This is part of a series of posts in which we call out all 30 teams for their wily offseason moves and tragic offseason blunders.
Angels GM Bill Stoneman has one of those really apt names Sarah was talking about in one of her comments. Much like a stone, he never says anything, never shows any emotion, and never does much of anything either. Stoneman is legendary in LA for never trading anyone for anything, so any time you hear a trade rumor involving the Angels, you can usually just discount it entirely and proceed with your merry little life.
Not surprisingly, then, most Angels “offseason reports” range from “short” to “miniscule” in length. But Stoneman has been known to sign a free agent from time to time, and like the return of a rarely seen comet, this was one of those years.
Stoneman made waves this November when he awarded a 5-year, $50 million contract to erstwhile Rangers centerfielder Gary Matthews, Jr., in the most roundly criticised deal given to any player this offseason who wasn’t named Gil Meche. Among numerous ominous portents for Matthews’ future performance, only once in 8 seasons (with 6 different teams) has he hit more than 17 home runs, collected more than 59 RBI, or even accumulated more than 475 at-bats.
Any guesses which year all those things happened? (Hint: it rhymes with, um, ”blue cow sand and sticks”).
I also feel compelled to point out that Matthews’ .313 average last year was 50 points higher than his career mark. So either the guy mysteriously figured it all out at the age of 32, and suddenly transformed overnight from journeyman into superstar, or the Angles are going to be paying $50 million for one of the biggest flukes in recent memory.
Other than the Matthews signing, Stoneman only made three real moves all offseason. He signed noted pitching ace Darren Oliver and bullpen Titan Justin Speier, and mysteriously gave a one-year deal to the vastly overrated Shea Hillenbrand to play first base despite having a huge logjam of first-base types in the organization, including Casey Kotchman, Robb Quinlan, Kendry Morales, and Dallas McPherson.
For now, the logjam will be somewhat lessened while Juan Rivera recovers from a horribly broken leg, Garret Anderson plays leftfield, and Hillenbrand DH’s, but once Rivera returns Hillenbrand will be taking at-bats away from burgeoning slugger Robb Quinlan, and that is not a good thing.
In a classic non-move, it looks like Stoneman will not resign free-agent fan favorite Darin Erstad, despite Erstad’s inability to find a job anywhere else. You get the feeling that Stoneman would actually want to sign Erstad to somekind of deal as a backup outfielder, except that that would require him to actually do things like speak words or rise from a supine position.
The Angels used to be one of the most hyper, overreactive organizations in baseball (remember Jim Edmonds for Kent Bottonfield, anyone?) until the 2002 offseason when Stoneman tried doing absolutely nothing and the Angels wound up winning it all. Stoneman has tried to do as little as possible ever since, but sometimes owner Arte Moreno finally gets fed up and demands that Stoneman sign a big free agent, as happened with Vladimir Guerrero (whose contract was largely negotiated by Moreno), and happened again this year with Matthews after Moreno promised the fans the Angels would sign an “impact player” this year.
Nevertheless, the Angels remain in contention year after year thanks to a farm system that continues to produce reliable, if not necessarily spectacular major leaguers. With the emergence of Juan Rivera in the outfield and Howie Kendrick at second, the departures of Erstad and Adam Kennedy will not be missed much (and both were highly overrated in any case), and the Angels still have one of the more solid pitching rotations in the game, led by mulleted magician Jared Weaver, so the Halos are a good bet to challenge the A’s for the division crown despite a typically stone-like offseason from Stoneman.
Offseason Grade: F
Acquisitions: Gary Matthews Jr., Shea Hillenbrand, Darren Oliver, Justin Speier
Losses: Darin Erstad, Adam Kennedy, J.C. Romero, Brendan Donnelly, Kevin Gregg
Projected Lineup, Rotation, and Closer
3B Chone Figgins – .267/.336/.376, 52 SB
SS Orlando Cabrerra – .282/.335/.404 27 SB
RF Vladimir Guerrero – .329/.382/.552, 33 HR
DH Garret Anderson – .280/.323/.433, 17 HR
LF Juan Rivera – .310/.362/.525, 23 HR
CF Gary Matthews Jr. – .313/.371/.495 19 HR
1B Shea Hillenbrand – .277/.313/.451, 21 HR
C Mike Napoli – .228/.360/.455, 16 HR
2B Howie Kendrick – .285/.314/.416, 4 HR
RHP Jared Weaver – 11-2, 2.56
RHP John Lackey – 13-11, 3.56
RHP Kelvim Escobar – 11-14, 3.61
RHP Ervin Santana – 16-8, 4.28
LHP Joe Saunders – 7-3, 4.71
CL Frankie Rodriguez – 47 SV, 1.73