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Second base tops Angels' Meetings agenda

After Ohtani splash, Halos hope to find new keystone starter, add to infield, pitching
MLB.com @mi_guardado

The Angels made a significant splash on Friday when they emerged as the surprise winners of the race for Japanese two-way star Shohei Ohtani. They could make a few more next week in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., which will host the annual Winter Meetings from Sunday to Thursday.

The Angels already have addressed some holes in their roster by landing Ohtani, re-signing left fielder Justin Upton and acquiring veteran reliever Jim Johnson, but work remains for general manager Billy Eppler and his staff. Among their priorities will be finding a new starting second baseman and perhaps adding a corner infielder to bolster their offense.

The Angels made a significant splash on Friday when they emerged as the surprise winners of the race for Japanese two-way star Shohei Ohtani. They could make a few more next week in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., which will host the annual Winter Meetings from Sunday to Thursday.

The Angels already have addressed some holes in their roster by landing Ohtani, re-signing left fielder Justin Upton and acquiring veteran reliever Jim Johnson, but work remains for general manager Billy Eppler and his staff. Among their priorities will be finding a new starting second baseman and perhaps adding a corner infielder to bolster their offense.

Here's a look at where the Angels stand heading into the Winter Meetings.

• Hot Stove Tracker

Club needs

Second base: The Angels struggled to get consistent production out of second base this past season before trading for veteran Brandon Phillips, who took over the position in September but is now a free agent. An heir apparent does not currently reside within the Angels' organization, as infielder Kaleb Cowart has played only 42 Major League games at the position and still needs to make more strides offensively. One potential target came off the board on Thursday, when the Mariners acquired Dee Gordon from the Marlins, but other second-base options still exist on both the free-agent and trade markets for the Angels, who are sure to explore every realistic avenue this winter.

Corner infield: Since Luis Valbuena plays first and third base, the Angels have the flexibility to explore potential upgrades at both corner-infield spots. While they had been connected to a few free-agent first basemen, their focus could shift to third base now that Albert Pujols is expected to play more first to allow Ohtani to serve as a part-time designated hitter when he's not pitching.

Pitching: Ohtani gives the Angels another hard-throwing right-hander to pair with Garrett Richards at the top of their rotation, but the club could look to add more options given the injury history of many of their starters. While the Angels bolstered their bullpen depth by acquiring Johnson from the Braves last week, they could also continue to monitor the relief market and search for more arms to round out their staff.

Video: Guardado discusses Johnson, offseason projections

Who they can trade if necessary

1B C.J. Cron: If Valbuena and Pujols are available to play first base next season, Cron would likely become expendable for the Angels. A former first-round Draft pick, Cron is a career .262 hitter with a .307 on-base percentage and has proven to be quite streaky over his first four seasons in the Majors. The 27-year-old is entering his first year of arbitration, and he is projected to earn $2.8 million next season, according to MLBTradeRumors.com.

Top prospects

The Angels' farm system has received a significant injection of talent this week following the additions of Ohtani and former Braves prospects Kevin Maitan and Livan Soto. Ohtani, who is now the Angels' No. 1 prospect, according to MLBPipeline.com, has the potential to be a difference-maker in 2018, but the Halos don't have many other impact prospects in the upper levels of their farm system.

Video: Jim Callis joins MLB Tonight to discuss the Angels

Rule 5 Draft

Once the Ohtani signing becomes official, the Angels' 40-man roster will stand at 38, so they still have room to make a selection during the Rule 5 Draft if desired. Last year, the Angels drafted pitcher Justin Haley and immediately traded him to the Padres in exchange for cash considerations. They hold the No. 17 pick in the 2017 Rule 5 Draft, which will take place on Dec. 14.

Big contracts they might unload

The Angels owe Pujols $114 million over the next four seasons, but the length and value of his contract, plus the 37-year-old's notable decline in production this past season, makes him virtually unmovable. The Angels have also made significant commitments to Trout ($99.75 million over three years) and Upton ($106 million over five years), but the two sluggers headline the club's young core, so they aren't going anywhere.

Payroll summary

The Angels have $109.7 million in guaranteed salary for 2018, with Trout ($33.25 million), Pujols ($27 million), Upton ($16 million), Andrelton Simmons ($11 million), Kole Calhoun ($8.5 million), Valbuena ($8 million), Johnson ($4.5 million) and Blake Wood ($1.45 million) already under contract. They are also projected to spend $26.3 million on their 10 arbitration-eligible players, according to MLBTradeRumors.com. The Angels have kept their Opening Day payroll around $165 million the last two years, so they'd have about $30 million left to spend if they maintained that threshold in 2018.

Maria Guardado covers the Angels for MLB.com.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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