The Angels’ offseason, in historical revisionism …

Everything is fuzzy this time of year, with the start of Spring Training around the corner and the regular-season grind still about six weeks away.

But looking at the Angels’ roster, two things seem certain: The offense is very potent and the starting pitching is quite questionable.

Funny thing is, it could’ve easily been in reverse, or perhaps a little more balanced. In fact, there were two instances this offseason when general manager Jerry Dipoto reached a fork in the road and made a decision that, perceivably, worked to improve the offense and sacrificed some starting pitching.

With pitchers and catchers reporting to Tempe, Ariz., in three days, I thought it’d be a good time to look at those two crucial decisions. I’m not suggesting they were the wrong choices; I just feel they’re worth examining. Because depending on where the Angels are come October, they may be something to point to.

Here they are …

Josh Hamilton, KatieJosh Hamilton over Zack Greinke: When Dipoto scoffed at Greinke’s concrete contractual demands on Day 1 of the Winter Meetings, we thought it signaled the return to a payroll in the $135- to $140-million range. What we didn’t find out until a few weeks later was that at a certain price point, Dipoto preferred Hamilton over Greinke, and that Hamilton — at least in the words of several members of the Angels’ front office — was the one guy owner Arte Moreno was willing to “blow up” the budget for, putting it back at about $150 million.

Greinke wound up getting an average annual value of $24.5 million on a six-year deal with the Dodgers; Hamilton got a $25 million AAV on a five-year deal. Yes, it adds up to $22 million more in total value for Greinke, but I don’t think that was the main motivating factor here. Dipoto’s thinking was that signing Hamilton was a two-for-one — it improved their offense and allowed them to improve a pitching staff that at that point could use it.

But Greinke is, in many ways, an ace; a guy who would’ve continued to form a standout one-two punch with Jered Weaver at the top of the rotation, which always sets up nicely for the playoffs.

Zack Greinke,  Magic JohnsonNot trading Mark Trumbo and/or Peter Bourjos: In some ways, this was yet another offense-for-pitching sacrifice by the Angels’ front office. By trading Kendrys Morales to the Mariners for lefty starter Jason Vargas — two pending free agents — the lineup would be more fluid. Trumbo would be the designated hitter most days, but would also readily fill in at first base and right field to give Hamilton and Albert Pujols a blow. That’s big, given the amount of money owed to those two 30-something sluggers, and it’s a big improvement over what was mostly a cluttered position-player roster last spring.

But what if trading Trumbo and/or Bourjos, two cost-controlled outfielders teams covet more than Morales, could’ve landed the Angels an even better, cost-controlled, top-of-the-rotation starter — maybe a Jeremy Hellickson-type?

Shortly after flipping Morales for Vargas, and keeping Trumbo and Bourjos, Dipoto said: “That was very much a part of the plan. Dating back to the start of this offseason, and even as we were trailing towards the end of the 2012 season, it’s been a priority for us to keep as much of our young nucleus in place as possible.”

Maybe it was, and maybe Dipoto also didn’t like the potential returns he was seeing for Trumbo/Bourjos. Whatever the case, the Angels head into the 2013 season with arguably the best lineup in baseball, but a far less heralded rotation — though, to be fair, also one that eats innings and tailors very well to its surroundings with lots of fly-ball pitchers.

Come October, we’ll know how those decisions really worked out.

Alden

21 Comments

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Interesting moves, I still think they will come up short pitching wise, of course they could always make a big move at the trade deadline.

In 2002 the Angels didn’t have a stellar rotation and they still won the WS. If they have a great bullpen, timely hitting and good chemistry and an adequate rotation they can win. Let’s go Halo’s!

Exactly! While our starting rotation will be questionsable, I think our bullpen will be much more solid than people are giving us credit for.

You say it comes down to this year for the Angels but they have 8 of their 9 position players locked until 2015. Our farm system isn’t stacked right now but that is also because all of our guys are up in the big leagues. Howie, Ayber, Trout, Trumbo, Bourj, Weaver – all these guys were home grown. Do some research before jumping on here. The Angels will be just fine for the next few years.

Pitchin, Pitching Pitching.

The Angels will not win 90 games.

You guys are going to get a front row view of the great diva show that is Josh.
There’s a reason JD didnt even offer CJ Wilson a deal. And there’s a reason they wouldn’t give the super diva five years. The Angels rotaion is worse going into this year than last year. Oh, and who are the Angels going to trade out of their last place farm system, when every other contending team can out bid them in prospects. Even as a Rangers fan, I have always like the Angels (when not playing said Rangers), but it seems Dipoto is mostly interested in taking players from the Rangers than spending $$$ wisely. No team has ifinate finances (even the Dodgers will find this out) so it all comes down to 2014 for the Angels. After that, the Angels will have more holes and no depth for a decade. Growing up, and facing the A’s in the eighties, I still hate them, but I must admit they are the best team in the West going into this spring training.

Three things – first, don’t estimate the importance of keeping their young talent. The Angels farm system, once one of the best in the majors, is projected to be one of the worse when the season starts. It will take DiPoto years to build that back up, so there is no shame in valuing players like Trumbo and Bourjos over pitching. Second, I believe that too many people are underestimating the Angels pitching staff this year. Yes, it would have been better with Greinke, but to me a real head scratcher when your #2 is making $8-$10m per year more than your #1. Third, Rangers fan that responded above – shut up. No one is taking you guys serious this year – you have become a non factor this year – you entire existence this year will be reduced to leaving pi—ed of emails on websites of other MLB teams.

It helps in any evaluation process to let your emotions go. I never said the Angels should have signed Greinke, a very overrated number two, but Josh is not the answer, and, even though I liked CJ, he is neither. Just wait. CJ was never really a number one, well maybe the Rangers number one, but he’s a walk machine that will destroy the Angels fragile bullpen. And Haren would have given the Angels a better chance at a bounce back season than Hanson. Hanson and Blanton now have to pitch in the American league, and Vargas leaves Safe Co. This is not a good recipe. I know the Rangers faults also, and I doubt they are going to win 90 either, but they haven’t mortgaged a decade of their finances to win now. Best of luck to you David and the team you love. I hope they demolish the A’s every time they play them.

The Angels have greater depth in their starting rotation than they did this time last year, with 5 veteran starters in addition to Richards and Williams. And Hanson has said that he feels a lot stronger than last off season. If he has a comeback year he could again be an ace. Even if things don’t go well, they can make a mid-season trade. In short, I think all of this concern about the Angels’ rotation is a bit overblown.

I think everyone made a big deal out of not able to re-sign Zack. Without Zack, we still have Weaver, Wilson, Vargas, Hanson, and combination of Blanton/Williams/Richards. Wilson was an All-Star last year. He was an “ace” in the Rangers rotation. He knows how to pitch! But most importantly, our bullpen got much better with the signing of Burnett, Madson, and a full year of Frieri. The Phillies had a great rotation last year but didn’t go anywhere without a capable offense and bull-pen. Let’s go Angels!

The exception to the premise of preferring pitching to hitting – the Vargas-Morales trade – is almost inexplicable and may well come back to haunt us. We took on a lot of risk for no reason. Vargas’ road numbers, away from Seattle, haven’t been very good, and his BABip in Seattle screams “luck.” Will Trumbo return to his first-half form – or his below-the-Mendoza-line second? If he doesn’t, Wells becomes our DH. Kendrys looked pretty healthy the second half of the season, and I think he’ll put up an OPS of .at least 825 this season, and 22-25 home runs – who’d want that in their line-up, right?. Remember, we’ve lost a good season from Torii last season, too – we’ve lost two bats, replaced by one – and I think we’ll miss Kendrys a lot.

We’d have been a much better team with Morales, hitting everyday, and Saunders instead of Vargas.

I just don’t understand this move …

I would have liked to keep Morales. Vargas is a good pitcher though, he’s given us problems quite a few times. Can you blame our front office for the moves they’ve made? They haven’t just been sitting around. Our bullpen is greatly improved and our offense is better than ever. On top of all that, Dipoto did manage fill out what was basically a blank rotation with some decent talent. I don’t predict Blanton or Hanson to have very good seasons, but you never know in this game.

Eh, as much as I don’t like the Hamilton signing, his role in this offense is sort of neglible…if his injuries or Diva qualities start to become an issue, he can be replaced at the DH spot by Trumbo, Vernon, or even Conger (who’s shown some pop in the past.) Essentially, he’s become an overpaid version of Morales in my opinion. Anything he has to offer us is great, but I don’t think we’re depending on him to lead our offense. Not with Albert and Trout on board. My only questions regarding the offseason is what does Blanton do for us that Danny Haren couldnt? And who do we have that can replace Isturiz in the middle infield?

But what if trading Trumbo and/or Bourjos, two cost-controlled outfielders teams covet more than Morales, could’ve landed the Angels an even better, cost-controlled, top-of-the-rotation starter — maybe a Jeremy Hellickson-type?

And what if it didn’t?

Seems likely that avenue was thoroughly checked out.

The analysis of the Angels rotation is WRONG– Weaver is a true #1. Wilson is a true #2. He was All-Star and lights out until he had bone chips in his elbow. Should be back to 1st half form. Last year Haren was number 3 and horrible. He is replaced by Hanson who led the Braves with 13 wins while pitching with a sore shoulder. A shoulder that is now healthy and much stronger. Santana had mid five ERA and was horrible. He is replaced by Vargas and a sub four ERA and 1 wins for a terrible team. Last year’s number five was an ineffective combination of Williams and Richards. This year you have Blanton. The guy gives innings and he’ll have 4.5 ERA, still superior to what we had last year. Grienke didn’t show up on the scene until the trade deadline. Mix in great bullpen adds (they blew 22 saves last year to lead baseball) and you see the problem isn’t the rotation, it was the bullpen and their team’s anemic offensive start. They won 89 games last year with a weaker rotation, much weaker bullpen, less pitching depth and no Mike Trout for a month. Add in the Houston Astros and you’re telling me this teams isn’t 6 games better than last year? 95 wins

I personally am happy that they even made the moves they did. We could argue that some of the moves were not necessary or could have been addressed differently. But, the fact that they made moves to attempt to better the team in hopes to be standing come October, is alright with me. Then again, my opinion and/or suggestions don’t matter since I am just a fan and nothing more to the Angels’ upper echelon. Lets all hope for a good and injury-free Spring Training and an awesome and healthy regular season that leads us (Angels team and fans), to the Post Season. GO ANGELS! The ONLY “Los Angeles” team that matters!

Agreed. All you can ask of your GM is to (on paper) try to fix your weaknesses; at the end of the day, hopefully the sum of the parts is an improvement over the previous year. I think he did a good job of doing that. Now it’s up to the players and coaches.

my only disappointment was that the Angels didn’t try to sign Saunders, a guy who wanted to be an Angel for life and is as dependable as the guys they did sign.

Love Saunders too. But he does not have the innings the pick ups do. However, I still would have loved to see him be our 5th starter!

Not true at all; wrong premise. Angels had decided to go with workhorse style pitchers and THEN Hamilton dropped into their laps. Now way to know how this will work until it’s tried. I personally think it’s brilliant considering what happened last year with our starting corps. With a great OF, pitchers who can consistently go into the late innings and a line up that should score an average of 5.0 a game, we’ll be fine. It’s all up to chemistry now.

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