I am sure everyone on this site went into this season predicting the Angels to finally challenge the Rangers for the showdown in the revitalized AL West. I'm sure a decent number of you even had them in the World Series (myself included, I won't lie with Albert Pujols AND C.J. Wilson I was already thinking World Champions.) While sorely being disappointed just about every night--games start at 9 here--I choose to stay up until midnight, watching the team I love usually get shutout by a soft tossing lefty minor leaguer called up to replace a sixth starter on the DL.
While every fan can't help but to think about what they would do to improve the team, nobody knows for certain. However, as I have figured out the hard way, a July Deadline trade for a Carlos Marmol-esque player will only regurgitate the same front office vomit that has been going on for years. Huge, expensive, long term contracts, bad trades, and high risk-high reward picks in the draft i.e., Chevez Clarke, Travis Witherspoon, Randal Grichuk, etc. These front office catastrophes have cost the Angels dearly. Financial wise, talent wise, and in the long run, the Angels have backed themselves into a corner they cannot get out of. When this happens, something much more drastic than firing your hitting coach must take place. Folks, I'm talking about rebuilding.
I'm not saying that what I have written will magically cure the team or even the answer what's wrong with the team in general (maybe even firing Scioscia for all we know), I am simply doing what all of us do. Thinking and analyzing Angel’s baseball day by agonizing day.
The Angels payroll, as it stands today, is an estimated at $154,940,524 (via ESPN salaries.) That's good for third in the MLB only behind the Phillies and "you guessed it" the Yankees. Even with Pujols' contract starting at a quote-unquote "mere" $12,000,000 for 2012 and Wilson's hefty price tag to go along with it, the Angels only added around $10,000,000 to the payroll this off-season. Not bad for arguably the two best free agents in the class. However the payroll before the two contracts was still hovering in the $140,000,000 before the off-season shopping spree. That's pretty bad for teams that went for a combined 166-158 in 2010 and 2011 with remotely the same team and payroll give or take a few million dollars. The Angels need to decrease payroll, no other way of looking at it. With Pujols' and Wilson's contracts growing substantially every year from now and "Tony's Tumor" making $24,000,000 for the next 3 years, the Angels will need to cut down payroll for the massive contracts that will be coming up in the near future if they still want financial flexibility with trades or free agents.
With that being said, I looked at the teams free agents heading into next off-season. Although there are several key pieces to the team possibly leaving (such as Torii, Maicer, and Haren/Santana's options) the rest of the list is more addition by subtraction, with the likes of Takahashi, Isringhausen, and Abreu's (woops!) contracts ending. The total savings if everyone walks...$60,266,667. With Pujols, Wilson, and Weaver's contracts about to have a slight raise and the arbitration eligible players (Bobby Wilson and Kevin Jepsen are definitely non tender candidates. This only leaves Morales, Callaspo, and Williams. Personally I don't see Callaspo on the team next year and I will go more in depth on him and Morales in a second. The total net savings once everything has been cleared (obviously this is without any free agents or trades) is $48,266,667.
Potential Free Agents:
- Torii Hunter- $18,500,000
- Dan Haren- $15,500,000 club option with a $3,500,000 buyout
- Ervin Santana- $13,000,000 club option with a $1,000,000 buyout
- Chris Iannetta- $3,550,000. $5,000,000 club option with a $250,000 buyout (player can void option.)
- Hisanori Takahashi- $4,200,000
- Maicer Izturis- $3,966,667
- LaTroy Hawkins- $3,000,000
- Bobby Abreu (not even with the freaking team!)- $9,000,000
- Jason Isringhausen- $650,000
- Kendrys Morales- Third time through arbitration, likely to get a raise from $3,000,000.
- Alberto Callaspo- Third time through arbitration, also likely to get a raise from $3,000,000.
- Jerome Williams- Second time through arbitration, probably around the 1 to $2,000,000 range.
- Kevin Jepsen- Please non-tender and save yourself a quick buck Arte.
- Bobby Wilson- Same as Jepsen.
Now bear with me here. I am not saying give up on the season just yet but if the team continues playing like it has...well the front office will need a bitch slap into reality and they'll seriously need to look towards the future. The World Series team in 2002 started out the year a dreadful 6-14 this year’s team matched that exact record with a 4-3 loss to the Rays on April, 26. This team just doesn't have the same magic that the '02 team had to rally and play gritty, hard-nosed baseball. This just isn't a World Series caliber team, with the way the Rangers are built for now and the future, the Mariners surplus of top pitching prospects arriving soon (Danny Hultzen, Taijuan Walker, and James Paxton to go along with Felix Hernandez and Jason Vargas), and the A's who already have the pitching it's just a matter of what they will get from the offense. I mean my god the Astros who are set to join us in the West next year have a better record than us. The Angels need to fill up a farm system that really has been one of the most disappointing in baseball. We keep all the players that turn out to be bums (Brandon Wood, Dallas McPherson, and Jeff Mathis say hello) and trade all the actual talent in desperation moves (see the Vernon Wells/Mike Napoli trade.)
The first step in rebuilding would be shedding the contracts therefore reducing payroll. However this does not mean letting all of them walk in free agency. While getting first round picks for Haren and maybe Santana/Hunter would be nice, the stock of a player dramatically rises during the trade deadline. Like what the Mets did with Carlos Beltran last deadline, they cast him into the trade talks until a team becomes desperate enough to trade top tier prospects for the player out of panic, in this instance Carlos Beltran for top pitching prospect Zack Wheeler. Beltran played less than half a season with the Giants while the Mets will have Wheeler for years to come. Or wait until the season is over and pick up Haren and Santana's options and then flip them to a team looking for starting pitching. Depending on the team, they may prefer the rental or the team control. Let players who have had some early season struggles build on their stock and decide by the deadline if we make a run in the playoffs (highly unlikely at this point with the Orioles, Rays, Blue Jays, Tigers, Indians, and maybe even the White Sox fighting for the wild card spots.)
Potential Trading Scenarios and Match ups:
- Peter Bourjos: We all know Bourjos has been involved in trade talks (true or false) but I have the feeling he is still on the trade block. I am a huge P-Bo fan but if a team like the Nationals or Royals offers a huge plethora of top prospects, Jerry should at least listen.
- Dan Haren: I love Dirty Dan-and the beard-as much as the next guy but I don't see him in the long term plans due to the fact that he'll be 32 at the end of the season and I don't think a long term deal would completely pay off in the end. If the Angels are out of the running by the deadline teams like the Blue Jays, Orioles, and Tigers could be interested. Toronto has one of the best farm systems in baseball and they would definitely overpay for a pitcher of Dan's ability. Travis D’arnaud would be quite the catch (no pun intended.)
- Ervin Santana: Santana is younger than Haren but doesn't have the track record Haren does. I could see the same teams going after Santana. A trade to the Tigers for Jacob Turner or Nick Castellanos would definitely suffice. Let me live in my fantasy world!
- Maicer Izturis/Alberto Callaspo: Two solid, versatile, and switch hitting players. Teams like the Tigers or A's could be interested. Two pieces that could get us a young bullpen arm. Maybe even submariner Joe Smith or Tony Sipp from the Indians.
- Erick Aybar: Aybar would be difficult to trade with his new extension and poor start to the season. The only teams I could see interested are the Brewers and Pirates (?) The only way the Angels would get any value for Aybar is by eating most of his contract.
- Kendrys Morales: Although Morales's road back to the bigs is a sensational or even inspirational story but if a team like the Rays were interested and Morales started playing at a higher level, Morales for Alex Cobb or Chris Archer deal would make sense due to Tampa's surplus of pitching a lack of offense.
Let's face it the Angels won't be competitive especially with a team like Texas in the same division but the foundation for a great team is there. With 20 year old phenom Mike Trout, Mark Trumbo, Jered Weaver, CJ Wilson, Ernesto Frieri, Albert Pujols (if the real one would show up), and even Jordan Walden. If players like Howie, Conger, and Calhoun play to their potential and get the playing time needed and the farm system is replenished, along with a lowered payroll, the Angels could be competitive for years. What do you guys think? Rebuild or not to rebuild? I can't bring up the poll because my school server sucks ass.
Should the Angels begin a rebuilding phase?
Yes! Get ready for the future! (51 votes)
No! The 02 Angels started out of the gate slow (112 votes)
I don't even care at this point of the season (63 votes)
226 total votes