Angels first baseman (and, of late, designated hitter) Albert Pujols sounds optimistic about his injury situation, MLB.com's Alden Gonzalez reports. The slugger says his injured foot "feel[s] 99.9% healthy," and that it was time for surgery after battling his plantar fasciitis for some nine years. He also noted that he continues to do rehab on his knee to avoid a flare-up. How the 33-year-old returns will be among the most impactful on-the-field storylines in baseball, since the Halos still owe him a hard-to-fathom $212MM over the next eight seasons. Once the best player in the game, Pujols now arguably carries more negative value than anybody due to his age, injuries, and massive contract. Elsewhere in baseball's two western divisions …
- The Mariners have an ambitious off-season wish list, according to ESPN.com's Buster Olney (via Twitter). Atop the list is a starter to slot in behind Felix Hernandez in the rotation, with Olney speculating that Matt Garza could be a match. Otherwise, the team hopes to add a closer and "two frontline power hitters."
- If Seattle is serious about checking all those boxes, it hardly needs to be said, it will need to open its wallet. The club's payroll has sat in the mid-$80MM range at Opening Day the last two years, but has gone as high as $117MM (2008). Seattle's future salary commitments sit right about at league average, though virtually all of its future obligations are to Hernandez. As Wendy Thurm of Fangraphs figures, the club's 2014 commitments presently sit at under $40MM, leaving ample room to spend.
- Though the Astros have a similar set of needs, according to a report from Brian McTaggart of MLB.com, the club will likely set somewhat more modest goals. WIth payroll capacity up to $60MM, Houston will be chasing an outfielder, veteran starter, and bullpen pieces. Manager Bo Porter indicated that the club has been in contact with some free agent options, but is mostly gathering information and waiting for the market to develop. "As the market starts to shake out," said Porter, "we'll get more aggressive for the guys we believe will really make an impact on our ballclub."
- Looking past 2014, the Astros have just one player under contract in second baseman Jose Altuve. The team will, however, start to see a modest increase in its tab next year as players like J.D. Martinez, Brett Wallace, and Chris Carter reach arbitration eligibility, and Jason Castro gets to his second arb campaign. As with the Mariners, Houston's low 2014 obligations (just $14.4MM, per Thurm's estimate) could leave it with significant room to add salary this coming season.
- The Dodgers want to add a starter, but only on a short-term deal, according to a report from Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (via Twitter). Los Angeles is not interested in going past two years or losing a draft pick to ink a new arm, says Rosenthal. The former limitation would seem to take the club out of contention for any top-tier arms, while the latter means that the club is not considering an attempt to lure Hiroki Kuroda back to Chavez Ravine.
- While I will not belabor the point, this news makes sense in light of the fact that the Dodgers have far-and-away the greatest salary commitments in the game both next year and beyond.