Philadelphia, PA – The Los Angeles Angels knew they had to make a splash this offseason.
After missing out on Carl Crawford, Adrian Beltre and Cliff Lee the previous winter, owner Arte Moreno was not going to let that happen again this offseason, especially after not only watching his team miss the postseason for a second straight year, but seeing a team in his own division, the Texas Rangers, represent the American League at the World Series in each of the last two seasons.
With the entire baseball world expecting the great Albert Pujols to land in Miami or stay in St. Louis, Moreno changed the dynamic of the American League by signing the first baseman to a mammoth 10-year, $240 million deal.
If that wasn't enough, the Angels not only strengthened their own pitching staff but significantly weakened the Rangers' in the process by inking left- hander C.J. Wilson to a five-year contract worth $77.5 million.
Now the Pujols signing creates some interesting problems for manager Mike Scioscia. Mark Trumbo was an American League Rookie of the Year candidate last season filling in at first base for the injured Kendrys Morales, who at one time was one of the brighter young stars in the league before a freak injury caused from a home run celebration cost him most of two seasons.
So not only does Scioscia have to find a way to get Trumbo's bat into the lineup, he must also find at-bats for the returning Morales. And oh yea Bobby Abreu has been guaranteed by Scioscia that his playing time will not be cut.
Most teams would love to have those problems, though.
Below we take a capsule look at the 2012 edition of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, with a personnel evaluation and prognosis included therein:
2011 FINISH (86-76) - Second Place (AL West)
KEY OFFSEASON ADDITIONS: Albert Pujols (1B), C.J. Wilson (LHP), LaTroy Hawkins (RHP), Brad Mills (LHP), Chris Iannetta (C)
KEY OFFSEASON SUBTRACTIONS: Jeff Mathis (C), Tyler Chatwood (RHP), Fernando Rodney (RHP), Russell Branyan (1B)
PROJECTED LINEUP: Erick Aybar (SS); Howie Kendrick (2B); Albert Pujols (1B); Kendrys Morales (DH); Torii Hunter (RF); Vernon Wells (LF); Alberto Callaspo (3B); Chris Iannetta (C); Peter Bourjos (CF)
PROJECTED ROTATION: Jeff Weaver (RHP); Dan Haren (RHP); C.J. Wilson (LHP); Ervin Santana (RHP)
PROJECTED CLOSER: Jordan Walden (RHP)
MANAGER: Mike Scioscia
WHAT KIND OF IMPACT WILL ALBERT PUJOLS HAVE?
The Angels made the biggest splash this offseason by sneaking in at the last second and stealing three-time National League MVP Albert Pujols from the St. Louis Cardinals and Miami Marlins.
Getting familiarized with the AL won't be that big of a deal thanks to interleague play. But, how Pujols adjusts to a to a new manager, new clubhouse dynamic, new media market and new fan base will be interesting, especially early on when he may try to overdo it in proving he is worth the $240 million he signed for this winter.
Angels Stadium is not exactly hitter-friendly, but neither was Busch Stadium, where Pujols did most of his damage. Remember, Hall of Famer Frank Robinson had the best year of his career after switching leagues in 1966, winning the AL MVP that season for the Baltimore Orioles. Pujols should have similar success.
Let's keep in mind, though, this is a player who has finished in the top five in MVP voting 10 times, won two Gold Gloves, and was named NL Rookie of the Year in 2001. He has been selected for nine All-Star games and helped the Cardinals to two World Series titles, including a seven-game defeat of the Texas Rangers this past season.
It didn't matter where Pujols signed, he is going to perform. However, as good as he is, Pujols is coming off a sub-par season by his standards in 2011. He hit under .300 with fewer than 100 RBI for the first time in his career (.299, 99 RBI), while swatting 37 homers.
He also will turn 32 years old in January, and there is the possibility that his production could continue to progressively drop off as he gets deeper into the contract.
That decline is probably coming, but it won't be in year one of this deal. Provided he stays healthy, Pujols is going to give the Angels a .300-plus average, 40 or so home runs and well over 100 RBI, numbers that haven't been seen in Anaheim since Vlad Guerrero was in his prime.
JUST HOW GOOD CAN THIS ROTATION BE?
The Angels' rotation is absolutely loaded.
Right-handers Jered Weaver and Dan Haren were already a formidable duo at the top, but general manager Jerry DiPoto made the staff even better by inking left-hander C.J. Wilson the same day the Pujols news came down.
Wilson, who spent the first seven years of his career in Texas, is coming off a career year in 2011, when he went 16-7 with a 2.94 ERA in 34 starts. He also recorded 206 strikeouts in 223 1/3 innings while being selected to his first All-Star game.
Of course, this staff is led by Weaver, who is coming off his best year as a pro. Weaver was 18-8 last season with a 2.41 ERA and 198 strikeouts. The 29- year-old hurler was dominant throughout the year and posted three months with an ERA lower than 2.00.
Nobody is happier that Pujols is on board than Weaver, who posted those big numbers last season, despite having the second-lowest run support in the AL.
And if that's not enough, the Angels have the super-consistent Haren, who was 16-10 a year ago with a 3.17 ERA. Haren also led the AL last season with a 5.82 K/BB ratio.
Ervin Santana gives the Angels as good of a fourth starter as there is in the league. The right-hander may not be as reliable as the other three, but you can pencil him in for 200-plus innings and an ERA in the low 3.00s.
Santana produced the season's single-game highlight with the ninth no-hitter in franchise history on July 27 in Cleveland.
DO THE ANGELS BELIVE IN JORDAN WALDEN?
Jordan Walden assumed the Angels closer role early last season and put forth a solid campaign, saving 32 games to go along with a 5-5 ledger and a 2.98 ERA. He did tie for the major league lead, though, with 10 blown saves.
That last little nugget was probably why there were whispers this offseason that the team was toying with the idea of bringing in an established closer, like a Ryan Madson, to pitch alongside their young reliever.
Instead of going the Madson/Francisco Rodriguez route, though, the Angels brought in a pair of veteran relievers and former closers in LaTroy Hawkins and Jason Isringhausen. Together, they have 32 years in the big leagues, countless experiences in all the trials and tribulations a reliever can go through and, most importantly, a willingness to help.
X FACTOR: VERNON WELLS: Think about this for a second. The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim owe Wells $63 million over the next three seasons. Last season, Wells earned $23 million and hit .218 and drove in 66 runs. To make matters worse, the Angels have one of the top-three prospects in all of baseball in Mike Trout ready to go, but is blocked at the moment because of Wells. It's either put-up or shut-up time for Wells because in case you haven't been paying attention, this is an Angels team that is ready to compete now. It won't, though, if Wells continues to be an albatross in left field.
The sky is the limit for this Angels team. Not only did they add the best bat in the market in Pujols, but in strengthening their rotation with the addition of Wilson they also weakened the Texas Rangers. There are some questions, though, like how Scioscia is going to keep everyone in that lineup happy? Trumbo has already transitioned to third base, but he will surely be a liability on defense. Then there's Wells, who has to improve if he wants to play. But on paper, the Angels look legit. But, as everyone knows, pennants aren't won on paper.