Problems the Los Angeles Angels Still Need to Address to Chase a World Series
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The entire offseason for the Los Angeles Angels, with smart moves to solidify the bullpen and the free spending to land one of the game's biggest stars (Josh Hamilton) has led to one giant buildup—seemingly advertised and hyped like an Oscar selection—culminating only if they reach the World Series.
But have they done enough?
Sure, the club has reacted accordingly to the flash-bulb popping and glamorous monetary competition against their neighbor to the north (LA Dodgers), even going so far as to relocate the press box, filled with grumpy sports writers, to make room for some high-end luxury action directly behind home plate.
It's a new experience in Anaheim, and Mickey (Hatcher or Mouse) has nothing to do with it.
But, again, have they done enough to win championships?
A quick answer to that question would be yes, although, for the sake of interesting reactions when dissecting a team down to the underbelly, no team is perfect. (There is always a way to improve the OBP, lower the ERA or raise the WHIP.)
The good news for the Angels and the Halo faithful, however, is that the 25-man roster is basically set at this point, leaving only minor decisions for the club to ponder.
Backup (possible starting?) Catcher
This may not be the most taxing issue facing manager Mike Scioscia this spring, but a team can never have too many viable options at such a physically demanding position.
We know Chris Ianetta will enter into his first season as the Angels' main battery mate with the rotation in 2013. But his backup is unknown. And while Ianetta does possess the tools to get the job done (good arm and potential to hit—enough—as a catcher), his ability to produce consistently over 100-plus games is also unknown.
That leaves the backup catcher, whomever that might be, as an important fill—unfortunately, the Molina brothers (circa 2002) are unavailable.
Hank Conger and John Hester are currently the front-runners for the spot, with Carlos Ramirez and Luke Carlin also expecting opportunities, according to MLB.com's Alden Gonzalez. But does that give anyone a sigh of relief?
Unlike past seasons, when there was a Bobby Wilson, Jeff Mathis and even Mike Napoli, the decision for backup catcher was not so difficult; now, Scioscia may have more of an obstacle.
Perhaps Conger will finally get his shot? If not, Ianetta better pack extra Easton Knee Savers for road trips.
The Outfield (other than Mike Trout and Josh Hamilton)
The fact that Trout and Hamilton are now roaming the Angels' outfield may lead people into thinking all is well. And it's not...entirely. If anything, their prowess only highlights the inconsistency of Peter Bourjos and Vernon Wells.
Wells, the $42-million man, has not been the player the Angels had hoped for. And Bourjos—who for some reason is treated like he plays goalie in the NHL (landing praise for his defense while his lack of offense is ignored)—has a lot expected of him in 2013 (too much).
Assuming Mark Trumbo will stick mostly to the DH role and only see limited time in the outfield, general manager Jerry Dipoto and the gang may want to discuss trading Wells with a little more urgency in order to gain another outfielder with experience.
Or the team can hope for the best: wait for Bourjos to mature, while prospect Kole Calhoun provides help, giving the lineup a solid boost in OPS.
Should the Angels Trade Vernon Wells
If this were 2014 (possibly 2015), we would be talking about how Alberto Callaspo makes a nice fit as a platoon infielder now that Kaleb Cowart is at third base.
But this is 2013: Callaspo just signed a two-year deal worth $8.975 million (h/t Orange County Register's Jeff Fletcher), and Cowart is only beginning his ascent—with pitching that gets more and more difficult—up the A-Ball ladder.
And Maicer Izturis is gone...do you miss him?
Regardless, his departure does leave a void in the Angels' infield. Andrew Romine, Luis Rodriguez and Brendan Harris will all have a shot at replacing Izturis as a platoon infielder (h/t MLB.com's Alden Gonzalez). But not having an extra veteran bat, glove and mind in the infield during the long season might come back to hurt the Angels.
This could be another area, even as early as March, where I would expect the Angels to add depth through trades or pickups. (As could a number of other circumstances, which is the unpredictable nature of the MLB.)
And will all this micro dissecting actually work for the Angels?
It's difficult to argue that backup roles and a solid bench will actually garner any hardware at the end of the year. However, that may be the same thing the San Francisco Giants said last year when they were looking at other arms to compliment a healthy Brian Wilson.
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