LA Angels at Payroll Limit: With Free-Agent Signings Over, Is a Trade Possible?

Gil Imber@RefereeOrganistAnalyst IIJanuary 9, 2012

New Angels Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson represent a financial commitment worth over $325 million
New Angels Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson represent a financial commitment worth over $325 millionStephen Dunn/Getty Images

For the Los Angeles Angels and their fans in the city of Anaheim, this 2011-12 MLB offseason has been one of the most exciting in franchise history.

From signing superstar first baseman Albert Pujols to acquiring pitchers C.J. Wilson and LaTroy Hawkins, the Angels have gone on a tremendous spending spree, signing several significant free agents in an effort to become World Series favorites heading into 2012.

To recap, the following list includes free agents the Angels have signed since their 2011 season concluded in early October:

  • Albert Pujols (Dec. 10)
  • C.J. Wilson (Dec. 10)
  • LaTroy Hawkins (Dec. 14)
  • Eric Hurley (Dec. 16)^
  • Ryan Langerhans (Dec. 27)^
  • Doug Deeds (Jan. 6)^
  • Jorge Cantu (Jan. 7)^*

After signing Pujols to a landmark 10-year, $254 million deal and Wilson to a five-year, $77.5 million contract, the Angels paid just $3.0 million in a one-year deal with Hawkins.

In turn, the Angels' 2012 payroll will increase from $142 million in 2011 to a projected $160-plus million next season, a franchise record that signals the Halos are likely done signing free agents this offseason. GM Jerry Dipoto recently indicated, "We've had a fairly significant level of economic change [this offseason] ... We've addressed the areas we wanted to address."

With their recent four-year, $33.5 million commitment to second baseman Howie Kendrick this weekend—not to mention Jered Weaver's five-year, $85 million contract extension back in August—the Angels appear to be financially tapped out until at least spring training.

Yet while Dipoto advised his club is out of the free-agent game for the next few months, he slyly suggested the Angels are not ruling out the possibility of a particularly tantalizing trade: "If there are ways to help our club along using creative ways, we'll do that."

The Angels already attempted to solve their catching woes by trading Jeff Mathis and acquiring Chris Iannetta in exchange for notable prospect Tyler Chatwood, and the club could stand to upgrade the offensive production out of their third base position.

Third baseman Alberto Callaspo recorded a .288 batting average in 2011, a figure that may not look great on paper but did earn Callaspo the No. 3 spot among eligible third basemen in all of baseball.

However, Callaspo's six home runs ranked just 28th among MLB third basemen, while his 46 RBI placed him tied for 19th with Wilson Betemit of the Detroit Tigers.

Though Pujols looks to be a giant leap in the right direction for solving the Angels' lack of power, a stronger third baseman would improve the team even more: Callaspo's 2011 slugging percentage of .375 was 10th among 3B qualifiers, .057 points behind Arizona's Ryan Roberts and over .100 behind Baltimore's Mark Reynolds.

If Kendrys Morales completes a successful return, with extras Bobby Abreu at DH and Mark Trumbo rumored to be learning how to play the hot corner, someone will be expendable.

The only question is who and what caliber player could the Angels get for that person?


^Indicates a minor league contract.
*CBS Sports reports the Angels signed third baseman Jorge Cantu to a minor league deal on Jan. 7.