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 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.
Not 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.