Angels may approach free agency carefully

Angels general manager Jerry Dipoto was fairly coy when asked by Steve Mason and John Ireland on 710 ESPN today if his team would get involved with any of the big-name free agents who just hit the market.

By now, most people probably know who those guys are -- sluggers Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder, shortstop Jose Reyes, pitchers C.J. Wilson and Jonathan Papelbon. Without going into specifics, Dipoto said the Angels would be active in the free-agent market, but then dropped this:

"Sometimes, the best free agents you can acquire are via trades,” Dipoto said. “There are so many different ways to acquire a player in today’s game. A team might be moving a contract, they might be moving a player who’s bearing down on free agency or getting up there in arbitration. The economics of it are there are 30 different teams in 30 different situations.”

One way of condensing that answer to fit the previous question might be: No (At least, not yet).

Angels owner Arte Moreno laid out the parameters when speaking to reporters after Dipoto was introduced as the new GM Saturday. He would like to keep the payroll capped at $140 million. Already, the Angels are on the hook for $99 million going to players on long-term deals. They'll have to shell out about $19 million more to players going to arbitration. The guys making the minimum salary will eat up another $2 million or so.

That leaves -- at most -- $20 million for Dipoto to play with. The Angels would like to add a reliever, a starting pitcher and, maybe a hitter who can get on base and drive the ball. Pujols and Fielder figure to make more than that by themselves.

So, unless Dipoto can find a way to unload salary without compromising his club too much in the process, the Angels don't figure to be in play for the biggest names out there. Guys like Bobby Abreu ($9 million) and Vernon Wells ($21 million) aren't exactly easy to move.

So, before the Angels figure to wade into the deep end of the free-agency pool, Dipoto's going to have to flash some of the skills the Angels just hired him for.