LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — Jerry Dipoto turned Mark Trumbo into three arms and a bat. That is the work of a magician.
Provided, of course, that the Angels get solid production from those three arms and a bat. If not, the Angels' general manager just made 30 home runs disappear, and maybe his job with it.
On Monday, when the Angels arrived at the winter meetings, they had a three-man starting rotation. On Tuesday, they got to the minimum five, trading Trumbo to the Arizona Diamondbacks in a three-way deal that brought left-hander Tyler Skaggs from Arizona and left-hander Hector Santiago from the Chicago White Sox.
That is Step 1.
The Angels saved about $3 million in the trade, giving them about $18 million in available funds. Step 2 is to sign veteran Matt Garza, if he agrees to a short-term deal, or perhaps a lesser free-agent starter along the lines of Chris Capuano, Jason Hammel or Mike Pelfrey. Step 3 is to sign a free-agent hitter along the lines of Raul Ibanez or Eric Chavez.
Then the Angels could use Santiago as a swingman, at the head of a depth chart among starting pitchers that did not exist last season. They could use the bat to make up maybe half the pop they lost by trading Trumbo. And, most important, they could pray that Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton resemble their pre-Anaheim selves.
Whether this is a three-step plan to contention or oblivion could depend largely on the unproven pitchers Dipoto acquired Tuesday. With little in the way of prospects to offer or money to spend, Dipoto spent his most valuable trade chip on two starting pitchers with a total of 11 major league victories.
This, he insisted, was Plan A.
"If we were moving Mark in any deal, we were going to get young pitchers that we could grow up with," Dipoto said.
Translation: We needed cheap labor with potential, not proven arms with hefty price tags or free agency in the near future. That's what you get when the Pujols and Hamilton signings inflate the payroll and deprive the team of top draft picks.
Skaggs, 22, was a part of the Angels' incredible draft class of 2009. Mike Trout was the headliner, followed by Skaggs and Garrett Richards, two-fifths of the Angels' rotation next season, and Patrick Corbin, a National League All-Star last season. In 2010, the Angels fired the man who drafted them all, scouting director Eddie Bane.
By that time, the Angels had acquired veteran starter Dan Haren in a five-player trade that sent Skaggs and Corbin to Arizona. The general manager on the Diamondbacks' end of that trade: Dipoto.
Skaggs started seven games for Arizona last season, six in 2012, on a shuttle between the major leagues and minor leagues, all the while working to add a changeup to go with an excellent curve and decent fastball.
"We feel like he's ready to cut his teeth in the big leagues," Dipoto said. "He's had a cameo the last two years. We feel like now he's ready for a full-time role."
Trumbo, 27, has had a full-time role with the Angels for three years, leading the team in home runs every year. He hit 34 last season. He was popular among fans, respected in the clubhouse. He was born in Anaheim and played high school ball at Villa Park, but he was long aware that his power could get the Angels what they needed and get him a ticket out of town.
"I'm just really thankful for the opportunity that I got," Trumbo said. "I couldn't have asked for anything more … being from Southern California and being a lifelong Angels fan, getting a chance to play three years in front of family and friends is something I wouldn't trade for anything in the world."
There might be no safer bet in baseball than Trumbo hitting 30 home runs next year, in hitter-friendly Chase Field, barring injury. There is nothing safe about the Angels' bet, but there are a summer and a career that ride on it.