Results tagged ‘ Arte Moreno ’
I stayed in Texas to help cover Game 163 between the Rays and Rangers and am told everything is status quo at Angels headquarters in Anaheim as of Monday afternoon.
The front office is at the ballpark, planning for the offseason work that lies ahead and getting ready for the organizational meetings that will take place Oct. 10. Mike Scioscia is back at his home in Westlake Village, hanging out. And owner Arte Moreno isn’t even in Southern California. No announcement regarding the futures of Scioscia and/or general manager Jerry Dipoto is expected today.
And so, the wait continues.
Angels general manager Jerry Dipoto wouldn’t address his uncertain job status Thursday. And really, there isn’t much to say. He, like Mike Scioscia and basically everyone in the front office and coaching staff, is waiting on word from Arte Moreno on what will happen for 2014. For now, Dipoto will focus solely on what needs to be done in the offseason. A story is posted on Dipoto’s main focus: attaining cost-controlled starting pitching.
Here’s what else the second-year GM had to say in a 30-minute scrum with Angels beat writers.
On addressing third base …
“We’ll go out and look at what’s available there, whether it’s trades, secondary market, waiver wire, free agents. In an ideal world, we’ll come up with what we believe is a combination of players. I don’t think we’re going to find Brooks Robinson, but we’re going to go out and find a combination of players. Some of it might be on hand, some of it might be outside the organization that we have to go access it. But we’ll try to put together a good – I don’t want to call it a platoon, but a good timeshare at third base that works.”
On Grant Green being an answer at third base …
“I guess at the end of the day, there’s still a lot that has to be done in order to get Grant comfortable enough to play third base on a more regular basis. But as when we acquired Grant – Grant is vertatile enough … and at the very worst, we felt like what we got was an athletic guy whose got ability in the batter’s box and can get on base, who is versatile enough to move around the field.”
On Ernesto Frieri being the closer in 2014 …
“I don’t really think, ‘Who’s the ninth-inning guy?’ Ernie has been the ninth-inning guy for two years and has done a tremendous job. We’ll go out and try to add more depth. I feel like with Ernie, Dane De La Rosa, Michael Kohn, Kevin Jepsen, Sean Burnett, we have the makings of a good bullpen. … Who pitches the ninth inning is to the manager’s discretion.”
On whether Angels are doing a disservice by playing well down the stretch and not getting a higher Draft pick …
“The Draft is such an unpredictable animal. Whether you’re picking ninth, 13th, 17th, you’re going to have an opportunity to pick a good player. How many times do we [as executives throughout baseball] get the Draft right? It’s a very hard thing to do. It’s not a slam-dunk process.”
On how Peter Bourjos fits in next year …
“It depends on how he comes back from wrist surgery. He’ll have a two-month down period, rehab, have to see where he is in Spring Ttraining. Josh [Hamilton] has played very well for two months, [Mike] Trout is Trout, [Kole] Calhoun and J.B. Shuck are having good years, [Collin] Cowgill has played well. It’s an area where we are particularly deep. … Peter is definitely part of the mix. But when you have as much down time as he’s had … how much playing time he gets, where he fits in the mix, depends on how he returns from this injury and a lot of fractured playing time. It’s not easy to play with so many nagging injuries, small and major. We need to get a healthy Peter Bourjos out there and find out where he is.”
On whether he’d soften stance on zero-to-three service time players with Trout next year …
“That’s something we do internally in baseball operations. I’m not going to make that into a story. That’s something every team adheres to, to their own internal scale. We’ll leave it at that. Every team has their own scale and they operate accordingly.”
On long-term-extension talks with Trout …
“No comment. Obviously, we’d like him to be here long-term.”
The good news for the Angels is that they expect to get a handful of key players back shortly after the All-Star break, including Peter Bourjos, Tommy Hanson and Jason Vargas; perhaps even Sean Burnett and Ryan Madson.
But, as Mike Scioscia intimated, that’s not really anything they can hang their hat on right now.
“I don’t think our struggles correlate to guys being out,” he said during Thursday’s voluntary workout. “It’s not like saying, ‘Well, we’ve been banged up and now we’re going to be healthy.’ … We need guys to get in their game more than getting back from the DL.”
There’s no sugarcoating where the Angels find themselves right now. They’re 44-49, 11 games back of first place in the AL West and nine games back of the second Wild Card spot. It’s the most games under .500 that the Angels have been at the All-Star break since 1994 and the largest divisional deficit since 2001. They didn’t make the playoffs either of those years, and only one team — the 2003 Twins — has done so after entering the All-Star break five or more games under .500.
To win 93 games — the minimum amount required to make the playoffs in the AL last year — they’ll have to go 49-20. That’s .710 baseball. The best winning percentage in the Majors right now is .613 (by the Cardinals).
But nearly 43 percent of season remains, so hope does, too.
And with the All-Star break finished, here are the main storylines from here ’til the offseason (click here for my first-half story, with video of the Top 5 moments) …
The July 31 crossroads.
As of now, the best bet here is that the Angels don’t do anything major before the non-waiver Trade Deadline. They’re too dangerously close to the threshold at which teams get taxed 17.5 percent by Major League Baseball — something the Angels’ brass doesn’t seem willing to take on — and it’s hard to really be sellers, per se, when Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton are on your payroll. But these next couple of weeks could have a big impact on this topic, which brings me to the next storyline …
The next 20 games.
Thirteen of them are against the A’s and Rangers, two teams that are a combined 30 games over .500 and two teams ahead of the Angels in the AL West. This is a stretch that can have them looking towards 2014 or maybe — just maybe — eyeing a playoff spot this fall. In total, 26 of the Angels’ 69 remaining games will come against Oakland and Texas. That’s a lot. Almost 40 percent.
Pujols and The Foot.
At what point does Pujols finally relent and have surgery on the plantar fasciitis that’s been ailing his left foot — and his entire game — all season? He’s determined to play through it all year, and if the Angels stay somewhat relevant, I have every reason to believe he will. If they fall out of it, though, perhaps he shuts it down. Still, 500 homers is only 10 away. And Pujols is adamant about not missing time.
Hamilton and The Numbers.
He hasn’t hit any better than .237 in any month this season, and he has a .224/.283/.413 line for the season. His OPS (.696) is tied for 122nd in the Majors, with Brian Dozier, and his FanGraphs-calculated WAR (0.8) is fourth among Angels position players. To finish with 30 homers, he needs to average a home run every 4.3 games (assuming he doesn’t miss any time). He was able to do that in 2012 (3.4) and 2010 (4.2). To reach triple-digit RBIs, he needs to drive in a run every 1.13 games. The closest he got to that rate was last year, at 1.16. If Hamilton averages four at-bats per game the rest of the way — it’ll likely be lower than that, given walks and inevitable time off — that totals 276. If he gets 110 hits in that span, that’s a .399 batting average. And that would put his average on the season at .302. Amazing to think he even has a remote chance to get to 300-30-100.
Trout’s MVP chances.
Chris Davis (.315/.392/.717) and Miguel Cabrera (.365/.458/.674) are having absurd seasons, making Mike Trout only a fringe candidate for the AL MVP. But don’t sleep on him. He’s at .322/.399/.565 through 92 games. Through 92 games last year (a year he should’ve been the MVP), he was at .340/.402/.592. Not too far off. And if Davis and Cabrera slip, Trout may find himself in the conversation once again. (Sidenote: Trout’s strikeout and walk rates have actually improved from last year, a sign he’s only improving as a hitter. He struck out 21.8 percent of the time and walked 10.5 percent of the time last year. This year, he’s striking out 16.4 percent of the time and walking 11 percent of the time.)
Jered Weaver’s stock.
Somewhat lost amid the struggles of Pujols and Hamilton is that Weaver hasn’t really been, well, Weaver. He missed more than seven weeks with a broken left elbow, struggled upon coming back, went on a very good three-start stretch — two runs in 20 2/3 innings — and then gave up four runs in 5 2/3 innings to the Mariners to close out the ceremonial first half. He’s now 3-5 with a 3.63 ERA in 11 starts this season, with a fastball velocity that continues to decline (90.1 in 2010, 89.2 in 2011, 88.0 in 2012, 86.8 in 2013). Weaver will make $54 million from 2014-16, and the Angels don’t figure to get a better starting pitcher during that time. A strong second half would ease a lot of concerns.
If the Angels do fall out of it, it’ll be interesting to see how they look ahead to 2014 and beyond. This is not a roster you can really rebuild with. This is a roster you can only continue to add pieces to in hopes of winning a championship. And if the Angels don’t make the playoffs, I expect them to try to contend again in 2014. But come August and September, if they’re far back, how do they start planning for next year? Does Garrett Richards go back to the rotation (perhaps bumping Joe Blanton or Tommy Hanson)? Does Hank Conger become the everyday catcher? (Since June 12, he’s had the exact amount of games — 17 — and at-bats — 47 — as Chris Iannetta.)
And what’s the fallout from owner Arte Moreno for missing the playoffs a fourth consecutive year, and after back-to-back December blockbusters?
We may have to wait until the offseason for that one.
In case you hadn’t heard, the Cardinals are here. You know, that team Albert Pujols played a really long time for (11 years) and did a lot of things for (two World Series, three MVPs) and then left departed somewhat bitterly (eventually taking a 10-year, $240 million deal with the Angels).
Oh, so you knew already.
Well, it’s today. In a few hours. And a lot of media showed up to Angel Stadium to ask Pujols about it. Below are the highlights (for more info, here’s my story on the unavoidable storyline and Jen Langosch’s, on how the Cardinals have moved on so well) …
On his initial thoughts of facing the Cardinals: “Really exciting. I was able to hang around with my little brother, Yadier [Molina], yesterday and a couple of the guys. You can’t forget the success that you’ve had with those guys over the last 11 years there in St. Louis. To be able to win it in 2011 and have an opportunity to talk to them in the offseason, that’s something pretty special. That’s something that nobody can take away, how those fans in St. Louis treated me and everybody in the community, through my foundation. To have the success that I had there, that’s something nobody can take away from me.”
On seeing the Cardinals on the other side: “I was telling Yadier yesterday, it’s weird. These are three days that I won’t be able to root for them, because any time that I have an opportunity and I watch, I root for them. Some of them are my good friends. … I stay in touch with a lot of those guys. I faced those guys for 11 years in intrasquad in Spring Training, and now it’s just going to be a little bit more competition. They’re going to do their preparation to try to beat us today, and I’m going to do my preparation to try to beat them. I think it’s going to be a fun three-game series here.”
On what he regrets from his time in St. Louis: “To tell you the truth, I don’t really want to open those doors. I think we need to talk about our organization. I’m an Angel now, we’re playing really good over the last week or so, and I think my main focus is that, to think about what I can try to do today to help this ballclub win and not to open those doors of what happened two years ago. Because that’s over. There’s nothing I can do to flip the page and go back. I just need to move forward. They moved forward and I moved forward. I’m excited. Arte Moreno made a big commitment to bring me here to hopefully the success that I had there, to bring it to the city of Anaheim. And that’s my goal over the next nine years, including this year.”
On whether it gives him a competitive edge to see his old teammates: “They’re having a great season, we’re playing great, and it’s going to be a great week. But I’m just going to go out there, have fun, do what I have to do and play this game. I’m blessed to be able to play this game and I think God every day for the opportunity he gave me. But just because I have friends on the other side, that doesn’t add an extra chip on my shoulder to try to go out ther enad play the game, because you shouldn’t have that. You shouldn’t ever have that chip on your shoulder. You should play this game the right way because you love it, because you are blessed to have this opportunity to play, and that’s how I look at it every day.”
On the Angels honoring Stan Musial (by having his grandson throw the first pitch, wearing a patch on their BP jerseys and playing a video tribute): “I’m really excited. Stan was my buddy. I wish I would’ve had more of an opportunity to talk to him. .. .When he walked into that clubhouse, it was like the light was so bright. Everybody would stop what they’re doing.”
On the reaction from St. Louis natives when he visited the city in the offseason: “I think I ran into like 30,000 fans this offseason, and they were praising me, blessing me, and I was telling them the same thing. I was thankful for the support during my career there. My home is still there during the offseason, my foundation is still there, and I’ll be there until they kick me out.”
On whether he expected a bad reception in St. Louis: “Never in my mind that came through, because I knew what kind of fans St. Louis has. They’re true fans, they’re legit, and they respect what I did. Never in my mind. I walk in there in the offseason, I go all over. I’m not going to hide anywhere. I work out there. Nothing has changed. I know they were probably disappointed, but they have to learn to move on and they moved on without me and I’m here, to have hopefully the next 8 ½ years and bring as many championships as I can to this city.”
On the Cardinals doing well and the Angels struggling: “Trust me, it could be the opposite. They could be where we are, if you look records-wise and numbers-wise. This is more than just a game, you know. At the end of the day, it’s about my relationship with God and knowing that I’m in a good place. I told you guys, when I made my decision two years ago, I don’t have to look to the right or the left. I just need to look forward and know that I have peace with where God has put me. … I’m blessed to be able to play this game, and I was blessed to be in St. Louis for 15 years, now I’m here, and my goal is to try to continue to have the success that I’ve had there. There’s nothing I can do.”
On stepping into the box with Molina squatting behind him: “I can’t read the future, I can’t tell you what’s going to happen. I’m human. I can tell you one thing, I’m going to do my routine. I’m probably going to hit the umpire and I’m going to hit him on the shin [with the tip of his bat]. Hopefully he tells me not to do it and maybe we can start a fight [jokingly, of course, a la Brandon Phillips].”
SP: RH Wade Davis (2-3, 5.86 ERA)
SP: RH Barry Enright (0-1, 11.37)
- There was thought Ryan Madson could join the Angels before the end of the week, after making his second and final rehab appearance for Class A Inland Empire on Wednesday or Thursday. That is no longer the case. The Angels prefer to slow down his rehab and have him pitch at Triple-A Salt Lake before being activated. This isn’t really a setback, though. Madson continues to feel good, having just the normal soreness pitchers go through, but he’d been going very aggressive in hopes of coming back as soon as possible — throwing off a mound with intensity every other day — and the Angels feel it’d be best if they slowed him down and ease him into the Majors. “I respect that,” Madson said. I’d expect Madson to start pitching in Triple-A by the end of the week. How long will he be there? Mike Scioscia said: “If everything goes the way we anticipate, not very long at all.” Madson threw out “a couple weeks.” Scioscia, when told that, said: “I don’t know if it’s going to take a couple weeks. It might or it might not. We want to make sure that he’s ready to go and his rehab sticks when it goes.”
- Earlier today, Angels owner Arte Moreno publicly backed Scioscia, saying there’s “zero” chance he’ll be dismissed. Sciosica’s reaction: “Arte has always been very supportive. Arte knows how hard I take the non-performance of this team and how we need to get there. It hits me as hard as it hits Arte and it hits Jerry [Dipoto], and I know Arte realizes that. We’re going to take this challenge and hopefully start moving forward and getting the wins that we need to get ourselves in the position we want to. That’s the bottom line is winning, and we’re going to work towards that.”
- Some other injury notes: Jered Weaver (broken left elbow) came out of his Tuesday bullpen session feeling fine and is still scheduled to throw an 80-pitch, up-and-down ‘pen (meaning 20 pitches, sit down, 20 pitches, sit down, and so on) on Friday. The next step after that would be a rehab assignment. … Sean Burnett (left forearm tightness) is expected to throw his first bullpen session on Thursday. … Peter Bourjos (left hamstring strain) has been riding the elliptical, playing catch, doing some aquatic exercises and getting in some lunges, but there’s still no date for when he can run on the field. … Kevin Jepsen (strained lat) was scheduled to throw his third bullpen session today. … Still no timetable for when Tommy Hanson (restricted list) will be back, but he has been throwing.
Well, there you have it.
FOXSports.com’s Jon Paul Morosi caught Arte Moreno at the Owners Meetings in New York and asked him about Mike Scioscia‘s oft-speculated-upon status as manager of the Angels. Moreno’s response: “Mike has zero problems, OK? This is his 14th year. Mike goes beyond what he does on the field. He’s a good person. He’s a good person in the community, a very good baseball guy. You don’t have to ask me. You just ask other managers, other baseball people.”
As for the job status of general manager Jerry Dipoto, Moreno told FOXSports.com: “We have had zero discussions on anything other than who is going to be healthy enough to play. Jerry’s been here a year and a half. There are a lot of underlying things we need to fix and adjust in the organization.”
What does all this mean?
Well, not much, really. Scioscia is under contract through 2018, as Morosi pointed out, and there’s no way his boss would ever go on record to say his job status is in jeopardy in the first place. If nothing else, though, it at least quells the outside speculation of whether or not he’ll be retained. And that can only help a manager do his job.
The big question is still what Moreno does, if anything, if the Angels fall short of the playoffs for a fourth straight season.
Right now, regardless of the Angels’ 15-24 record, it’s mid-May, there’s a whole lot of season left and it doesn’t seem very prudent to make a big staff change. As Albert Pujols pointed out, it’s on the players to perform up to their reputations.
“Right now,” Moreno told the site, “in Mike’s job, I have no questions about Mike.”
What can fix the Angels???? — @VivaJRC
I hate for the first QOTD of the season to come under such tumultuous times, but, well, this is probably as good a time as any.
The answer to that question is very simple: The starters need to be better. They have a Major League-worst 6.07 ERA and have pitched into the seventh inning only once all season, putting the offense behind early on an almost-nightly basis and gutting a bullpen that’s already thin.
The solution? It has to come in-house, at least for now. The Angels have some payroll flexibility after trading Vernon Wells, but teams don’t make trades in April — not for big-name players, anyway. It’s too early. Newcomers Tommy Hanson, Jason Vargas and Joe Blanton may not boast the resumes of, say, Zack Greinke, Dan Haren and Ervin Santana, but they have reputations for pitching deep into games, and they’re simply not doing that. The three of them are a combined 1-6 with a 7.36 ERA in 40 1/3 innings so far. They simply have to be better.
I’ve been getting a lot of the predictable, fire-and-brimstone tweets and e-mails recently — FIRE BUTCHER!!! FIRE SCIOSCIA!!! — and if this team continues to underachieve, there’s no telling what Arte Moreno will do.
But would that actually solve anything right now?
Come Monday, Jered Weaver will be making his fourth straight Opening Day start, Josh Hamilton‘s reunion tour will begin and the Angels will (once again) try to cash in on the grand expectations they carry into the season.
Before that happens, here’s a station-to-station look at where they stand heading into what should be a very fun 2013 …
Position players: I don’t see a way this team won’t be among the top three in runs scored in the American League this season. From mid-May to the end of the season last year, when Mike Trout arrived in more ways than one and Albert Pujols remembered he’s Albert Freakin’ Pujols, the Angels led the Majors in runs per game. And that was without Hamilton, mind you. The Angels have three dynamic speed guys (Peter Bourjos-Trout-Erick Aybar) and three lethal power hitters (Pujols-Hamilton-Mark Trumbo) all conveniently lining up together. The rest of the guys (Howie Kendrick, Alberto Callaspo, Chris Iannetta) don’t need to be anything more than themselves for the Angels to be an offensive juggernaut. Defensively, Trout-Bourjos-Hamilton could be the best defensive outfield in baseball (which tailors perfectly to their flyball-heavy pitching staff) and the infield is solid at every position.
Starters: Angels starters got their necessary work this spring, but just barely. Spring Training may not teach us much, but it certainly didn’t quell any apprehensions about this rotation. Everyone except the no-walks Joe Blanton struggled at some point, with Weaver, Jason Vargas and Tommy Hanson all bringing temporary concerns that they wouldn’t have enough stamina heading into the regular season. But they do, and most importantly, they’re all healthy. Are they good enough to match one of the best offenses in baseball? No. Will they be adequate enough to eat innings (so the ‘pen doesn’t get worn out) and keep the Angels in games (with the lineup taking care of the rest)? That’s the plan. The key: C.J. Wilson, the $77.5 million No. 2 starter who should be a lot better than his 2012 second half.
Relievers: The Angels are deeper here, with or without Ryan Madson (who is still on track to return in late April or early May, barring another setback). They’ve added arguably the best free-agent lefty available in Sean Burnett, will have a full season of Ernesto Frieri, are banking on Kevin Jepsen‘s last three months being no fluke and, along with Scott Downs, seemingly have four formidable options to protect leads late in games. There’s also the high-upside Garrett Richards, coming off a great spring, the hard-throwing Mark Lowe, who the Angels have targeted since November, and the veteran Jerome Williams. Many will point to last year’s 22 blown saves as the biggest reason the Angels ultimately missed the playoffs, and this year, they’re better in the ‘pen. But that’s on paper. Relievers are a very unpredictable species.
Reserves: If all their everyday players stay healthy, this won’t be much of a factor, particularly in the AL. Chances are, though, injuries will happen. And given that, the Angels took a step back with regards to their bench (though if you’re going to pick one area to downgrade, this would be it). Without Vernon Wells, they don’t have any real power threat in reserve — besides Hank Conger, but he’s the backup catcher — and are pretty darn young. Andrew Romine takes over for the seasoned Maicer Izturis and Conger, awfully talented but coming off a spring soured by throwing woes, has spent most of the last three years in Triple-A. Contact-hitting lefty outfielder J.B. Shuck is the third player on this bench making his first Opening Day roster. The last reserve, veteran infielder Brendan Harris, hasn’t been in the big leagues since 2010.
Depth: The Angels’ farm system is dead last in all of baseball, according to ESPN and Baseball America. But those in the organization will tell you that mostly has to do with pitching; their position-player talent is just fine. Furthermore, the Angels’ front office is confident they’ve built more depth in the upper levels to serve as insurance in 2013. The Triple-A roster has several players with Major League experience, such as Luis Rodriguez, Tommy Field, Scott Cousins, Trent Oeltjen, Chris Snyder (possibly), John Hester, Luke Carlin, Mitch Stetter and Fernando Cabrera. But with Richards’ length shortened in the ‘pen, and Williams’ workload unpredictable as a swing man, where do the Angels turn if something happens to one of their starters? Barry Enright, Billy Buckner, Matt Shoemaker and the young A.J. Schugel figure to make up the Salt Lake Bees’ rotation.
Financials: The Angels’ payroll sits under $150 million, thanks to the Yankees taking on $11.5 million of Wells’ 2013 salary in the recent trade. The deal also bought them some luxury tax flexibility. Prior to the deal, the Angels’ Competitive Balance Tax payroll — which takes into account the average annual value of all 40-man roster salaries, plus benefits and performance bonuses at the end of the season — was $178 million, the threshold at which first-time offenders are taxed 17.5 percent by Major League Baseball. Now, it’s about $172M, giving them some flexibility to take on salary in an in-season trade. Last year, after acquiring Zack Greinke, their CBT payroll was at $178 million, which affected their pursuit of some necessary relief-pitching help.
Underlying theme: Expectations can do some funny things, and it’ll be interesting to see how the magnitude of it all will play into how the Angels go about — and react to — their second year under the microscope. Will it affect them out of the gate? Will it bring turmoil in the clubhouse, especially now that Torii Hunter is gone? Can it cause more tension between Jerry Dipoto and Mike Scioscia, who have their philosophical differences and were at odds at times last season? And what will it lead Arte Moreno to do if they miss the playoffs for a fourth straight season?
In addition to Trumbo at DH, how much time do you think he will get a first base and right field, giving Pujols and Hamilton a day to rest their legs? (Stephen H., San Luis Obispo)
Plenty. And if I had to pin a number on it, I’d say there’s a very good chance — even if everyone stays healthy — that Trumbo spends about half his time playing the field. If he’s hitting, he’ll be in the lineup for all the Angels’ Interleague games. For a good chunk of April, with Pujols in the early stages of his return from offseason knee surgery, he figures to play plenty of first base. With Wells gone, he’s also the fourth outfielder. And fundamentally, with so much money tied to Hamilton and Pujols long-term, Scioscia will get them off their feet as often as necessary now that he has a revolving door at DH (that wasn’t very feasible with Kendrys Morales there last year).
Do you see the day when the Angels move Trout down in the batting order and put Bourjos, if he can cut it, in the leadoff spot? (Albert H., Los Angeles)
I do. Scioscia continues to say Trout profiles better in the middle of the order, the reason being that you want your best hitter to be in as many RBI situations as possible. The makeup of the Angels’ lineup right now — with Pujols, Hamilton and Trumbo in the middle of the order, and no clear solution in the leadoff spot just yet — means Trout is the best fit to bat first. You can argue that the Angels’ everyday lineup doesn’t figure to change much any time soon, with almost everyone in the books long term. But Trout is the kind of player you construct a lineup around, and his bat figures to eventually become too potent to not put in the 3 spot.
Is this the year the Angels finally get back to the playoffs and make a deep run? (Samuel M., Tempe, Ariz.)
Who knows. I do think that, on paper, they are the best team in the AL West and should win the division. Once you get in the playoffs, it’s a crapshoot. The sample size is too small. But 162 games is not a small sample size, and if the Angels stay healthy, there is no excuse for not taking the division crown. The Rangers’ lineup took a step back, replacing Hamilton with Lance Berkman, and the pitching staff won’t have Neftali Feliz, Colby Lewis or Joakim Soria to start the season. The A’s are deep, but will need a lot of guys to over-perform again. It’s nice to see the Mariners spending money, but they still have holes and concerns all over the place. And the Astros are a last-place team. But who am I kidding — predicting a baseball season is a foolish act.
Now, at last, we can see how it all plays out on the field.
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.
The Angels declined to tender Torii Hunter a $13.3 million qualifying offer today. It’s an expected move, yes, but it’s also a sign of how far apart the two sides are. Frankly, they’re far. Very far. And Hunter is starting to realize that it may not work out. But he’s also holding out hope.
Here’s what he said when reached by phone today …
On not receiving a qualifying offer …
I figured they wouldn’t. I’m not surprised. They have so much going on with Vernon Wells’ contract and they have to wheel and deal. I mean, all is not lost. There’s still a chance that I can be there, so we’ll see what happens. But right now, it’s the business side of baseball and my agent, Larry Reynolds, and I, we’re going to just come up with a game plan because it’s also a business for me. This is my business, this is my company, this is my job – me. And I have to take care of that company, so that’s what I’m going to do to the best of my availability.
On having to move on …
Moving on doesn’t mean I have to stray away from the Angels. Yeah, I have to move on. I have to go out there and see what’s out there for me. But as a free agent, the Angels are a part of that, too. Like I said, there’s still love in my heart for the Angels. Don’t get it twisted. But I have to be ready to take care of my company, which is me.
On how it’s gone …
Just individually – I love the Angels’ organization, I love the fans, I love my teammates, I love my manager. So, of course, I want to be there and you’ve been hearing about that all season. But it’s just not working out. It didn’t work out today. But all is not lost.
On the confidence level for a return …
It’s pretty low. … But you know, like I said, all is not lost and you never know. [Owner] Arte [Moreno] knows what he’s doing, he’s a business man, and when you think something’s not going to happen with him, it happens. I still think there’s a shot, but at the same time, there’s going to be a lot of teams with shots. I have to do that.
On playing on a winning team …
My plan is to win no matter what, and if I’m on a winning team, of course I’m going to try to get with a ballclub that’s trying to win. That’s the plan.
On playing center field …
I will be in shape for center field. … Don’t get it twisted, because a lot of people look into the numbers, I can play the outfield no matter where it is. I can play it no matter what. So any team asks me to play anywhere, I can play it, no matter what. And I’d probably be a lot better than normal.