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Halos wrap Meetings with eye on free agents

Garza, Ibanez likely targets as general manager Dipoto looks to fill needs

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Jerry Dipoto rushed out of the Rule 5 Draft room with some of his front-office executives on Thursday morning, rollaway bag in hand and bound for Orlando International Airport to conclude his third Winter Meetings as Angels general manager.

No offers are on the table to any free agents, but the Angels continue to eye two in particular -- starting pitcher Matt Garza and outfielder/designated hitter Raul Ibanez. There is believed to be mutual interest on both accounts, and it may only be a matter of making them both fit within the $18 million or so the club has left under the luxury-tax threshold.

"We feel comfortable with our knowledge of the market, where it is, what our needs are," Dipoto said. "We'll continue to remain patient filling our needs."

Patience is something Dipoto afforded himself by acquiring two necessary starting pitchers in Tyler Skaggs and Hector Santiago. The Angels no longer technically need to add starting pitching -- though they no doubt will -- and can allow the market to play out, while remaining resigned to the idea of adding anyone tied to Draft pick compensation.

Garza remains at the top of their list, but the Angels could also turn to the likes of Bronson Arroyo, Jason Hammel and Paul Maholm if the 30-year-old right-hander's price demands don't come down.

Michael Morse (Giants) and Corey Hart (Mariners) each recently agreed to one-year deals worth a guaranteed $6 million, but Ibanez will probably have to command less than that if the Angels are to have room on the budget for Garza.

If a deal with Ibanez isn't reached, the Angels could turn to Jason Kubel, Kevin Youkilis or Eric Chavez.

They'll bid on Masahiro Tanaka if he gets posted, but they won't wait on him.

"We're going to stay dialed in with the pitching targets that we've engaged with right now," Dipoto said. "We're not hesitating to move forward with our offseason plan. When the opportunity comes for us, we'll seize it. If the opportunity doesn't come, we'll patiently wait. We feel like we have flexibility with this group."

Deals done: Sent Mark Trumbo and a player to be named, starting-pitching prospect A.J. Schugel, to the D-backs in a three-team trade that brought in 22-year-old lefty Tyler Skaggs (from the D-backs) and 25-year-old lefty Hector Santiago (White Sox).

Rule 5 activity: Traded for the Blue Jays' selection, the Halos acquired left-handed reliever Brian Moran in the Major League phase and picked right-handed reliever Jose Valdivia in the Minor League portion. With Moran in, the Angels' 40-man roster currently sits at 39.

Goals accomplished: The Angels finally attained much-needed cost-controlled starting pitching and some flexibility in their rotation. With Skaggs and Santiago in the mix, they now have five starting pitchers they'd feel comfortable starting the season with. Three of them -- including 25-year-old Garrett Richards -- have options left.

Unfinished business: They're not done addressing the starting rotation and they need to find a bat to fill the void left by Trumbo. With roughly $18 million of wiggle room before hitting the luxury-tax threshold of $189 million, the Angels will look to free agency, where 30-year-old starter Garza and 41-year-old outfielder/designated hitter Ibanez are prime targets.

Team's bottom line: "We're pointed towards potential improvements in our pitching staff, and obviously we now have an offensive void to fill," Dipoto said. "No real expectation of replacing Mark Trumbo, but finding ways to continue to let the offense move and find ways to make our pitching staff better."

Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for Read his blog, Gonzo and "The Show", and follow him on Twitter @Alden_Gonzalez.

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim