Perhaps no team came into the 2012 season with as much hope (and hype) as the Los Angeles Angels. They finally had a competent General Manager (Jerry Dipoto), they rid themselves of the black hole at catcher by trading Jeff Mathis and bringing in Chris Iannetta, and they signed the best pitcher (CJ Wilson) and best hitter (Albert Pujols) in last winter’s Free Agent market. But a cold April reality set in and the Angels found themselves with a 6-14 mark to begin the season. Then on April 28th, Mike Trout arrived and took Major League Baseball by storm. But even Mike Trout in all his glory could not carry the Angels past the powerhouse Texas Rangers or upstart Oakland Athletics in 2012. So what can Dipoto and company do in 2013 to make a return trip to the playoffs?
Though a year ago it would seem preposterous, the Angels need pitching. Dan Haren’s 15.5 million dollar option and Ervin Santana’s 12 million dollar option are both very likely to be declined after subpar seasons. Coupled with the newly acquired Zack Greinke reaching free agency, CJ Wilson’s inexplicable downward spiral (turns out he needed surgery since June) and Jerome Williams’ inconsistency, the Angels find themselves with an extreme shortage of starting pitching. For the third year in a row, the Angels bullpen proved to be one of the worst in all of baseball at protecting a lead, however, GM Jerry Dipoto has voiced his hesitation in spending money on relievers given their inconsistent nature (Dipoto would know, he himself was once a very inconsistent reliever). The Angels will also be looking for a replacement RF as Torii hunter has reached free agency and a utility infielder to replace Maicer Izturis.
The Angels figure to fill some of their needs internally. Utility infielder Andrew Romine in a whiz with the glove and well suited for a reserve role. With news of the unlikelihood of Hunter’s return to the Angels, Peter Bourjos appears to be a lock for CF, which would slide current gold glove caliber CF Mike Trout over to LF and shift Herculean Mark Trumbo over to RF. The 21 million dollar man (Vernon Wells) or fast climber Kole Calhoun are likely to take over the 4th outfielder role. Dipoto and the Angels have identified Zack Grienke as priority number one, and much of the offseason depends on whether or not he will sign. If the Angels do sign Greinke, you can expect them to pursue lower costing options for the rotation such as Shaun Marcum or Joe Saunders to join Greinke, Weaver, Wilson and rookie Garrett Richards. If Greinke does not sign with the Angels, they’ll have a lot of money to spend and it becomes highly likely they’ll attempt to bring back Dan Haren or perhaps try to bring Hiroki Kuroda back to the West Coast with a multi-year contract offer. As for the bullpen, the Angels are in desperate need of an 8th/9th inning righty (potential closer depending upon Ernest Frieri’s performance) and a very solid middle reliever/setup man. Expect the Angels to be linked to Ryan Madson, Joakim Soria, Mike Adams, Rafael Soriano, Koji Uehara and Jeremy Affeldt.
The Angels potential trade chips are really dependant upon their activity in free agency. If Torii Hunter returns to Anaheim, Peter Bourjos could be a highly sought after alternative to Bourn/Upton. The Angels are also expected to aggressively shop Vernon Wells and the 2 years – 42 million remaining on his contract. Though it remains highly unlikely, the Angels could look into trading Mark Trumbo, Kendrys Morales or Garrett Richards if they become desperate. In more unlikely news, it appears the Angels are attempting to trade Dan Haren or Ervin Santana before Thursday this week to a team that may be interested in picking up their options or offering them the preset 13 million dollar qualifying offer.
If the Angels are unable to resign Zack Greinke, they more than likely will pursue a high-end starting pitcher in the trade market. James Shields, Matt Garza or Josh Johnson seem to be the names that pop up the most often. Dipoto also showed a knack for farming elite level relievers from other organizations when he traded for Ernesto Frieri, who was pitching in middle relief and mop up situations in San Diego. The Angels could potentially pull off another Frieri type of deal, or they could pursue Chris Perez of the Indians. They may also seek to swap bad contracts in a Vernon Wells deal, for perhaps John Lackey or Alex Rodriguez, though this appears to be a long shot at best.