MLB Rumors: 10 Players the Los Angeles Angels Should Aim for This Winter
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For the first time in three years, the Los Angeles Angels will not represent the AL West in the postseason and that means they should be active shoppers during MLB's offseason.
Despite returning six starters on offense, the Angels stumbled to an 80-82 record in 2010 as they ended up in third place in the West behind both the Rangers and A's, marking the team's worst finish since 2003.
The free agent losses of Chone Figgins and Vladimir Guerrero created voids at the top and in the middle of the Angels' order that were never filled. The loss of Kendry Morales (.291, 11 HRs, 39 RBI in just 51 games), who broke his leg celebrating a game-winning grand slam on May 29th, robbed the Angels' lineup of its premier bat, creating another hole in an already-weak Angels' lineup.
A prototypical Angels' offense relies on speed, getting on-base, and timely hitting; this year's Angels followed none of those three guidelines.
For the first time since 2001, L.A did not finish in the top three in the majors in stolen bases, ending up 11th, a career-low for the Angels under Mike Scioscia.
Even though the Angels finished third in on-base percentage last season, they fell to fourth-worst in the Majors in 2010, just ahead of the fearsome Pittsburgh offense.
Behind only the Yankees in RBI in 2009, the Angels fell to 19th in that category this year, devoid of a 100-RBI player for only the second time in the last decade.
Priority No. 1 of the 2010 offseason for owner Arte Moreno has to be resuscitating an abysmal offense via an influx of speed and power.
When healthy, Mike Butcher's pitching staff was one of the lone bright spots during an otherwise disappointing season.
Led by ace Jered Weaver (13-12, 3.01 ERA), the Angels featured four starters with earned-run averages under 4.00. Coupled with Weaver, Ervin Santana (17-10, 3.92 ERA) helped anchor a rotation that ranked among the league's best; from innings 1-6, Angels starters had the third-best ERA (3.96) in the AL.
The midseason acquisition of Arizona ace Dan Haren bolstered a staff that already had high hopes for the 2011 MLB season. After toiling away in the midwest for 2.5 seasons, Los Angeles seemed to breathe new life into Haren, who ended the year on a four-game winning streak, finishing with a 5-4 record and a 2.87 ERA in 16 starts for the Halos.
If GM Tony Reagins can find good value for a No. 5 starter in this year's free agent pool, then the Angels' rotation could challenge those of the Rays and the A's for American League supremacy.
The bullpen remains a concern for Mike Scioscia, especially the closer position. With no definitive closer since the departure of Frankie Rodriguez, the Angels handed the reigns to the talented, yet volatile Fernando Rodney, after trading incumbent closer Brian Fuentes to the Twins in late August.
Among all major-league teams, the Angels ranked in the bottom 10 in ERA from the seventh inning on, highlighting the late-inning struggles of a bullpen that quite simply couldn't finish games. After Rodney ended the year with only 14 saves in 21 chances, the Angels will look to retool their bullpen if they hope to compete in 2011.
In order to return to dominance, the Angels must load up on offense and boost a porous 'pen this offseason.
This postseason may be Crawford's last in a Rays uniform.
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Carl Crawford is the crown jewel of the 2010-11 MLB offseason.
Soon-to-be the most sought after free agent this year, the 28-year-old Crawford is in the prime of his career and will have his fair share of suitors this offseason, including, but not limited to, the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees.
From a purely baseball standpoint, the Los Angeles Angels could make the case that THEY are the best fit for the star left fielder's talents.
Second among active players with 407 stolen bases, Crawford's speed would be a boon for an offense sorely lacking in that category. Even as his bat continues to mature, Crawford has stayed aggressive on the base paths, with 107 steals over the last two seasons, so he would become an instant spark plug for a plodding Angels' running game.
Speed only represents a portion of Crawford's game, with his development in the batter's box evident in recent years. Blossoming into a legitimate No. 3 hitter, the longest-tenured Ray has added power to his game, as his 19 home runs and a .495 slugging pct. this season were both career-highs.
At his best with men on base, Crawford specializes when hitting with runners in scoring position. As a team, the Angels combined to hit a putrid .242 with RISP and had little to no production in the late stages of games, two reasons why they couldn't break .500 this year.
Comparatively, Crawford hit .359 with runners in scoring position this season, including batting .339 with two outs and RISP. Over his eight-year career with the Rays, Crawford's batting average with men in scoring position is 15 points higher (.311) than his career .296 average, adding more incentive for the Angels to make a pass on him.
Already rumored to have interest, the Angels and Arte Moreno will make a strong push trying to convince Carl Crawford that Los Angeles is right for him.
Dunn's 40-HR potential would bring instant offense to an anemic Angels lineup.
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Despite being shopped around during the 2010 regular season, Adam Dunn survived the July 31st trade deadline and remains a hot commodity this offseason because of his illustrious power and patience in the batter's box.
Although he was forced to play at first base in Washington, Dunn was born to be a designated hitter in the American League.
The 6'6'', 285-pound behemoth has mashed 354 home runs over his 10-year career, finishing with 38 dingers in each of the past two seasons. With almost identical home/road splits, Dunn is a proven power threat at the plate, something that was missing from the Angels' lineup last year.
Although he only has a .250 career average, the Houston native's career on-base percentage stands at .380, sixty-nine percentage points high than the Angels' average OBP last season. Although his production dipped slightly last season, with Dunn failing to reach 100 walks for only the second time in his career, his home run and RBI rates were still in line with his career averages and a move to a contender will surely boost his numbers back up.
The 31-year-old Dunn seems a logical replacement for Hideki Matsui at DH, as he would be the power boost this lineup so desperately needs. If the Angels can stay patient during the free agency period, they might be able to snag Dunn for below-market value, just as the Nationals did last year.
Jayson Werth provides power and patience, two skills that the Angels organization treasures. .
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Because of pressure within the Phillies' organization to start phenom Dominic Brown, Jayson Werth seems destined to land in a new home over the winter.
Although he only hit 26 home runs this year, compared to 36 in '09, the Phillies right fielder posted career-high numbers across the board with a .296/.388/.532 slash line. Werth established himself as more than just a power hitter this season, finishing with a major league-leading 46 doubles to go along with 106 runs scored, good for fourth in the NL.
A stellar defender in the field, Werth has the combination of range and arm strength that teams look for in a right fielder. Over the last two seasons, the 31-year-old has been in the top five in the National League for outfield assists and has saved 13 runs with his range in the outfield over the past two seasons.
With an aging Bobby Abreu probably splitting time with Juan Rivera in 2011, if changes aren't made this offseason, Werth would transform the Angels' outfield into an elite defensive unit along side speedster Peter Bourjos and perennial Gold Glover Torii Hunter.
If the Angels lose out in the Carl Crawford sweepstakes, Jayson Werth would be a great consolation prize.
This Type A free agent would help fill the void left in the 9th inning role left in the wake of K-Rod's exit.
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Finally given a chance to prove himself as a full-time closer, Rafael Soriano has made a move to join the ranks of elite relievers in the MLB this year.
With a major league-leading 45 saves in 48 chances, the embattled reliever has capitalized on receiving a long-awaited closer's role. In only his second year as a team's primary reliever (his first was last year with Atlanta), Soriano has quickly established himself as a force at the end of games.
While almost halving his strikeout totals from last year (102 in '09 compared to 57 this season), Soriano traded in the Ks for control, as he maintained a .80 WHIP and a .163 BAA in 62.1 innings this season.
Even though closers tend to be of the cyclical variety, making long-term contracts all but extinct in the reliever world, the Angels would only need to throw copious amounts of cash at Soriano in order to pry him from the Rays.
Instead of pushing closer-of-the-future Jordan Walden into a role he may not be ready for, the Angels' organization should groom the 22-year-old prospect, allowing him to adapt to big league hitting and learn from a closer of Soriano's caliber.
For the Angels to return to relevance once again, plugging up the closer's spot with a talent like Rafael Soriano is a good step toward achieving that goal.
Garcia's 2010 comeback gives him value in what looks like a thin pitching market.
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In his first full season since 2006, Freddy Garcia, 35, proved he still has what it takes to be a full-time starter in the big leagues.
Garcia (12-6, 4.64 ERA) made 28 starts for the Chicago White Sox, ending the year strong with a 2-1 record and a 2.70 ERA in his final five games. If Garcia could produce a similar year in 2011, the Angels would have five viable starters to work with throughout the year.
After letting Scott Kazmir, and his 5.94 ERA, start 28 games this season, the Angels will look to strengthen their fifth and final rotation spot this offseason.
Though he has health concerns, a one-year deal loaded with incentives should be the asking price, and a reasonable one at that, for the veteran right-hander.
Although he couldn't break the Mendoza line this season, Pena will look to bounce back in 2011.
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A .196 batting average is historically bad, just ask Rays first basemen Carlos Pena.
Pena was mired in a season-long slump that saw him finish up the year with a .122 average in September and October. Even though he still was good for 28 home runs this season, the Rays' late-blooming first basemen never got on track this season, registering his lowest home run percentage (4.8%) since his '07 revival with Tampa.
Wasting away on the Rays' bench this postseason, partially because of Texas lefties Cliff Lee and C.J Wilson and partially because of ineffective play, Pena will be flying under the radar coming into the 2010-11 free agency period.
Taking a chance on Pena could turn out to be a good gamble for Arte Moreno and the Angels to make, especially if they miss out on the top-tier free agents.
With 144 home runs over the last four seasons, Pena needs time in the cage to work out the kinks in his approach at the plate. If he could raise his average into the low .230s next year, Pena may be a sleeper in this free agent class.
As a precaution, the Angels should keep tabs on the lefty first baseman, just in case they find themselves still desperate for power this winter.
At age 35, Randy Choate is still deadly against left-handed batters.
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In his 10th season in the majors, Randy Choate is still one of the game's definitive LOOGY's. Choate has been the Rays' "Lefty One-Out GuY" for the last two seasons, holding left-handed batters to a minuscule .202 BAA and 0.95 WHIP in 124 at-bats this year.
Intrigued by lefty-specialist Scott Downs during the trade deadline, the Angels have been searching for a shutdown left-hander since Darren Oliver defected to Texas. Choate would provide Scioscia and the L.A. bullpen with a proven veteran who has carved out a 10-year career solely on getting lefty batters out.
Demoted from the 9th inning because of the Twins' acquisition of Matt Capps, Rauch filled in admirably for Joe Nathan during his stint as Minnesota's closer.
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At 6'10", Jon Rauch would be hard to miss almost anywhere, but in a overstocked Twins bullpen, he remains a bit of an unknown.
Despite being pushed out of the closer job by deadline pickup Matt Capps, Rauch proved he can be a solid closer for a contending team with 21 saves in 24 chances for Minnesota this year.
While statistics say that Rauch gives up too many hits and doesn't strike out enough batters, he has remained effective despite the stats, relying on guile and faith in his repertoire to close out games.
To ensure bullpen help, whether it be in the ninth inning or not, Jon Rauch is a sure bet to solidify a struggling Angels' pen.
The Angels need Wiggington to be a swiss army knife for their bench in 2011.
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Devoid of a difference-maker off the bench, the Angels should take a long look at 2010 All-Star Ty Wiggington.
A full-time starter in Baltimore, Wiggington would probably see the field every three games or so if he signed with L.A. A super-utility man, the veteran journeyman plays the corner spots in both the outfield and infield, and would be an asset to the Angels, especially if they were beset by injuries again.
While Wiggington may be out of Arte Moreno's price range, considering he was an "All Star" last year, the 33-year-old will have a hard time finding a team that is willing to hand him a starting spot.
If the Angels can woo Wiggington with talks of extended playing time and playoff aspirations, they would be able to add depth at multiple positions with one acquisition, fortifying what, right now, is a sub-par bench.
Los Angeles would be a prime spot for cultural icon Derek Jeter to play if talks with the Yankees yield no results.
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Vegas Odds: 1000 to 1.
If Derek Jeter continues to struggle during the postseason, maybe even letting Yankee fans down in a big October moment, can New York talk themselves out of Jeter?
If the Yankee legend's asking price is too high, does Brian Cashman pull out of negotiations?
If New York doesn't win the World Series and Jeter is the root cause, would they let him walk?
If Moreno were to wow DJ's camp with a four-year, $100-million package, the shortstop is sure to listen, right?
Reunited with former teammates Bobby Abreu and Juan Rivera, Jeter would surely be able to convince at least one superstar free agent to sign with the Angels, no?
The answer to all of these questions is a very obvious no, but as we've seen this week with the Randy Moss deal: sports are a business.
Just don't count on Jeter wearing anything but pinstripes next season.