ANAHEIM -- The online ballot for the 2012 All-Star Game in Kansas City was unveiled Thursday, with new slugger Albert Pujols and returning slugger Kendrys Morales highlighting a slate of nine Angels players.
Five of those nine -- Morales (listed as a designated hitter), Erick Aybar, Mark Trumbo (third base), Chris Iannetta and Peter Bourjos -- will be looking to make the All-Star team for the first time. Pujols, who made nine trips to the All-Star Game through his 11-year tenure with the Cardinals, will be trying to make it for the first time in the American League.
The others on the ballot, hand-picked by the Angels' baseball-operations department, are: second baseman Howie Kendrick (an All-Star for the first time last year), left fielder Vernon Wells (two-time All-Star) and right fielder Torii Hunter (four-time All-Star).
Online balloting launches Friday. Fans can cast their votes for starters up to 25 times at MLB.com and all 30 club sites -- online or via your mobile device -- using the 2012 All-Star Game MLB.com Ballot until Thursday, June 28, at 11:59 p.m. ET.
Kendrick was the only Angels position player to play in the All-Star Game in Arizona last year, which Jered Weaver started.
Dipoto: Long-term deals give Halos solid core
ANAHEIM -- With shortstop Erick Aybar signed to a four-year extension, the Angels now have six players locked up through at least two of their upcoming free agent years: First baseman Albert Pujols (through 2021), Aybar ('16), starters Jered Weaver ('16) and C.J. Wilson ('16), second baseman Howie Kendrick ('15) and left fielder Vernon Wells ('14).
That's a whole lot of money, and very little financial flexibility moving forward.
The Angels currently rank fourth in the Majors in payroll at about $155 million and already have a lot of money tied up down the road, even with the contracts of Torii Hunter and Bobby Abreu expiring at the end of the season. The Angels are already on the hook for $120.8 million in 2013 if they exercise their team options on Dan Haren, Ervin Santana and Chris Iannetta. Plus, they already owe $94.9 million in 2014, $79.05 million in 2015 and $74.2 million in 2016 -- without counting arbitration-eligible players, zero-to-three service time guys and, of course, additions they'd like to make to the roster.
That makes younger, cheaper, homegrown players like Peter Bourjos, Mark Trumbo and Jordan Walden even more valuable.
"What it'll do is it'll put an onus on our scouting and player-development systems to develop more players to add to our Major League roster, to create the kind of flexibility we need, both in terms of payroll and to the 25-man roster," general manager Jerry Dipoto said of the limited payroll flexibility.
"The easiest way you're going to create flexibility, and both forms of flexibility [on the payroll and on the roster], is to build from within. You have to do it. It's how this organization got where it was 10 years ago, and it's how we're going to maintain that position."
A big appeal for Dipoto in signing Kendrick (four-year, $33.5 million deal) and Aybar ($35 million) to extensions before they hit free agency was building a consistent foundation up the middle.
In the end, the Angels spent an additional $68.5 million on their double-play combo. But both deals were team-friendly when considering what they might have garnered via free agency, and both gave Dipoto two more long-term pieces for what he believes is a championship-contending core.
"What is it that you're trying to attain? You're trying to attain prime years for middle-of-the-field players who can go do positive things, on contracts that I think, quite frankly, are good for the club and good for the player," Dipoto said. "They achieved what their goals would be -- they got to stay where they wanted to stay and their families are going to be taken care of -- and we achieved what we wanted to achieve. And we get good players for the next four or five years that are going to impact our team."
Trout generating buzz with hot start in Minors
ANAHEIM -- With the offense struggling and premier prospect Mike Trout tearing it up in Triple-A Salt Lake, a hot topic among Angels fans has centered on when Trout could get the callup to the big leagues again.
Angels general manager Jerry Dipoto addressed that Thursday.
Well, sort of.
"I don't want it to be on a matter of need," he said. "I want it to be when Mike is ready to take an everyday position on our club. Whether that's sooner rather than later, I can't tell you. He is still 20 years old. He's off to a great start. I think that's what we all expected."
Trout played in 40 games through two stints in the Majors last season, but he missed most of camp with a nasty viral infection and shoulder tendinitis. He's off to a hot start in his first year at Salt Lake, though, putting up a .397/.446/.569 slash line through his first 14 games in the historically hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League.
There's no doubt Trout can help an Angels lineup that currently sits at or below the middle of the pack in basically every major offensive category.
But two factors are at play here:
1. It's tough to justify Trout being in the Majors, and not developing in the Minors, if he doesn't have a spot where he can play every day.
2. A roster spot would have to be created in order for him to fit, either with the release of a big contract (the aging Bobby Abreu?) or the demotion of an important young player (the ill-used Mark Trumbo?).
That all points to the Angels probably waiting a while before calling up Trout. But if the offense keeps struggling, and Trout keeps hitting, the five-tool outfielder may force their hand.
"We know what Mike can deliver," Dipoto said. "When we get to the point where we feel like there's an everyday position for him to impact the club, that's when he'll be here."
Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his columns and 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.