Angels “not expected to be players on” righty Kyle Lohse

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The Angels have been mentioned at different times this winter as a potential landing spot for free agent right-hander Kyle Lohse. But it doesn’t sound like they are even going to make an offer to him.

According to MLB.com’s Alden Gonzalez, the Halos are “not expected to be players on Lohse” no matter how low his price drops because their payroll is maxed out at about $160 million and they like their current crop of starting rotation candidates. They’re also said to be “unsure” about how his numbers might hold up in a return to the American League.

And then there’s the new free agent compensation system which would require the Angels to give up more draft pool money in order to sign Lohse. They already forfeited their 2013 first-round pick and the allotted budget that comes with it by signing free agent outfielder Josh Hamilton. Lohse triggered that compensation by declining a one-year, $13.3 million qualifying offer from the Cardinals when the offseason began.

Lohse, 34, posted a 2.86 ERA and 1.09 WHIP in 211 innings last year for St. Louis. He and his agent, Scott Boras, are likely hoping that teams will get desperate for starting pitching help as spring training draws closer.

Phillies owner John Middleton is in Las Vegas with Bryce Harper

Bryce Harper
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Jim Salisbury of NBC Sports Philadelphia reports that Phillies owner John Middleton flew to Las Vegas for a meeting with Bryce Harper on Friday. Per ESPN’s Jeff Passan, it’s “more of a meet-and-greet than a sign-a-deal” affair, but as the club is still at the forefront of trade rumors involving the All-Star slugger, there remains a possibility (however slight) that something could be completed in the days to come.

Even now, the Phillies aren’t alone in the race to sign Harper, but recent rumors have helped whittle down the competition from five or more teams (Phillies, Nationals, White Sox, Giants, and Padres) to three strong contenders. The Giants are said to be interested in a lucrative short-term deal with the outfielder, while the Padres remain in the conversation despite inking Manny Machado to a mammoth 10-year, $300 million contract this week. It’s not yet clear just how far either team would go to outbid Philadelphia as talks with Harper intensify.

As for the Nationals and White Sox, the former officially bowed out earlier today, and MLB Network’s Jon Heyman adds that the latter won’t make a strong play for Harper as they feel the asking price and competing offers are “getting too high” for the 26-year-old’s services. If a mystery team is still in the mix, there’s been no word on their standing with Harper in the last month or so.