Friday, the last day before the floodgates burst open on free agency, will be a big one for the Angels.
By 2 p.m. PT, Angels general manager Jerry Dipoto must decide whether or not to tender Torii Hunter a qualifying offer in order to receive Draft-pick compensation if Hunter signs elsewhere. And by 9 p.m. PT, Dipoto must decide on the $15.5 million club option in Dan Haren's contract.
Haren continues to be shopped by the Angels, who two days ago dealt Ervin Santana and most of his 2013 salary to the Royals for Minor League lefty Brandon Sisk.
With regards to Hunter, don't expect the Angels to tender a qualifying offer, which, under the current Collective Bargaining Agreement, is $13.3 million for all pending free agents.
In fact, sources have confirmed that the chances of the Angels re-signing Hunter this offseason -- regardless of his desire to return, and regardless of how much Dipoto and owner Arte Moreno may value him -- currently seem "very unlikely."
The presence of Vernon Wells and his $42 million earnings over the next two years, coupled by the Angels' desire to address their pitching depth, have led to a sizable monetary gap between them and Hunter, and that will push the 37-year-old outfielder to -- at the very least -- test the open market.
Dipoto and Hunter's agent, Larry Reynolds, have been in touch this offseason, and the Angels are believed to have made Hunter a formal offer, but not at a price Hunter and his representation deem fair, according to a source.
The fact the Angels aren't expected to tender a qualifying offer, which is nearly $5 million less than what Hunter made during a strong 2012 season, is a rather telling sign.
"It's kind of disappointing," Hunter told the Los Angeles Times, "but what are you going to do?"
Hunter thrived while hitting predominantly in the No. 2 spot of the lineup in 2012, batting a career-high .313 while hitting 16 homers, providing excellent defense in right field, coming up big in September and continuing to be an important clubhouse leader and community face.
But given his age, his 258 strikeouts the past two years and his career-high .389 batting average on balls in play in 2012, the Angels are not convinced that Hunter can duplicate his success, making them reluctant to go above and beyond to fit him in their already-crowded outfield, a source said.
But parting ways with Wells -- which they'll try hard to do -- could change that.
The Yankees, Tigers, Rangers, Red Sox, Orioles and Nationals, among others, are expected to express interest in Hunter once the Angels' exclusive negotiating window ends Friday. Hunter's preference is to stay in Anaheim, and he'll still give the Angels top priority.
But he can't wait around forever.
"Nothing against the Angels, but they have a lot of things going on," Hunter told the L.A. Times. "They have their hands tied right now."
Haren is expected to bring back a better return than Santana, especially when you consider that they're both priced at $12 million once you factor in their buyouts.
Like they did with Santana, the Angels may be willing to kick in the price of the buyout in order to get a player back in return. But unlike with Santana, the Angels are also floating the possibility of picking up Haren's option, either to trade him later in the offseason or perhaps even keep him around for next season, though the latter is a very remote possibility.
The hefty price of Haren's buyout -- $3.5 million, as opposed to the $1 million in Santana's contract -- and Haren's success from 2005-11 have the Angels wanting more than a Minor League journeyman in return.
But the rough season Haren endured this past season -- with a career-high 4.33 ERA, a career-low 176 2/3 innings and his first stint on the disabled list (lower back problems) -- has obviously dropped his appeal.
Haren's preference all along has been to return to the Angels, and he reiterated that sentiment in an e-mail to a couple of media outlets on Thursday.
"I think they should keep me, just because the uncertainty of the free-agent market and the fact that replacing me is gonna cost some money," Haren told ESPNLosAngeles.com. "I have a big upside and I feel like I'd be low-risk being on a one-year deal.
"I would come back if we worked out something fair for both sides, but I'm not getting a feeling from them that the feeling is mutual."