Los Angeles Angels' Offseason List: What's Next If the Angels Lose Zack Greinke?
Backed by the cash of owner Arte Moreno and the enticing ability of GM Jerry Dipoto, the Los Angeles Angels will certainly give it their best monetary shot towards landing coveted free-agent pitcher Zack Greinke this winter.
Unfortunately, so will a handful of other teams—even some that have not admitted to their offseason wish. Yet.
Unlike years past, when the ink and rumors usually began rolling about sometime in November, the new MLB labor agreement has this year's crop of name-theit-price players already on the minds—and possibly expense reports—of general managers across both leagues.
The front office's aggressiveness entering the general managers' meetings (held in Indian Wells, CA) has already been noticed by player agents. In an article by USA Today sportswriter Bob Nightengale, agent Gene Mateo said this:
I've been in this business for 21 years, and I've never seen anything like it. This is moving really, really fast. I mean, it's gotten to a point where I'm trying to slow the process down.
So, does that sort of fast-paced bargaining and (possible) spending by other suitors hurt the Angels' chances of landing Zack Greinke? Sure it does.
After all, understanding that all teams involved in the sweepstakes will offer the $20 to $25 million per year needed to get Greinke, the outside factor is always unknown, Perhaps Greinke has an itch for Hollywood life or a taste for a state's self-titled toast.
However, it won't be the end of the world or the 2013 season for the Angels if Greinke doesn't sign. In fact, it would free up serious money for other needs, opening greater possibilities to craft more of a team effort. I know, scary words these days.
Let's take a look at what the Angels should do next, assuming that Zack Greinke doesn't want to be...well, in Anaheim any more.
Explore Second-Tier Starter Options, Including Dan Haren
Loading a rotation with high-priced talent is never a guarantee for success. The wear and tear on arms is too prevalent these days for one or two pitchers to stand on the hill as the team’s backbone.
Building a complete rotation with solid arms, rather than relying on every one of them to carry the club, is the smarter move.
Yes, following the trade of Ervin Santana and the faux trade of Dan Haren, the Angels made it clear that Greinke was their coveted piece for the 2013 rotation. However, even GM Jerry Dipoto is smart enough to know not to put all his eggs in one basket (h/t to the Los Angeles Times' Bill Shaikin via Twitter).
There are several pitchers besides Greinke on the market that can work for the team at a lesser cost: Kyle Lohse, Edwin Jackson, Anibal Sanchez and even Dan Haren.
That's right. Dan Haren.
Now, before the Internet blows up in a message-filled tirade over why the Angels would never bring Haren back, it's important to realize why he was let go.
The tightness in Haren's back, plus the 200-plus innings he logged the past few seasons, has been the common argument for his status dropping as a solid pitcher; for the Angels, it was too much of a risk to spend $15.5 million with that kind of health report.
However, because Haren's fastball dipped consistently below 90 mph in 2012, he will have to throw in front of scouts this winter to prove his worth.
Why shouldn't the Angels check him out?
He wasn't terrible for the club, and he still is better than other options after the big-name hurlers on the market. Let's face it: Haren is a way better option than Francisco Liriano or Jeff Francis any day, if healthy.
It's important to note that Haren went 12-13 with a 4.33 ERA in 2012, but five of his leads were blown by the bullpen. This tied C.J Wilson for the most blown leads on the Angels' starting staff.
Keep Building the Bullpen
While the addition of Brandon Sisk (via Kansas City for Ervin Santana) should help the bullpen in 2013, it can't stand as the only solution to the Angels' problems.
The bullpen can still improve without breaking the bank.
Which pitchers might fit best for the Angels?
Vicente Padilla has been one possible player of interest for the Angels, according to the Boston Globe.
Although his numbers were not great for Boston in 2012 (he blew four of five save opportunities and had an ERA of 4.50), Padilla did have a record of 4-1 and 23 holds—definitely an area where the Angels could use some help.
Padilla, 35, isn't the youngest player out there, but his experience may provide the spark LaTroy Hawkins and Jason Isringhausen could not. He could perform as a spot-starter from time to time, which would give the other arms in the rotation some needed rest.
According to the Los Angeles Times' Mike DiGiovanna, the Angels are also looking at Kyuji Fujikawa, Japan's top-rated closer. The 32-year-old has spent over 10 years dominating in Japan, while also displaying his 93 mph fastball in the WBC (in both 2006 and 2009.)
If Fujikawa does sign (there seems to be some serious interest), the move would allow flexibility with regards to Ernesto Frieri and give the Angels a true closer, finally, post-Francisco Rodriguez and Troy Percival.
Just remember: The possible loss of Zack Greinke to free agency will not mean as much if the Angels build a complete rotation; regardless of who the starters are, blowing leads in the middle and end of games won't do the team a bit of good.
Say Goodbye to Torii Hunter and Hello to Peter Bourjos
However, money talks.
Hunter is looking for a multi-year deal—something the Angels don’t want to offer—and it looks as though he may get his wish from other teams, according to ESPN's Buster Olney.
Although nothing is concrete, the Angels seem to have accepted the situation with Hunter and are moving on, according to Los Angeles Times baseball columnist Mike DiGiovanna. DiGiovanna expressed real doubt over Hunter re-signing with the club (via Twitter) after speaking to GM Jerry Dipoto.
So, enter Peter Bourjos?
Bourjos was the original young up-and-comer for the Angels before Mike Trout arrived, playing top-level defense and providing speed on the bases. Although I am not completely sold—he needs to cut the strikeouts and increase walks—the only way Bourjos can improve is with playing time.
Bourjos is 25 and is maturing, while Hunter is 36 and aging. Which player do you think has the better opportunity to solidify the Angels' outfield for years to come?
If Bourjos is to be a solid piece in the future for the Angels, he needs to start in 2013. Sitting him on the bench another year, where he'll get only 100 or so at-bats again, is counterproductive.
Make a Decision About Vernon Wells
If Torii Hunter goes, landing Bourjos in center, then Vernon Wells will be the next piece of the puzzle for the Angels to solve.
Wells has not performed up to expectations since coming over from the Toronto Blue Jays in 2011. In two seasons, he's averaged less than .230 and has hit only 36 home runs.
Add in last season's thumb injury that limited Wells to only 77 games (his lowest total since 2001), plus the rise of Mark Trumbo and Mike Trout, and Wells is basically a non-factor in the outfield.
According to the Boston Globe, the Angels are looking to trade the veteran outfielder, possibly to the Red Sox for ex-Angels pitcher John Lackey. But nothing has come of it.
The reality: Wells' high price tag greatly decreases the chances of him being moved. Much like Alex Rodriguez in New York, the Angels may be stuck with an overpriced investment for the next two years, hoping for a revitalization.
Wait for Spring Training
At best, offseason moves are must-see media guesses mixed in with a few interruptions. At worst, it's overspending scratching at the back of general managers' heads and probably the entire organization’s psyche.
Just remember, highly-touted signings are never an absolute guarantee for success. Every time you say Cliff Lee, I say Mike Hampton.
Instead, a better formula for a team's success is not setting the roster like it's a game of Risk. If you look over the last World Series winners, it’s difficult to find a team that won "on paper” or because it had the most dominant pieces.
The Angels and their fans should remember that scenario, leaving the efforts put into spring training as the benchmark.
Let some of the players throw a pitch or actually take a swing before going into panic mode.
If Jerome Williams and Garrett Richards show promise, they will erase any "these are the guys at the end of the rotation, unfortunately" issues. If Vernon Wells gets on a successful path, as originally expected, he will be a solid—albeit expensive—platoon player, trade bait or a veteran voice to Peter Bourjos. If the bullpen gels it together then perhaps it will cut down on the 19 blown leads from 2012.
Until then, the focus should not be on rushing to spend money for a high-priced piece in the winter. The team, and what takes place on the field, is far more important.
Just ask the 2012 World Series champions San Francisco Giants.
(All statistics provided came from baseball-reference.com. unless otherwise noted.)