Re-Grading Angels' Offseason Acquisitions
After signing Albert Pujols to a $240 million mega contract in 2012, the Los Angeles Angels expected big things. What resulted was widely considered a disappointment—the Angels finished third in the AL West and missed the playoffs.
Angels GM Jerry Dipoto went back to work, looking to free agency with the hopes of improving the roster.
This time, the team had its sights set on Josh Hamilton. The Halos signed the left-handed slugger to a five-year, $125 million contract.
The Hamilton acquisition brought together three of the best and most feared hitters in the game, creating a star-studded trio that some analysts believed could rival any in history.
And fairly so.
The combination of Mike Trout, Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton currently accounts for 15 All-Star selections, 10 Silver Slugger Awards, four MVP awards, two Rookie of the Year honors and two batting titles.
In addition to Hamilton, the Angels also acquired starting pitchers Jason Vargas, Tommy Hanson and Joe Blanton in the offseason. They bolstered their 'pen with the signings of Ryan Madson and Sean Burnett.
But for one reason or another, it hasn't clicked in Anaheim. The Angels currently own a 25-33 record and sit a whopping 11 games behind division-leading Texas.
With more than a quarter of the season in the books, it is time to re-grade all of the offseason acquisitions made by the Angels in 2013.
Josh Hamilton Signing
Jeff Gross/Getty Images
Analysis: Josh Hamilton is a notoriously streaky hitter. In his last season with the Texas Rangers (2012), Hamilton was out-of-this-world good from April-May, batting .368 with 21 home runs and 57 RBI. The baseball world had all but etched his name on the MVP trophy.
But then came the slump.
Hamilton struggled for much of the summer (excluding a hot month of August), bringing his early season numbers back down to Earth. In September and October, the slugger's dismal performances repeatedly drew boos from the hometown crowd in Arlington.
An unceremonious exit from Texas followed.
When the Angels signed the five-time All-Star in the offseason, they hoped a change in scenery would bring back the good Josh Hamilton. Unfortunately, through the team's first 56 games, it doesn't appear to be the case.
Hamilton's triple-slash line stats with the Angels are a mediocre .216/.277/.380.
Although the slugger showed some signs of improvement with his swing in May, the last 10 games have been downright awful.
Split stats reveal that Hamilton is batting only .169 against lefties this season and only .167 on the road.
Hamilton's poor plate discipline is perhaps the principle reason he isn't hitting for average. According to FanGraphs.com, Hamilton is seventh-worst in all of baseball with his plate discipline, swinging 39.7 percent of the time at balls thrown outside of the strike zone. The league average this season is 29.9 percent.
Not only does Hamilton's lack of discipline lead him to swing at bad pitches, but it also raises the incentive for opposing pitchers to throw him balls outside of the zone.
Combine these facets and what do you get? You get a player in Hamilton who has struck out 61 times in 213 at-bats this season, just one strikeout shy of Mark Trumbo's team-leading 62.
Unfortunately for the Angels, Hamilton's eight homers and 18 RBI this season don't compare to what he was doing in Texas this time last year.
Making this acquisition look even worse, Tori Hunter (whom the Angels let go to make room for Hamilton) is putting together a solid season in Detroit. The 37-year-old outfielder is batting .316 with 23 RBI in just 48 games played.
Current grade for Josh Hamilton acquisition: D
Trade: Kendrys Morales to Seattle for Jason Vargas
Ed Zurga/Getty Images
Analysis: In what can arguably be considered the second-biggest move of the offseason, the Angels traded slugger Kendrys Morales to Seattle for pitcher Jason Vargas.
Vargas went 14-11 with the Mariners in 2012, posting a respectable 3.85 ERA.
So far in 11 starts this season, Vargas is 5-3 with a 3.34 ERA. He has been a valuable innings eater for Mike Scioscia and the Halos, pitching 72.2 innings this season (second-most on the team).
With ace Jered Weaver injured for much of May, Vargas stepped up and threw the ball well.
The left-hander has won his last four starts, reaching at least the seventh inning in all four games.
So far, the Vargas acquisition has been a good one for the Angels. If he remains healthy, look for Vargas to win 12-15 games this season for the Angels.
Current grade for Jason Vargas acquisition: B+
Trade: Jordan Walden to Atlanta for Tommy Hanson
Analysis: With Ervin Santana traded, Dan Haren's option declined and Zack Greinke gone in free agency, the Angels pitching rotation was in dire need of some offseason revamping.
A pitcher-for-pitcher deal was struck between the Atlanta Braves and the Angels in November. The Angels traded reliever Jordan Walden for starting pitcher Tommy Hanson.
For the Angels, Walden was an expendable piece of the bullpen, especially after falling behind Ernesto Frieri and Kevin Jepsen last season.
Additionally, at five million dollars a year, the Angels saw Hanson as a potential bargain No. 3 pitcher behind Jered Weaver and C.J. Wilson.
But so far this season, it hasn't exactly worked out as the Angels had hoped. In six starts, Hanson is 2-2 with an ERA of 4.19.
After being away from the team for most of May due to a death in his family, Hanson appears to have fallen on the pitching depth chart.
With the return of Weaver last week, Scioscia will have to choose between Hanson and Joe Blanton when filling the last spot of a suddenly crowded starting rotation.
Current grade for Tommy Hanson acquisition: C
Ryan Madson Signing
Jamie Squire/Getty Images
Analysis: After the big free-agency signing of Josh Hamilton, general manager Jerry Dipoto turned his focus to the bullpen. He signed reliever Ryan Madson to a one-year, three-and-a-half million dollar deal (with the possibility of incentives).
After an AL-worst 47 blown saves during the past two seasons, the Angels were desperate to seek help in the bullpen. By signing Ryan Madson, the Angels showed belief that the right-handed reliever would make a strong comeback from Tommy John surgery. However, through 57 games of the season, Madson has yet to take the mound.
The ex-Philadelphia Phillies closer has experienced numerous setbacks in his comeback effort, a nearly 14-month long recovery. According to Angels beat writer Mike DiGiovanna, the team plans to keep Madson for "several weeks" on a minor league rehab assignment at Triple-A Salt Lake.
Current grade for Ryan Madson acquisition: F
Joe Blanton Signing
Jeff Gross/Getty Images
Analysis: Once the Angels decided to let Zack Greinke go in free agency, they turned their attention to starting pitcher Joe Blanton. The two sides agreed to a two-year, $15 million deal.
As a potential No. 3 or 4 starter, Blanton came to the Angels with low expectations. Having said that, the 32-year-old right-hander has still managed to underperform.
After another loss on Monday night to the Houston Astros, Blanton's season record now stands at a miserable 1-9 (5.53 ERA).
Despite Blanton's widely recognized struggles, his stock is in fact trending upward in the last two weeks. In his last three starts, Blanton has allowed three runs or less. Unfortunately for him, however, he has received only six runs of support over the course of those outings.
Current grade for Joe Blanton acquisition: D
Sean Burnett Signing
Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images
Analysis: With a combined 3.97 ERA last year, the Angels bullpen finished better than only Cleveland and Toronto in the American League. Scioscia's inability to trust his relievers resulted in a bullpen that pitched the second-fewest innings in the AL (only the Yankees pen threw fewer).
Middle relief was the core of the problem. The Angels lost 12 games when leading going into the seventh inning (3.5 more than the league average).
The offseason acquisition of left-hander Sean Burnett was made to help the team in middle relief. Before left elbow inflammation landed him on the disabled list on May 27th, Burnett was doing a great job preserving leads.
In 13 appearances this season, Burnett has five holds and an ERA of just 0.93. Despite being limited to one inning per appearance, Burnett has been an impact player and a reliable source of outs.
Current grade for Sean Burnett acquisition: A-