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Angels keep tabs on free agents as Meetings wind down

Garza appears to be club's top target; Ibanez would fill need for lefty-swinging DH

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Angels general manager Jerry Dipoto called Wednesday a "relatively quiet day" and said that the chances he signs a free agent before the Winter Meetings wrap up Thursday morning are "highly unlikely."

Things can change quickly in this setting, though -- especially for an Angels team that continues to be aggressive in its desire to add a starting pitcher and a bat via free agency.

There's mutual interest in a pairing with starter Matt Garza, a source told on Wednesday, and's Jayson Stark reported that veteran outfielder/designated hitter Raul Ibanez "appears headed to the Angels."

The Angels have expressed interest in the 41-year-old left-handed hitter, who posted a .242/.306/.487 slash line with 29 homers for the Mariners last season, but no deal had been struck.

After Tuesday's three-team trade, which sent Mark Trumbo to the D-backs for young lefty starters Tyler Skaggs and Hector Santiago, the Angels have roughly $18 million of wiggle room before hitting the luxury-tax threshold. They haven't shown any willingness to sign someone tied to Draft pick compensation -- which would eliminate Kendrys Morales -- and they're likely to spend a lot more on an additional starter than they are on another bat.

"Still staying open-minded," Dipoto said of his pursuit of starting pitching. "We have been in contact with a number of different free agents. We clearly have a list of our own -- I'm not going to get into the names; that's not good business for us or the player -- and we're open-minded in how we approach it. We're in a position where we did greatly improve our depth, and we created more flexibility."

Garza appears to remain the top priority, but a lot of teams are interested, and he could get expensive as a 30-year-old not tied to Draft pick compensation. Bronson Arroyo, 36, remains an outside possibility, but his asking price would need to lower. And if Japanese ace Masahiro Tanaka gets posted, the Angels certainly will be interested.

The Angels never had much interest in Bartolo Colon -- who agreed to a two-year, $20 million deal with the Mets late Wednesday afternoon -- but they could move on to the likes of Jason Hammel, Chris Capuano and Paul Maholm, if they don't land some of the starters in a higher tier.

Their current five-man rotation consists of Jered Weaver, C.J. Wilson, Garrett Richards, Santiago and Skaggs -- with Santiago more likely for the big leagues, as a starter or a swing man, and Skaggs possibly starting the season in Triple-A.

"I don't think Jerry is done as far as trying to find pitching depth and adding to the rotation," manager Mike Scioscia said. "He has a lot of things on the table that he's looking at. ... I think we're in a much more solid side on the pitching end than we were for most season last year."

Scioscia said "there's a number of ways" the Angels can go with a bat to fill Trumbo's void, with right fielder Kole Calhoun also capable of manning first base. They'd prefer to get a left-handed hitter and aren't against signing someone who can serve only as a DH, which is why an Ibanez pairing makes sense. Corey Hart (a reported one-year, $6 million deal with incentives from the Mariners) came off the board on Wednesday, but guys like Michael Morse, Jason Kubel and Kevin Youkilis are still out there.

"There's a lot of different ways that can work," Dipoto said. "I think as a full-time designated hitter, the left-handed bat does bring some balance to our lineup as more of a rotating position."

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