from 86.7 mph to 88.4 mph from one year to the next.
Paul Maholm: He doesn't strike out many people (5.8 per nine innings in his career) and doesn't throw very hard (average fastball velocity of 87.5 mph in 2013), but the 31-year-old left-hander gets a lot of ground balls. He has a career ground-ball percentage of .521 and has been pretty durable, averaging 181 innings per season since 2006. With the Braves last year, Maholm was limited to 153 innings with a wrist sprain and elbow inflammation. His ERA jumped to 4.41 and he was replaced by Freddy Garcia for the playoffs. The Cubs and Rangers have been linked.
Scott Baker: The 32-year-old right-hander had a 3.98 ERA with the Twins from 2007-11, then spent 15 months recovering from Tommy John surgery -- from April 2012 to July 2013 -- and was missing a couple ticks off his fastball upon returning. He posted a 5.46 ERA in eight rehab starts in the Cubs' system, then a 3.60 ERA in three Major League starts in September. The Mariners and Indians have been deemed as heavy favorites, probably for an incentive-laden deal.
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.Less