Los Angeles Angels: The Definitive Blueprint for a Successful Angels Offseason

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Los Angeles Angels: The Definitive Blueprint for a Successful Angels Offseason
Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images

The Los Angeles Angels have a little less than 120 days to make this MLB offseason a success.

That's almost four months of maneuvering that could also end in failure, too.

Limbo, anyone?

Which way their collective fate falls—a pass or fail—rests mainly on how the Angels go about their decision-making, with the proverbial blueprint for a successful offseason resting most heavily on the shoulders of general manager Jerry Dipoto and manager Mike Scioscia.

Sure, there is the possibility of a woeful headache should the think-tank of general manager and manager spring a leak, filling the Angels offices like the beginning of an Allstate commercial.

Are the Angels in good hands?

The two have seemingly buried the media-hyped hatchet and retooling seems to be the order of business, so I would say...yes.

"The season created enough adversity for us," Dipoto told Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times. "We've been able to sit down and come to an understanding of how we can get through that adversity together."

Ah, a plan of attack.

The organization has already moved quickly, crafting a solid system of coaches by adding former Angels like Don Baylor and Gary DiSarcina to go along with newly promoted bench coach Dino Ebel.

In a time when coaching seems to be making a larger impression on teams—like shining differences between a Bobby Valentine and a John Farrell—adding a different lineup of coaches by the Angels can arguably be looked at in the same umbrella of importance as the actual lineup.

So that’s a start. The foundation has been secured, leaving only a few other areas that need to be addressed in order to make this offseason worthy of a collective high-five.

 

Change the mentality with a solid plan (e.g. the opposite of last year)

Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Spor

Last offseason, the new additions—like Josh Hamilton, Ryan Madson and Sean Burnett—and departures—like Ervin Santana, Dan Haren and a few weak links in the bullpen—created complacency loaded with false hope.

No Zack Greinke, no problem.

In an ESPN SportsNation poll last offseason (via ESPN.com's David Schoenfield), only 4 percent of the voters thought the Angels would win less than 85 games. Eighty-three percent figured the Angels would win at least 90 games.

Well...

No pitching, big problem.

The dream season of 2013 turned out to be a nightmare. It was near-astonishing—much like the sports-prediction IQ of that lonely 4 percent.

Yes, the Angels suffered from the injury bug. I have allowed that reality to sway my opinion in the past, using the unlucky streak of random disabled list encounters as the ultimate in Achilles’ heel for the team.

But is injury really a valid excuse?

Regardless if it was the likes of Jered Weaver, Albert Pujols and Jason Vargas—with a small mix of Tommy Hanson, Madson, Burnett and Peter Bourjos—the factor that pops out from all the Band-Aid and gauze for the Angels was a lack of depth.

That lack of depth came from past mistakes made in the offseason: questionable moves that left the Angels with a depleted farm system and some risky signings to carry the team though 162 games of unknown.

It turned out to be too much for the Angels, almost costing Mike Scioscia and/or Jerry Dipoto a job.

There is good news, however: That was last year. And last year is over.

Unless you are an Angels fan, front office employee or player that moonlights as a Boston Red Sox fan, there has to be some relief 2013 is now a memory. And in order for that same tailspin to be ignored in 2014, the offseason plan is simple: Don't repeat the 2011-2012 offseasons.

It’s about following a solid plan.

 

Add pitching depth

Rick Yeatts/Getty Images
C.J. Wilson and Jered Weaver will need help in 2014.

Whether the Angels acquire pitching through some unexplainable free-agent transaction or they go through the expected channels via trade, creating a solid staff is the pinnacle of importance this offseason.

In a close second, not turning the Jason Vargas negotiations into some mini version of a Zack Greinke Show—where the team overcompensates, wasting the winter sweating over something as trivial as the third year on a deal—is also worth noting.

If the Angels get Vargas, then great; hopefully they can come to terms on a solid two-year deal, one that is consistent with a No. 4 in his 30s.

If not, then combing the free-agent chain for the next-best arm shouldn’t be the knee-jerk reaction. That means going “all in” for the services of Japanese pitcher Masahiro Tanaka doesn’t have to be their definitive backup plan.

At the end of the business day, regardless of the name on the back of the jersey, it's all about the consistency the name on the front of the jersey upholds in 2014. I know that sounds cheesy, but the Angels were once a team that had traditionally strong staffs.

Right now...well, they simply are not.

Erasing that marshmallow-like ideal toward the Halo arms is No. 1 on the punch list. It's the foundation; without it, they fail. Again.

 

The betterment of defense is not completely sacrificed for pitching

Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

If trading is the route the Angels take to acquire pitching, then they need to be careful. Even the greatest of rotations can’t help a team win if the defense behind them is below average.

In 2013, the Angels defense was quietly mediocre, hidden behind the more headline-friendly issues, while finishing the year with the fourth-most errors in the entire MLB (per ESPN.com).

Trading away one or both of the middle infielders (Howie Kendrick and Erick Aybar) and a defensive glove man in the outfield (Peter Bourjos) might do more harm than good, mainly because of the issue with depth…again.

Now, I’m not saying keep both for the sake of fielding percentage. Not even close. But I am saying that relying on Grant Green and Luis Jimenez—maybe Andrew Romine and Kaleb Cowart—can’t be done without one or the other in Kendrick and Aybar.

In other words, don’t panic.

Speaking of which…

 

The team doesn’t need to panic

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
There is always Mike Trout.

Panicking like this team was a few wins shy of losing 100 games, with any sign of decent talent hitting the ground running to greener pastures, is crazy. The Angels could start the 2014 season tomorrow with same roster they had in September and compete.

Remember: A lineup featuring Mike Trout will always have a chance of providing some level of collective confidence.

Add a two-footed version of Albert Pujols—not even 100 percent healthy—to that lineup, and you have got something moving in the right direction.

Find some quality pitching depth to go along with luck here and there, and things are darn near whole.

And that's the truth. There isn't some magical formula that will make or break the Angels in 2014. Sure, impressions are lasting, causing teams to hit the gas not long after the World Series MVP tells us he is going to Disney World. But the Angels don't need to go from zero to 60.

If they do panic, it’s because they have not followed the plan.

If the Angels haven’t been in some form of white-knuckle stress-fest, come mid-February, then it’s safe to say the offseason was carried out as planned.

A success.

 

Note: All stats provided were courtesy of baseball-reference.com unless otherwise noted.

Follow Rick Suter on Twitter@rick_suter

 

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