Published March 25, 2014
Philadelphia, PA – (SportsNetwork.com) - After two offseasons of spending an awful lot of money, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim tried a different approach this past winter.
And let's face it, they had to try something new.
The Angels had spent like drunken sailors the past two offseasons, handing out over $440 million to Albert Pujols, C.J. Wilson and Josh Hamilton. But, for a myriad of reasons, mostly injuries, it hasn't worked out and the Angels stumbled to their second straight third-place finish last year, going 78-84.
Now an Angels franchise that won a World Series in 2002 and had been to the playoffs in six of eight years has missed the postseason in four straight years, despite a roster that reads almost like an All-Star team.
The team made a few minor moves this offseason, sending slugging outfielder Mark Trumbo to Arizona for a pair of young starting pitchers, while speedy outfielder Peter Bourjos was dealt to St. Louis for David Freese.
Not exactly the back page moves as in years past, but solid nonetheless.
Mike Scioscia is a two-time AL Manager of the Year and has generally been considered one of the better skippers in the game since assuming the reins in L.A. back in 2000.
Still, owner Arte Moreno's patience has to be wearing thin and coupled with the fact that Scioscia doesn't exactly get along with general manager Jerry DiPoto, you have to think that the Angels better get off to a fast start.
Still, lost in this downtime has been the emergence of outfielder Mike Trout, who has quite simply become the best all-around player in the game. Despite the team's struggles, Trout had another tremendous season and finished second again in AL MVP voting.
Trout needs some help, though, and if he gets some the Angels could very well find their way back to the postseason.
2013 FINISH (78-84) - Third Place (AL West)
KEY OFFSEASON ADDITIONS: David Freese (3B); Hector Santiago (LHP); Tyler Skaggs (LHP); Raul Ibanez (DH); Joe Smith (RHP); John McDonald (INF); Fernando Salas (RHP); Brandon Lyon (RHP)
KEY OFFSEASON SUBTRACTIONS: Mark Trumbo (OF); Peter Bourjos (OF); Jason Vargas (LHP); Jerome Williams (RHP); Tommy Hanson (RHP)
PROJECTED LINEUP: Kole Calhoun (RF); Mike Trout (CF); Albert Pujols (1B); Josh Hamilton (LF); David Freese (3B); Raul Ibanez (DH); Howie Kendrick (2B); Erick Aybar (SS); Chris Ianetta (C)
PROJECTED ROTATION: Jered Weaver (RHP); C.J. Wilson (RHP); Garrett Richards (RHP); Hector Santiago (LHP); Tyler Skaggs (LHP)
PROJECTED CLOSER: Ernesto Frieri (RHP)
MANAGER: Mike Scioscia
WILL THE HALOS WORK OUT A LONG TERM DEAL WITH MIKE TROUT?
One of the bigger stories at the start of spring training was whether or not the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim would try and lock up Trout to a long term deal.
Why the rush? Trout's not even arbitration eligible until 2015 and can't officially test the free agent waters until 2017.
Well, it's simple. With everyday that passes his price tag goes up.
Trout's been the face of baseball the moment he stepped on the field in late April 2012. Had his team been a little better, Trout may have already had two AL MVP trophies on his mantle.
In 336 big league games, Trout has hit .314 with 62 home runs, 196 RBI, 86 stolen bases and a .948 OPS. He led the AL in WAR both seasons and has won back-to-back Silver Slugger Awards.
And he is every bit as good defensively as he is with a bat in his hands.
The popular belief is that a deal will get worked out eventually and some have speculated that he could earn as much as $150 million over six years. If that were to happen Trout would still have the ability to test the free agent market at 29, at which time he may become the game's first $50 million-a-year player.
CAN PUJOLS/HAMILTON BOUNCE BACK?
It's really not that hard to pinpoint why Los Angeles has missed out on the postseason the last few years. Pujols and Hamilton have been major busts since signing their monster free agent deals.
After showing decline in 2012, Pujols suffered through painful foot and knee injuries in 2013 and turned in the worst numbers of his career, as he hit just .258 with 17 homers and 64 RBI in 99 games before shutting it down for the season.
Pujols has claimed that he is fully recovered from his injuries and is expecting a big season. It's probably a stretch to think that he'll revert back to the player who won three NL MVP awards with the St. Louis Cardinals, but if he is indeed healthy don't be surprised if you see him at the All-Star Game in Minnesota.
Hamilton, meanwhile, saw his power numbers drastically decrease in 2013 following an offseason that saw him lose an incredible amount of weight. He did manage to hit .287 after the break, but still only finished the year with 21 home runs.
Hamilton added some bulk this offseason so that could help get his power numbers up, but with that also brings other problems, as he has been sidelined most of the spring with a back injury.
The Angels, though, expect him to be ready for the start of the season.
SO WHO'S IN THE ROTATION?
In righty Jered Weaver the Angels have one of the best pitchers in baseball. Weaver is always a trendy preseason pick to win an AL Cy Young Award, but at age 31, his time could be running out.
After winning 20 games in 2012, Weaver struggled to 11 wins last season and pitched to a 3.27 ERA while dealing with some shoulder issues. No longer the flamethrower he was just a few years ago, Weaver has become a more complete pitcher now and is still one of the elite in the AL,
Lefty Wilson had a terrific season last year, going 17-7 with a 3.39 ERA. He's as solid a No. 2 starter as there is in the league, as he has been able to make at least 33 starts and throw over 200 innings in each of his four years since leaving the bullpen.
But after that the Angels have some serious question marks.
Garrett Richards will likely slot in as the third starter, while Scioscia will rely on a pair of even younger arms to round out the rotation in lefties Tyler Skaggs and Hector Santiago.
Skaggs, acquired in the Trumbo deal, was one of the bigger pitching prospects in baseball at one time, but saw a decrease in velocity last season. Santiago, meanwhile, was also part of that Trumbo trade, but has yet to last a full season as a starting pitcher.
If things get really bad, Scioscia could turn to righty Joe Blanton. He, though, was one of the worst pitchers in the league, going 2-14 with a 6.04 ERA.
X-FACTOR: KOLE CALHOUN: Kole Calhoun started to turn heads last season at Triple A where he hit .354 with a 12 home runs and 10 steals in just 59 games. He came to the Angels in July and ended the year hitting .282 with eight home runs and 32 RBI. This also included a solid finish in the final month of the season as he batted .307 with three home runs, 18 RBIs, 13 runs scored and collected hits in 17 out of 18 games. Now with Bourjos and Trumbo elsewhere, he has been given the right field job and will bat leadoff for Scioscia's club. He's thrived this spring at the top of the lineup. With a lineup chock full of stars, amazingly Calhoun could be the key to it all. He has the potential to be a 30/30 type player, which is odd considering he only had two stolen bases for the Angels last season. However, look for him to run more now that he is at the top of the lineup.
There used to be a time when just having a player like Pujols or Hamilton on your roster automatically made you a playoff contender. Trout has joined that company. If you have a player like Trout on your roster, you have a shot. And if you take a look at things in the AL West right now, who says the Angels can't sneak out a division crown. Of course, they will need bounce-back years from Pujols and Hamilton. But, they don't have to replicate their MVP years. If they can at least be serviceable that should be enough. The pitching is the biggest question mark. Weaver is what he is, but Scioscia may be asking an awful lot from the backend of his rotation. Still, it can only go up from last year. This could be a team to contend for a playoff spot and may do even a little more if they get some pitching help.