GM Tony Reagins and his front office crew deserve a lot of credit. The decision to let Mark Teixeira walk a year ago ought to be remembered as a great case study in how even deep-pocketed teams should be playing the market. Instead of committing really long-term to Teixeira (who as we all know signed with the Yankees for 8 years and $180M), they recognized that they had a more than suitable replacement right there in Kendry Morales. What more, they let well-known and over-valued players such as Garrett Anderson and Francisco Rodriguez go as well, bringing in Bobby Abreu and Brian Fuentes for a fraction of what the Mets had to pay to bring K-Rod to Queens. Now those are some smart moves.
Which makes me very curious as to how the Angels will play the market this time around. Much like a year ago, the front office has some tough decisions to make in regards to what they’d like their roster to look like come April. It’s difficult to think of the Angels going into Opening Day without the likes of free agents Vlad Guerrero, Chone Figgins, John Lackey, and Kelvim Escobar. But that is a possible scenario. While I fully understand the sentiment that you shouldn’t blow up a 97-win team, what must be taken into account are future repercussions. If they sign both Figgins and Lackey to long-term deals, their finances in 2012 would probably be a mess. So the Angels should be putting on their thinking caps here.
I’ve talked a bit about Figgins before. The third baseman was very arguably the MVP of the team last year but I have a hard time understanding how the market will value him. I’d confidently bet money on his production slipping at least a bit and that whoever signs him may be disappointed. Instead, the Angels could take a gamble on a guy like Troy Glaus, whose 2009 season was basically thrown out due to a slow recovery from shoulder surgery. But Glaus was still a productive bat prior to going under the knife and he may be willing to sign the former Angel to a one-year deal to prove his health. Or they may decide to finally give the job full time to Brandon Wood, whose very strong numbers in AAA are yet to translate to big league success. If I were Reagins, I’d let Figgins walk, collect the draft picks (he’s a Type A who’s been offered arbitration) and use my money elsewhere.
And that’s money they may need if they decide to close the books on the Vlad Guerrero era. His last two seasons featured injuries and declining production. Even moving him to DH didn’t keep him healthy and I don’t think there’s much reason to be optimistic with him. It would make sense if Bobby Abreu was moved to DH and the Angels looked for a corner OF bat. With the $15M salary that Vlad received in 2009 coming off the books, the Angels may become a player in the Matt Holliday sweepstakes (though owner Arte Moreno denies it).
On the pitching side, the Angels already have four legitimate starters in Ervin Santana, Joe Saunders, Jered Weaver, and Scott Kazmir. But are they enough? I think it would be smart of the Angels to bring aboard at least two more SPs given the injury history of Santana, the rocky season from Kazmir, and the fact that Joe Saunders inevitably came back down to earth after an unlikely 2008 season. I would personally pass on Lackey unless he’s willing to take a HUGE discount to return to Anaheim, but resigning Kelvim Escobar to a one year contract isn’t the worst idea at all. And even if the Halos can’t bring Lackey back, signing guys like Joel Pinero and/or Randy Wolf to shorter deals may be the more prudent thing to do anyway.
Given the fact that the Angels were 10 games ahead of second-place Texas, I would think that even a small downgrade for the sake of some fiscal sanity would still result in a playoff berth. But the last thing that the Angels should be doing is committing loads of money and years to players like Figgins, Guerrero, and Lackey, who all have nowhere to go but down. It may very well hurt from a PR perspective, but the Halos would probably be better off finding an alternate route to October.