The clock continues to tick on two of the Angels' most important decisions of the offseason. By 9 p.m. PT on Wednesday, they must decide whether to pick up Ervin Santana's $13 million option. By 9 p.m. PT on Friday, they must decide the same on the $15.5 million option in Dan Haren's contract.
Why no solution yet, considering their season has been over for nearly four weeks? The Angels, industry sources have confirmed, are actively trying to trade Santana and Haren before those deadlines and are intent on using up all their time before making a commitment one way or the other. Here's how it looked as of late Tuesday night: The trade market for Santana, whose buyout is only $1 million, isn't great. The likely scenario is that his option is simply declined, setting the 29-year-old right-hander off to the free-agent market. Haren, who would cost the same as Santana ($12 million) once you factor in his $3.5 million buyout, is the likelier of the two to be traded. The 32-year-old's velocity dropped a tick or two once again this season, as he struggled through lower-back issues and natural wear and tear, but his track record makes him more appealing on the market -- and the extra time the Angels have to make a decision certainly helps. The new Collective Bargaining Agreement strives to set a uniform date on all option decisions. But this year, any contract with an option date past the five-day exclusive negotiating window for free agents (like Santana's) was brought down to three days. Any contract that was within the five-day window (like Haren's) was grandfathered in. The possibility that the Angels will exercise Haren's option, whether to bring him back in 2013 or trade him later this offseason, remains very much in play, sources have said. Angels general manager Jerry Dipoto, who will make Zack Greinke his top priority of the offseason, declined to go into detail about the process when reached by phone Tuesday night, saying only that the club continues to do its "due diligence." "We're making sure that we explore all the possibilities before coming to a conclusion and making a decision," said Dipoto, who chose not to comment on initial reports from CBSSports.com and FOXSports.com that indicated the Angels were interested in shopping their two starting pitchers. "I'm not going to speculate on news reports," Dipoto said. "It is what it is. I've made no secret about the fact that we were going to react or make a decision at the appropriate time, and we're not to the point yet where we're on the clock." Santana and Haren are both coming off rough years at the worst possible time. Santana, signed by the Angels out of the Dominican Republic in 2000, was better down the stretch but still finished 9-13 with a 5.16 ERA and a Major League-leading 39 homers in 30 starts. Santana, according to MLBTradeRumors.com, has returned to Performance (particularly agent Bean Stringfellow) for his representation, after briefly leaving them to join Wasserman Media Group (and agent Adam Katz) in July. "I'm not even thinking about [free agency]," Santana said toward the end of the season. "If it's going to happen, it's going to happen." Haren went into the year believing his upcoming option was a formality, and he was probably right. But the rough season that ensued -- with a career-high 4.33 ERA, a career-low 176 2/3 innings pitched and his first career stint on the disabled list -- changed that dramatically. Now it's a situation where the Angels prefer to part ways with the right-hander, if they can find a suitor. Can they? Perhaps. Teams, perhaps especially those who are accustomed to getting spurned by free agents, may have a hard time turning a blind eye to Haren's sparkling track record, which consists of a 3.49 ERA and an average of 226 innings from 2005-11. His stuff has diminished, but he did post a 2.81 ERA over his last eight starts of the 2012 season. Haren's preference, though, is to somehow stay in Anaheim. "I'm sick of changing teams," Haren said after his final start of the season. "Coming to L.A. was a dream come true, really, so it's going to be hard if I leave. Wherever I go, I'll obviously give 100 percent effort, just like I did every start here. But L.A. has always had more of a significance to me, just because I grew up so close to Angel Stadium. Regardless of where I play, I'll probably reside close to the Orange County area."
Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Gonzo and "The Show", and follow him on Twitter @Alden_Gonzalez. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.