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This is one of a series of posts in which we eviscerate each team’s lambastable offseason blunders and laud their miraculous hot-stove coups.

Vladimir Guerrero, the funniest looking slugger in the majorsThe Angels again made the playoffs in 2007, and again were escorted to an early exit. Last year, the Anaheim squad did a great job of making the most of what they had—speed. Taking advantage of every opportunity to go first-to-third on a single, their aggressive baserunning served them well during the regular season when their small-ball style of play masked their lack of power hitting. But the injured Anaheim ballclub did not last long in October, and scarcely had the season ended when the Angels front office got to work.

In November, they acquired pitcher Jon Garland from the White Sox for Gold Glove shortstop Orlando Cabrera and cash. A few days later, they signed free agent center fielder Torii Hunter, one of the gems in an otherwise weak market. However, Hunter’s only an average fielder and is already 32. Plus, this gave the Angels a glut of outfielders: Hunter, Gary Matthews Jr., Garret Anderson, Vladimir Guerrero, Juan Rivera and Reggie Willits. (Could they have made a deal for Miguel Cabrera with the Marlins instead? The world will never know. On the one hand, the Angels’ farm system, though still good, isn’t what it once was—but on the other, the Marlins didn’t get nearly enough for Cabrera anyway. The two sides did some talking, but the deal fell apart.) Those of us expecting the Angels to continue their frenzy of activity with a move to exchange one of those outfielders for an infielder or a relief pitcher or, well, anything, were disappointed. If the Angels can’t find a way to get Reggie’s .391 OBP and speedy legs into the lineup somehow, they’ll be missing out on his productivity while also diminishing his trade value. I would rather see him start in left field over Gary Matthews, Jr. any day. (Well, any day except for when the Angels are Reggie Willits, who I always forget is white.playing the Red Sox, of course.)

So it is that the Angels will begin 2008 hoping that Erick Aybar can fill in for Orlando Cabrera. The 24-year old Aybar is the definition of a light-hitting infielder, though his offense should improve a bit once he’s getting regular at-bats. While he doesn’t have much experience at shortstop in the majors, it was his usual position through the minor leagues, so I don’t foresee a problem there. Plus, the Angels will be able to rotate their outfielders through the DH slot, keeping their bats in the lineup while giving their legs a rest. And Torii Hunter will provide the long-needed protection for Guerrero in the lineup. Finally, the addition of Jon Garland will give the Angels another solid arm behind staff ace John Lackey, which they’re no doubt doubly glad of now that 18-game winner Escobar has reported to camp with a sore shoulder.

Acquisitions: Torii Hunter, Jon Garland

Losses: Orlando Cabrera, Dallas McPherson, Bartolo Colon

Projected Lineup, Rotation, and Closer:

1. 3B, Chone Figgins, .393 OBP, 41 SB

2. LF, Reggie Willits, .391 OBP, 27 SB

3. RF, Vladimir Guerrero, 27 HR, .403 OBP

4. CF, Torii Hunter, 28 HR, .287 AVG

5. DH, Garret Anderson, 16 HR, .297 AVG

6. 1B, Casey Kotchman, .372 OBP

7. 2B, Howie Kendrick, .322 AVG

8. C, Mike Napoli, 10 HR, .351 OBP

9. SS, Erick Aybar, 1 HR, .237 AVG

SP1 John Lackey, 3.01 ERA, 224.0 IP

SP2 Kelvim Escobar, 3.40 ERA, 195.2 IP

SP3 Jered Weaver, 3.91 ERA, 161.0 IP

SP4 Jon Garland, 4.23 ERA, 208.1 IP

SP5 Joe Saunders, 4.44 ERA, 107.1 IP

CL Francisco Rodriguez, 2.81 ERA, 1.25 WHIP

Grade: A-

The Angels accomplished two major goals this offseason: acquiring a dependable starting pitcher and picking up a bat for the middle of their lineup. Their roster heading into 2008 is deep, with last year’s injuries having given some of their younger players and utility guys more experience. Their rotation looks solid—Weaver and Saunders are both young pitchers who should see a step-up in workload this year. Their lineup is stacked, too. My only reservation ist that Torii Hunter might not have been the best possible guy to get to protect Vladimir and, that by acquiring him, the team now has too many outfielders. But if the biggest problem a team has is too many good players, that’s an enviable problem to have. The Angels should make it to the playoffs again this year, and, if they stay healthy, have the roster to get a bit further this time.

-Hot Offseason Action Index-

8 Responses to “Hot Offseason Action: Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim”

  1. Nick Kapur says:

    Sarah, I have to question what I find to be an unreasonably high “A-” grade.

    The Torii Hunter deal is a lot of money over a lot of years to a player who is already in decline. Matthews is a vastly superior defender in center field at this point, so the Angels got a small increase in slugging at the cost of a big drop off on defense and worsening the logjam they already had at outfield/DH. And I’m not sure Vlad actually even needs “protection” in the lineup in any usual sense, given how he swings at everything. Basically, I think it was a non-existent hole that the Angels didn’t need to fill, and certainly not at that price. The Angels were not one aging Torii Hunter away from the World Series last season, and this deal probably means that Reggie Willits is going to ride the pine, which is a big blow to the offense.

    The Garland trade probably helps the team a bit, but that was a pretty fair trade all around – I wouldn’t say it was a huge steal for the Angels to lose their gold-glove good-hitting shortstop.

    And that’s it. That’s all the Angels did this offseason. Sure, they are going to contend this season, albeit not particularly due to anything they did this offseason, but rather due to the fact that the rest of the AL West still sucks. So I don’t think they ought to be graded highly for what they did *this* offseason. I think a B- or a C would be more apt.

  2. Sarah Green says:

    Nick, the Angels won 94 games last year, so it’s not like they limped into the postseason and needed major upgrades. They easily won their division, and they’ll win it again this year. Sure, the AL west is weak, but to me, that means the Angels had less on their to do list this offseason. Finally, in working on this post, I accepted the commonly received wisdom that they needed another big bat to protect Vladimir *and* add some power to a lineup that was sorely bereft of it. Torii Hunter still has two-to-three good years left—yes, his deal was a bit over-generous, but that’s as far as I can go. I was internally debating whether to give them an A- or a B+, but in the end, I gave them the higher grade because barring disaster, they’re a lock to go back to the postseason this year. A C or a B- just seems way too low for a deep as deep and as talented as the Angels.

    Also, I have to say, I’ve noticed that this “they were not one _____ away from winning the World Series” phrase is a favorite Nick construction. But I’m on to you! Hardly any team is ever just one player away from the World Series—it’s the makeup of the team as a whole that’s so important. So, that seems like a fancy straw man to me, Nick Kapur. And I will not be dragged in by it!

  3. Sarah, it sounds to me by your definition that it would have been impossible for the Angels to get a bad grade this offseason, short of some sort of massive fire sale to slash payroll, because you seem to be grading them based on how many games they can be expected to win this season rather than on what they actually did this offseason.

    Maybe we just disagree slightly on what these grades actually mean, but this is why I always use the phrase “offseason grade” on my posts, to show that I am grading teams on what they actually did this particular offseason. If a team gives a ridiculously long and expensive contract to a player that is not really going to help the team in any way, they should start out with a pretty low offseason grade, in my view, and if they don’t really make any other brilliant moves to offset that bad move, then their grade should remain low. Regardless of how many wins we might expect them to get, if their offseason was sucky, than it was sucky.

    The fact is, any team can be improved. Even a team that won 94 games last year. I actually agree that the Angels could do with a bit more power in their lineup. But if you are sacrificing defense and OBP to add that power, it is very questionable if you are even helping your team at all, especially when we are not talking about a tremendous amount of power here in Torii Hunter.

  4. Sarah Green says:

    We seem to mostly disagree about what the Angels needed to do to increase their competitiveness, and whether or not they addressed those needs. I don’t think they had to do much, so the bar there is low. When I see that they added a solid starting pitcher and a good, reasonably powerful hitter to their lineup, I think they did what they set out to do. Yes, they overpaid for Hunter—but they’re a big-market team, and they can afford to. I disagree with you that Hunter is in decline—I don’t see the evidence of that in his numbers. I also disagree that they’ll sit Reggie Willits. But time will tell.

  5. I love OBP as much as the next guy. And trust me, the next guy seems to love it. A lot. Like, to an unhealthy, unnatural, dirty, filthy extent.

    Anyway… Um… Reggie Willits still isn’t a very good player. They won’t miss him in the lineup. Besides, the AL West is shaping up to be a terrible division anyways. The only team I can see cracking .500 is Anaheim.

  6. Sarah Green says:

    Reggie Willits has an OBP of almost .400! He could easily steal 30 bases next year—40 if he played every day! Paul, I’m shocked at you.

    Shocked.

  7. I didn’t say that Willits sucked. I said he isn’t a very good player. He had a very high BABiP last year and I’m not convinced that he’s the type of hitter who can sustain that over another year. Which probably means that his already meager slugging percentage is also going down. Again, as you know, I’m a big fan of OBP. But you can’t overstate its value when the guy can’t slug .350 in a “breakout” year.

  8. Nick Kapur says:

    I guess when I said that Torii Hunter was “already in decline”, I was talking about his defense rather than his offense. When Hunter first came up, he was one of the best defensive centerfielders around, and he still has that reputation, but he was actually a below average defender in center last year, going by the numbers.

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