Following a disappointing 2011 season in which the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim missed the playoffs, owner Arte Moreno spared no expense in his attempt to insure that didn't happen again.
He signed three-time National League MVP Albert Pujols to a 10-year deal worth upwards of $240 million. Hours later, he also inked left-handed pitcher C.J. Wilson to a five-year, $77.5 million deal.
Upon hearing the news, Angels fans began dreaming of a World Series win in 2012. But the addition of Pujols and Wilson is not the only reason for such optimism.
There are several other factors that could make the Angels the favorites to win it all in 2012.
With extra players both in the outfield and infield such as Mark Trumbo, Bobby Abreu, Peter Bourjos, Hank Conger and minor leaguers Jean Segura and Alexi Amarista, the Angels could have the pieces necessary to land themselves a key addition that could put them over the top
Should they hold on to their trade prospects now, they could land another solid bullpen arm at the deadline or even a replacement for any injured players they might have.
It is impossible to predict where a team's weaknesses will be at the trade deadline, and a team's ability to address those weaknesses can be crucial.
Their surplus of talent is a luxury for the Angels.
In 2011, the Angels were healthy compared to many other teams. Despite the fact that the Angels have many veteran players, none missed major portions of the season.
Of the Angels' eight offensive positions, only the catching position saw a player play fewer than 130 games. In addition, the Angels sent six players to bat at least 540 times (seven if you include Pujols). That is at least double the number of players that the American League champion Texas Rangers sent to the plate that many times. They sent only three.
The starting pitching staff was no different. The Angels' top four starting pitchers heading into 2012 all pitched at least 223 innings. To top that off, none of those pitchers has a history of injury.
If the Angels can stay healthy like they did in 2011, they could make a serious push for the World Series title. As many fans across the league can tell you, it takes only a few injuries to change the entire look of a team.
The Angels' ability to stay healthy could give them an advantage over other playoff-bound teams who may be more injury prone or may be missing players due to injuries.
Even if the Angels do not win their division, they still could have a legitimate shot at a World Series title. Under the new collective bargaining agreement, the Angels could slide in as a second wild card, assuming that Major League Baseball institutes this change in 2012.
From there, the Angels could fight their way to the top, much like they did in 2002, when they secured their first World Series title.
With all the improvements they have made, it seems inevitable that they would secure at least one playoff spot in 2012. Should they do so, they have a good opportunity to ride their lethal pitching staff all the way to their second World Series win.
In the playoffs, it is pitching that usually makes the difference. Even if they were placed in a one-game playoff by capturing one of two wild-card spots, the Angels could roll into the American League Division Series seemingly unfazed by any such game because of their strong pitching staff.
No matter who started any such game, the Angels would still be able to send out an ace. If the Angels decided to use Jered Weaver in a one-game playoff, they could then use Dan Haren to start the division series. This is a luxury that most other teams do not have.
If the Angels were to end up with the best record in the American League, they would also have their four aces and an improved lineup to use against a team that could have potentially just used its best pitcher to escape elimination.
Even if the Angels were to limp into the playoffs, a certain amount of luck could carry them all the way to a World Series title.
Luck can come in many different forms. It could be simply a dropped fly ball, a bloop single or even a flock of birds getting the way of a fly ball in center field.
Strange things have happened in baseball, and while no team wants to blame a loss on a swarm of bugs, there is no doubt that such things can change the outcome of a ballgame.
For the Angels, they just have to hope that luck does not go against them. They would rather that luck was on their side.
If Kendrys Morales returns and Mark Trumbo adapts to playing third base, the Angels could have one of the most dynamic offensive teams in the American League.
With Morales and Trumbo, the Angels could have one of the best three-four-five combinations in the game today. Both are capable of hitting 30 or more home runs and driving in 80 or more runs.
In his last full season with the Angels, Morales slammed 34 homers while driving in 108 runs. Assuming he is healthy and can regain that form, he could well add the already outstanding numbers Pujols and Trumbo put up in 2011 (66 combined home runs, 186 combined RBI).
With these three in the middle of the Angels lineup, it certainly looks like a pitcher's nightmare.
In addition, the Angels could also witness the reemergence of Vernon Wells and even Torii Hunter. With five batters all capable of hitting 25 or more homers, the Angels could well leave their slap-hitting ways behind.
Power plays well in the playoffs, where even a solo home run could be the difference between going to the World Series and going home.
Running the Angels' on-field product is manager Mike Scioscia. When it comes to achievements, Scioscia nearly has them all.
He has led an Angels team to a World Series win before, has been to the postseason six times and has won two Manager of the Year awards.
Of the teams that look to contend, none has a manager as accomplished as Scioscia.
During the playoffs, the manager can be as important as the most lethal hitter or pitcher. A manager's moves throughout a game can greatly determine the outcome.
For the Angels, there is no better advantage than having Scioscia in the dugout.
Under the new CBA, teams within the same division can now face each other during the American League Division Series. This essentially means that the Angels could potentially see the Red Sox, Yankees or Rays face each other before having to face them for themselves.
All of this, of course, hinges on the Angels' ability to win the AL West.
Should they win the West, the Angels could see two of the American League's best teams eliminated before the ALCS.
In a perfect world, it would be the Yankees and Red Sox, both of whom have given the Angels fits in recent playoffs.
During the 2011 season, the Angels won 86 games and missed the playoffs altogether. Owner Arte Moreno vowed to change that and eventually dished out the money necessary to acquire Albert Pujols, C.J. Wilson and LaTroy Hawkins. Additionally, new GM Jerry Dipoto acquired catcher Chris Iannetta while also trading away Jeff Mathis.
Combined, all of these moves equate to a much improved ballclub. Not only did the Angels add arguably the best player in the game, but they also added the best free-agent starting pitcher, a very solid reliever and an offensive upgrade at the catching position. This would seemingly be enough of an upgrade to get the Angels at least 90 to 95 wins during the 2012 season.
Let's also not forget the many other improvements that the Angels could see happen as well. Vernon Wells could re-establish himself as a dangerous hitter, Kendrys Morales could become his 2009 self, Jerome Williams could evolve into a solid No. 5 starter and the Angels could still add another bullpen arm. None of these things is extremely far-fetched.
How many more games would the Angels win if those things happened? If they did, the Angels could become the most deadly team in baseball. I'd hate to face that team in the playoffs.
Jered Weaver, Dan Haren, Ervin Santana and C.J. Wilson have the potential to be one of the most dominant pitching staffs in the game today. Even without Wilson, the Angels finished with the best ERA in the American League in 2011.
The accomplishments of the Angels' No. 5 starter, Jerome Williams, deserve to be looked at as well. Last year with the Angels, Williams went 4-0 and posted a 2.31 ERA in six starts. He soon followed that up by allowing only four earned runs in six starts while playing winter ball in Venezuela.
The fatal four that the Angels are flaunting could possibly become a fatal five.
Even without Williams, the Angels have a pitching staff that could carry them to the playoff and even to a World Series title.
The four or five solid starters could also give the Angels a playoff luxury that other teams do not have. They could either use each starter as a starter or move to a three- or four-man rotation.
This would seemingly give them another solid reliever to add to the bullpen. An option such as this could become very appealing in a short division series.