Yes, we know about these guys...but who won't be back in 2014?
Turn out the lights, Los Angeles Angels; the party is over. It’s time to clean house.
Like many of the MLB teams that have witnessed their collective greatness morph into more of a collective confusion, the Angels now have the unwanted freedom to focus on the future.
Surprised? Yep, me too.
It's the final stage of a disappointing season. With little left to be written in this Hollywood-scripted blockbuster gone terribly wrong, the organization faces a daunting reality: Because of risky moves over the past few seasons, the team is in difficult position. One they have not had to juggle for the better part of a decade.
But it's here now, staring directly at the coaches and ownership.
They have to think about rebuilding the pitching staff—bullpen and starting rotation—without breaking the bank, losing any more top-tier talent in the farm system or adding any more dysfunction to team chemistry.
They have to think about Mike Trout...and that will begin this offseason, lasting up to his sure to be LeBron-like free agency in 2016.
Moves will be made simply based on the salaries owed to Josh Hamilton, Albert Pujols and Vernon Wells next year. And those moves may not be all that easy to comprehend and swallow.
Undoubtedly, players wearing the Halo Red today will not be there once the 2014 season begins. And as the team slips further down the AL playoff picture, there are simple questions the Angels need to be reviewing and answering sooner than later.
Who's in? Who's out?
For the "in," look to players like Joe Blanton (sorry, that's true), J.B. Shuck and Peter Bourjos (unless a crazy trade occurs), and most of the arms currently in the bullpen (with different responsibilities next year).
The "borderline" group—Chris Nelson, Hank Conger, J.C. Gutierrez and Collin Cowgill—will have to wait for their judgment during next year's spring training. But they are by no means exempt from a release.
The “out’” is a little more extensive. No person can predict that far ahead, especially when dealing with a team so out of sorts. These five players will most likely not be around in 2014 (or sooner).
Note: All stats provided were courtesy of MLB.com unless otherwise noted.
Hanson's demotion to Triple-A, in order to make room for Jason Vargas, is a clear signal that the right-hander wasn’t exactly what the Angels had hoped for this year—which was the general theme for Angels pitchers in 2013.
Though Hanson did show flashes of above-average stuff at times this season—a la Atlanta Braves 2010-11—his 5.59 ERA and injury issues make him a clear risk moving forward, something the Angels just can't have in their vocabulary as they rebuild the staff.
However, his lack of production on the mound and health concerns are only contributing factors to a much larger issue: money.
From the monetary side of things, based on the $3.73 million Hanson received in 2013, I would imagine the Angels' front office will have difficulty tendering an offer near that price range in the offseason, while standing by their plan to get cost-controlled arms.
Sure, contracts in the $3 million realm for one year aren't necessarily a huge investment, but it's a risk the Angels' front office can't handcuff themselves with as more important expenditures (Mike Trout) come into play in 2014 and beyond.
It's a numbers game, both money and stats, and Hanson doesn't fit into either of those criteria for the Angels.
Until the blood clot in his armpit sidelined the left-hander for over a month, Vargas was one of the more dominating pitchers on the Angels' staff. From May into June, he was 6-1 with a sub-four ERA (yep, that's good for this squad) and most importantly, he was eating up innings.
He showed decent command—I will take a 2-to-1 K/BB ratio for a lefty—and he improved on the ability to pitch inside to right-handed hitters.
No question, both attributes are certainly reasons to keep such a pitcher. It only helps that he is left handed.
But he is also a 30-year-old free agent at the end of this year and everything that the Angels like about him, other teams and their scouts probably like as well. Quality starting pitching is sparse in the MLB—as any Angels fan realizes—and the offseason market will always have teams willing to outbid for the sake of job-saving needs.
That will drive up the price on a pitcher like Vargas—whether deserved or not—and the cost will make it difficult for the Angels to negotiate when there motto (again!) is cost-controlled arms. And should the team wait until the offseason, the qualifying offer they would need to present to Vargas for the sake of another team matching it is too risky of a play—even though it would mean draft picks.
The smart move would be to shop him now for more pitching, avoiding the unknown of free agency and another questionable contract.
Williams is 15-16 in his three-year stint with the Angels, with an ERA teetering in the mid-four range. Though he has been one of the more interesting players in the Angels' system—the pink glove and story that goes with it—his time is running out.
Sure, he has the ability to be effective at times as a starter/reliever, no argument there. But he is 31 years old and not consistently proving his worth—which will be around another $2 million next year.
That's a lot of money to spend on such an unknown product.
If the 19 home runs Williams has surrendered this season—as a sinker-baller—doesn't get your attention, then perhaps his 0-6 record and 7.35 ERA since mid-June should.
With other arms supplying the flexible options as middle relief, long relief and spot starter—like Garrett Richards, Kevin Jepsen, Michael Kohn and Dane De La Rosa—while the team continues to search for answers to solidify the bullpen, Williams becomes expendable.
I don't see the Angels jumping at an opportunity to get him back next season, with another year of arbitration eligibility looming.
Update: Via LA Times' Mike DiGiovanna, Andrew Romine is joining the team in New York to provide infield depth. That news makes what I had to say below much more relevant.
Predicting that Tommy Field won't be back next season may seem like a no-brainer—like a lazy pick from the Angels' bench, that I happened to stumble upon for the sake of filler.
However, I also think moves like releasing Tommy Field should make Angels fans realize what disappointments—besides pitching—there have been in 2013.
Field has been the last man standing in a line of players that the Angels wanted to use as role players within the infield this year.
Nothing more. Nothing less.
The line started with Andrew Romine (no rhyme intended). He was to be the original backup infielder coming out of spring training, following a very impressive March. There were even times when I didn't mind Erick Aybar playing in the WBC, as I gained a respect for Romine's ability with the bat and glove.
But all that was short-lived, as Romine struggled to consistently hit major league pitching during the regular season. Following his reassignment, the opportunity went to Luis Jimenez and Brandon Harris, finally landing on Field.
Field hasn't had the at-bats or games played for me to sit back and unleash a bunch of stats at you. He has been the odd platoon player, on an odd team, during a very odd season.
Take note, Andrew Romine.
Kendrick’s recent injury probably scared the entire Angels organization, causing them to all realize how quickly a valuable trade chip can turn into nothing more than a name on the DL.
Hopefully they learned their lesson.
Originally rumored to be available at the July trade deadline, Kendrick would be the best negotiating option for the Angels to acquire pitching in the offseason. He is versatile in the lineup, providing power and average, and his leadership would be a wanted necessity for team on the market for second baseman.
Because of Kendrick's All-Star-caliber value, his services would match up as a return product for some of the MLB-ready arms that will be available in the winter. Other than trading Jason Vargas—which would have to happen during the waiver period—Kendrick is the only other enticing chip...unless there is real interest in an unproven player like Peter Bourjos or maybe J.B. Shuck.
However, I don't see that interest coming to fruition.
Mind you, Kendrick’s future is a similar gamble to Torii Hunter in 2012. There has to be a real confidence from the Angels that the next best option is an actual option. Otherwise, it's another waste of resources for the sake of unknowns and saving cash.
So, Grant Green will have to really impress people these last two months for the Kendrick situation to take flight. And Kendrick will have to come back from the 15-day DL with relative ease.
If that happens—and I'm betting it will—then Howie goes in the offseason.
For more of the daily this and that, follow Rick Suter on Twitter@ rick_suter.