LA Angels Free Agents: 5 Offseason Moves LAA Must Make to Dominate AL West
With the Los Angeles Angels still in the midst of a playoff race at just 3 games back of the final Wild Card spot in the American League, it seems premature to begin talk of offseason free agent moves for the Halos.
But given the struggles of the 2012 season, the team's lofty expectations and even loftier payroll, it's not too early to look at where the Angels can improve. With that in mind, here's a look at five free agent moves the team will need to make in order to have success in 2013.
1. Replace Zack Greinke
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Fans in Southern California have somewhat accepted the fact that Zack Greinke could be a rental, given the team's high payroll and the attention the right-hander is likely to command in the offseason from suitors with deep pockets despite his struggles as a member of the Halos.
That means that the team will be tasked with replacing his spot in the rotation. If the Angels are going to succeed in 2013, it will need stronger production from its starting pitching. If Greinke does walk, the Angels could give young right-hander Garrett Richards a look at filling the spot.
Again, this all depends on the Angels' inability to re-sign him, which they are certain to attempt to do.
2. Shore Up Middle Relief
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Middle relief has been an issue for the Angels in 2012 and much of the team's struggles in posting a 3.98 ERA through 147 games has to do with the team's bullpen failing to maintain leads. The starting pitching hasn't lived up to its top billing, but the relievers will have to do a better job of picking them up in 2013.
There are options out there for the Halos, who will not want to break the bank for this important position, given their financial ties elsewhere on the roster.
Stay tuned for an effective solution to this problem.
3. Sign Torii Hunter at a Discount
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According to Los Angeles Times beat writer Mike DiGiovanna, Torii Hunter wants to stay with the Angels to finish his career and would be willing to take a substantial pay cut in order to do so. That's good news, given the 37-year old's recent surge in production and protection in the lineup around budding stars Mike Trout and Mark Trumbo.
"This is the only team I want to play for," said Hunter. "If I'm not in their plans, no hard feelings. I've had a great time here. But money will not be the reason I'm not here."
4. Trade Vernon Wells
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No, it's not a free agent signing, but here's how trading Vernon Wells could affect the Angels' free agency:
The resurgence of Wells has been a twofold positive for the Angels. First, they've actually needed him to produce in the midst of a playoff race and secondly, they will likely make an effort to move his $21M salary during the offseason, which will free up more dollars to sign free agents in a real area of need and thin out the crowded Angels' outfield at the same time.
His relatively strong play coming off an injury has only made his stock go up, and there are plenty of suitors that can use him if he continues to show he can contribute at a high level once again. His .230 BA in 2012 isn't going to scare anyone, but he's being paid too much not to play every day and has show that he can contribute when given the opportunity.
The Angels have a lot of young talent they are satisfied with in the outfield and can afford to move on without him. Trading him would be an ideal way to make room for free agents elsewhere.
5. Find a Diamond in the Rough
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The Angels need to look at some middle relievers, and they also need to save money on payroll (hat tip to Bleacher Report's Joel Reuter on a great free agency piece). Ryan Madson can take care of both of those needs, as the right-hander has been injured and has not yet played in 2012.
Given his injury history, the Cincinnati Reds may not want to take a chance on him again, given the emergence of current closer Aroldis Chapman. The Halos need to hold leads, and Madson wants to prove himself as capable of bouncing back.
It could all equate to a perfect match for 2013.