I, just like many other Angel fans, was extremely surprised to see that the Angels had just recently signed ex-Blue Jay and future Hall of Famer Omar Vizquel as a “roving infield coach” to the organization. The 1- time Gold Glover is known for his incredible talent at the shortstop position, cementing himself as one of the best fielding shortstops of all time. Vizquel will likely be working with the Angels minor league affiliates, and while he won’t be working directly with the major league talent this move further strengthens an organization which has seen its minor league organization ranking drop to the 2nd worst, just ahead of the Detroit Tigers. Having the presence of Omar Vizquel won’t directly improve the Angels farm system, yet having his influence on defensive oriented infielders such as Andrew Romine will be invaluable. Having Vizquel coach players like Romine that are looking to break through to the Angels bench by way of being a utility infielder boosts the value of this club considerably, especially when you consider the strength of the Angels defense. I only use Romine as a key example given the value of his defense greatly outweighing his offensive potential as well as his standing with the organization; he will most likely be the Angels utility infielder for 2013 barring a weak Spring Training.
One of the biggest factors in evaluating the excellence of this move is it’s practicality. Compared to GM Jerry Dipoto’s other offseason acquisitions the Vizquel signing offers the perfect balance of excellence and practicality. Josh Hamilton, while being one of the best hitters in the game, carries high risk and isn’t as practical given the status of his contract and the Angels relatively low need for a RF’er coming into the offseason. Josh Hamilton isn’t the only high-risk high-reward move made by Dipoto; the trade for Tommy Hanson carries a lot of risk given his injury history and declining performance a young age. The risk on Hanson is much more present than Hamilton and it doesn’t carry as much reward as the MVP RF’er can offer. Hamilton is somewhat of a “safer” risk-reward gamble than Hanson given his lack of any serious decline or overshadowing injuries.
On the other hand, moves like the Blanton signing offer far more practicality than excellence. We know what we’re going to get from Blanton, a near 5 ERA season with mostly mediocre peripherals aside from his ability to throw consistent strikes and keep his BB rate low as well as eat tons of innings, which have been one of the biggest problems of the Angels starting rotation for the past few years. Given the fact that he’s going to be pitching out of the 5-spot as well as find considerable protection from the Angels offense/defense/bullpen this move comes off as considerably practical. Having newly acquired Sean Burnet and Ryan Madson manning the back-end of the bullpen will prove to offer considerable protection for the lusterless starting rotation.
Bringing in Vizquel might not be as apparently effective as Josh Hamilton or Ryan Madson, the real value in this moves comes from the solidification of this organizations backbone. This move also shows Dipoto’s intent to fix the Angels weakened minor league organizations, something he made it clear he intended to do when he came on board the organization. It might have seemed to be false given all that Dipoto has done to strip the Angels minor league affiliates of its talent and depth. Given his trading of Jean Segura as well as Ariel Pena and Johnny Hellweg for 2 months of Zack Greinke in addition to the loss of drafts picks in free agency made it seem Dipoto was moving in the opposite direction of strengthening the organization’s farm system. It’s clear Dipoto wanted to improve the frontlines of the Angels before beginning to build a strong minor league system. He may have made a mistake trading 3 plus potential prospects for a short rental, but you have to give him credit for pulling the trigger on the move he felt he needed to make to get to the playoffs. Dipoto had the buffer zone to make a bad move like that given the strength of the ballclub, now that he's learned from his mistake he's been able to move on to improving the farm system.
You don’t become a successful organization by hoping to develop great players by scoring big on draft picks like Mike Trout or Evan Longoria; you have to ensure there is a strong development system in place to develop these players, given the rarity of draft picks becoming as successful as fast as players such as these. Given Dipoto’s fondness for a team built on incredible offense and defense with effective pitching bringing in a guy like Omar Vizquel to coach the teams budding infielders is key to creating a long-term environment of success.
To me the best moves aren’t the ones that simply give the team better players; it’s the moves that work behind the scenes to provide improvement. Just look at what happened to the Brewers from 2010 to 2011. Once they hired Angels bench coach Ron Roenicke as their new manager the team went from a sub-.500 77 win season the year before to a 1st place 96 win season with Roenicke at the helm. Now I’m aware of the differences in instilling a new manager to hiring a new middle infield coach, I’m just showing how instilling a new positive presence into an organization can have incredible yields for the clubs future. Right now I’m looking for the Angels to have possibly the best middle infield combination in the major leagues in the next 4-5 years. Sure it’ll take a while for his influence to have an impact on the team at a major league level, though when you consider the effects the presence of a once-in-a-lifetime type of player who excels at fielding better than anybody 4-5 years doesn’t seem like such a bad wait. Especially when you consider that’ll be the generation of middle infielders succeeding Howie Kendrick and Erick Aybar, a middle infield combination that is relatively outstanding, although unbalanced in favor of Aybar (speaking purely in terms of defense).
I know you’re all probably bursting at the seams waiting to see Hamilton and others take the field for the first time as Angels, I on the other hand cannot wait to see the products of Omar Vizquel’s development.
Hopefully we’ll have a World Series or two by then to satiate my impatience.