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Inbox: Where will the pitching help come from?

It's almost Thanksgiving, and still no pitching.

The Angels entered free agency with at least two holes to fill in the rotation and a need to upgrade the bullpen. Save for a collection of Minor League contracts, those two areas remain untouched.

But the offseason is still very young, the vast majority of free agents remain on the board and the Angels have freed up money by choosing to let fan favorite Torii Hunter walk, buying out Dan Haren for $3.5 million and getting the Royals to absorb more than 90 percent of Ervin Santana's 2013 contract.

One problem: The free-agent market, expected to be the lifeblood for the Angels' pitching needs, may be more expensive than anticipated. That's what happens when Jeremy Affeldt gets $9.5 million to rejoin the Giants, or Brandon League nets a three-year, $22.5 million deal to re-sign with the Dodgers, or Scott Baker gets $5.5 million from the Cubs after pitching all of one-third of an inning in 2012.

On to your questions, via the second installment of the offseason Inbox ...

So the main focus for the Angels was supposed to be pitching, but it seems that we traded a lot of pitching depth away for interesting alternatives. What will be the plan if Zack Greinke decides to go elsewhere?
-- Asa N., Cedar City, Utah

Thanks for the question, because it leads me to something I've been thinking about: Would the Angels be better off if Greinke signed elsewhere?

I know it sounds crazy, given what they gave up to get him and how much better he is than any other available starting pitcher. But let me explain. The Angels already have an ace, in Jered Weaver. They have two holes to fill in their rotation, plus the bullpen. And contracts like the one Greinke will get -- his price tag has reportedly been as high as $150 million on a six-year deal -- are hardly ever beneficial for the club long term.

The free-agent market is deprived of aces, but littered with very solid second-tier starters, like Anibal Sanchez, Kyle Lohse and Hiroki Kuroda, just to name a few. It's unlikely that the Angels can sign Greinke and one of those three, given the need to also address the bullpen. But if Greinke signs elsewhere, they have more flexibility.

Crazy? Perhaps.

But one thing's for sure: The faster Greinke makes his decision, the better off the Angels will be. Right now, they're basically handcuffed.

What are the better chances of getting Greinke back, long term or short term?
-- Scott N., Rochester, N.Y.

It'd be long term, on no less than a five-year contract. And I would say the Angels' chances are as good as anyone's, because they can give him a big contract and he enjoyed his two-month stint in Anaheim. Better? Tough to say. Greinke didn't want to talk about pending free agency all year and his new agent, Casey Close, has chosen not to comment. One positive for the Angels is that the two payroll juggernauts, the Yankees and Red Sox, won't be a factor. Neither will the Braves, long seen as an ideal landing spot for Greinke. But the Dodgers and Rangers could really mess up their plans.

What are the chances Angels general manager Jerry Dipoto explores the trade market? A guy like R.A. Dickey, who won a Cy Young, could be too expensive for the Mets to retain long term. Maybe a trade using our last chips are in order.
-- Sean F., Tustin, Calif.

It doesn't look like the trade market is a very viable option for the Angels because they don't have very much to offer. They were short on prime pitching prospects even before sending Ariel Pena and John Hellweg to Milwaukee as part of the Greinke deal. Hank Conger? He won't yield much until he proves he can stick as an everyday catcher in the big leagues. Peter Bourjos? He'll be counted on to play every day now that Hunter is in Detroit. Garrett Richards? The Angels are hoping he claims a spot in their rotation next year. Clearly, free agency is the Angels' best bet.

Will the Angels sign another outfielder?
-- Michael M., Dana Point, Calif.

Aside from Minor League deals, like the ones given recently to J.B. Shuck and Trent Oeltjen, no. They're set, with Bourjos, Mike Trout and Mark Trumbo getting regular playing time and Vernon Wells serving as the fourth guy. That's why they weren't very motivated to bring back Hunter in the first place, offering him a low-ball one-year, $5 million contract. I still think they trade Wells if they find someone willing to take a reasonable portion of the $42 million owed to him over the next two years. What's "reasonable"? Only Dipoto knows that.

Is Dipoto willing to test Kendrys Morales' trade value, as he'll be a free agent after 2013? Trumbo would then DH while a need, like the bullpen, could be filled.
-- Alan M., Brazil

I'd be shocked if Morales were traded this offseason. The Angels see him as a bargain at roughly $6 million -- what he could net in arbitration -- because he's a crucial left-handed presence in a lineup that leans very heavily to the right. Morales surprised many by hitting .273 with 22 homers in 2012, his first season removed from a couple of ankle surgeries, and could do even better in 2013. Given his representation (Scott Boras) and his desire to be more than a DH, Morales will probably leave as a free agent next offseason. The Angles seem OK with that because of what he can give them in 2013.

How can the Angels upgrade at third base?
-- Oscar R., Irvine, Calif.

Probably by waiting on Kaleb Cowart, currently the No. 1 prospect in their system, to be ready. In an ideal world, Alberto Callaspo mans third base in 2013 and Cowart is ready by 2014. Wishful thinking? Perhaps, given that Cowart is only 20 years old and will play his first season of Double-A in 2013. But they really like him, elite third basemen are rare and hard to come by, and Callaspo fits for now. He may not be your prototypical third baseman, but he plays solid defense and draws walks. The Angels get their power elsewhere.

Los Angeles Angels, Kaleb Cowart, Zack Greinke, Kendrys Morales