Earlier today, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim made one of the biggest free-agent splashes in history, signing star outfielder Josh Hamilton to a monster deal (per ESPN). This comes one year after the team inked first baseman Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson.
By signing Hamilton, the Angels added a perennial MVP candidate to play in the same outfield as Mike Trout, the reigning American League Rookie of the Year who finished second in MVP voting. Having these two MVP candidates, as well as Albert Pujols (one of the best players of this generation) and Jered Weaver (a perennial Cy Young candidate), Los Angeles is a very frightening team on paper.
The Hamilton signing improved the Angels' chances in two ways.
First of all, it gave them one of the most potent and feared lineups in baseball history. The top five hitters in the order will consist of Hamilton, Trout, Pujols, and Mark Trumbo. Looking at all of those names together on one lineup sheet can make any pitcher feel uneasy.
Second of all, the Angels managed to pry away the best player from division rival Texas. The Rangers have had a dismal offseason, losing fan favorites Mike Napoli and Michael Young to the Red Sox and Phillies, respectively, and now Hamilton to the division rival Angels.
After the Oakland A's shockingly beat out both teams for the division last year, the Rangers and Angels have been heading in completely opposite directions this offseason.
The Hamilton deal will be a huge boost to Los Angeles' chances of winning a World Series, but before crowning the Halos champions before the season even starts, one should take a look at the facts.
Obviously, the Angels have an outstanding lineup. That was already established before the signing. But on the flip side, the rotation (other than Weaver) isn't very impressive. Today's news somehow made people forget that this team, which still failed to make the playoffs in 2012, lost Dan Haren and Zack Greinke this offseason. Both are established top-tier big league starters, and even though Haren had an off year in 2012, the loss of these two pitchers could have a big impact on the team's ability to prevent runs.
Not to mention that Ervin Santana was obtained by Kansas City. Santana has been average in recent years, but he still added depth to the rotation.
The acquisition of Tommy Hanson from Atlanta was big for the staff, but they had to give up a decent reliever in Jordan Walden to get him, and he is definitely not enough to replace Haren, Greinke and Santana.
Other than pitching, the Angels may (somehow) have some flaws in their lineup that could cause them not to meet expectations.
Mike Trout is poised to have an excellent career, as he was the runaway Rookie of the Year in 2012 and finished second in the one of the most controversial MVP votes in history. However, the team still managed to miss the playoffs despite having an amazing player in Trout as well as other star hitters like Pujols and Trumbo.
To expect Trout to repeat the same success as last year is ludicrous. Hardly any player, let alone rookie, has had a season like Trout's 2012, and it would be close to impossible for him to replicate it. Angels fans are also hoping that he doesn't fall into some sort of sophomore slump. Major league players often fall into a funk in their second season after a brilliant rookie campaign.
Also, many say that Albert Pujols is overpaid. He has had one of the most prolific careers in history, but he is nearly 33 years old and his numbers have begun to dwindle over the past few years. Following 2008, Pujols' batting average has decreased by a steady margin each season, and his home run numbers have been in a steady decline ever since 2009. Based on these trends, Pujols would be projected to hit .270 with about 25 home runs in 2013.
His name carries a lot of history, and even though he is still a top-tier hitter in baseball, Albert Pujols is not the fearsome .330/40 home run hitter that he used to be.
Lastly, the Angels added a superstar in Hamilton, but lost a terrific leader and ideal No. 2 hitter in Torii Hunter. Hunter was a big reason why Mike Trout scored so many runs last year, hitting .313 in between Trout and Pujols in the lineup. Hamilton is an upgrade since Hunter is 38 years old, but losing Hunter could be very detrimental to the top of the order regardless.
Spending sprees make teams look like favorites on paper, but several teams like Boston and Philadelphia have thrown millions and millions at star players in recent offseasons with absolutely nothing to show from it.
It's a lesson that we've learned too many times in sports: spending like there's no tomorrow doesn't guarantee a thing. Just ask the 2011 Philadelphia Eagles, Philadelphia Phillies, Boston Red Sox and the 2012 Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.
The 2013 Angels look like a playoff team, but they still have flaws and have not proven anything that should convince people to pencil them in as instant favorites.