Let it be the first of many; the storm hath begun.
Everyone's going to chime in with their own thoughts of what needs to happen this offseason; I have my own thoughts. I've also already done my projections with these moves (as I love doing), so it's not so hard to think of how these moves could potentially end up.
There's two parts to this: personnel moves, and roster moves. I'll start with the personnel moves because they're easier to go through. Bear in mind that I conceived these ideas without considering luxury tax as a factor, and that as far as any roster changes are concerned, it's more a compilation than a how-to. That is, this is basically a list of suggestions, of which any amount are likely or not likely.
1. FIRE manager Mike Scioscia, hitting coach Jim Eppard, pitching coach Mike Butcher and bench coach Rob Picciolo.
The driving principle behind this is simple; if the team is truly to move forward into the present era of baseball, and if GM Jerry Dipoto is going to be allowed to do this with full authority, he needs a staff that will cooperate. And this gaggle of good ol' boys isn't getting it done. Eppard's only been here for about two seasons, but he can still bear enough of the blame to where it makes more sense to rid him than it does to keep him. With both Eppard and his predecessor, Mickey Hatcher, it seemed the team's M.O., more often than not, was a decent batting average with a low OBP. Walks were evil. No longer is this a valid thought, and his replacement(s) should go with the current knowledge of the game. Same goes to pitching: Butcher represents his last name quite well. It's amazing how Jered Weaver seems to avert his curse every year. The only good year for our pitching staff under Butcher's reign of terror was 2011, when the team led the American League in ERA. But even that wasn't completely indicative of the pitching staff's performance. The bullpen was largely ineffective (something that hasn't changed), and the rotation was heavily depended upon to bail a flailing bullpen out. And for bench coach and manager? Ugh. Those are supposed to be the two best on-field brainchildren, not the Keystone Cops. They need to reflect the mindset of the general manager, and if that continues to be Jerry Dipoto (as it should), then Scioscia and Picciolo don't fit the bill.
2. Hire Tim Bogar as manager, Troy Glaus as hitting coach, Bobby Abreu as assistant hitting coach, Mike Hampton as pitching coach, Omar Vizquel as third base/fielding coach, and move Dino Ebel from third base coach to bench coach.
Let's try to digest that for a second. One bite at a time. Bogar as manager makes sense. Dipoto seemed to hire him as a veiled message to Scioscia that if he doesn't perform, we have an in-house guy at the ready that can work with all kinds of players on a much better level. Glaus as hitting coach? Yes, you read that right. He of the lifetime .254 average--but wait! His career OBP was .358 and his career SLG was .489. Even in his final season, his OBP was .344. He knew how to take a pitch--twice he topped triple digits in walks (2000 and 2001) and never went below 71 in any full season. These guys need to learn that, and adding Abreu as assistant hitting coach reinforces that. Abreu was a fan favorite player in Anaheim, and to add to that, there's a growing trend of having assistant coaches on some teams. This isn't a foreign concept. Having two like-minded coaches on the hitting side of things is a good move. Hampton, like with Bogar, was a veiled shot at Butcher to get it going or to get going. His injury struggles as a player aside, Hampton was a good pitcher. And his 2013 AA pitchers in Arkansas didn't do too terrible; a collective 3.76 ERA, 7.2 K/9 and a 2.21 K/BB ratio isn't bad from a AA team at all. Imagine that on a major-league scale. Vizquel has long been mentioned as a future coach, so why not give him a shot in a permanent location (since he was roving this season)? And Ebel? He's been here a while, and he and Griffin are about the two least-offensive of Scioscia's cronies. They stay. And Ebel seems to be one of the less dogmatic coaches on the team. A veteran coach alongside a first-time MLB manager isn't a bad idea. If it doesn't work, you could simply swap Ebel and Vizquel.
1. Trade OF Peter Bourjos to Minnesota for minor-league RHP Mason Melotakis and OF Adam Walker.
If there's anywhere the Angels have depth, it's the outfield. And that's a welcome problem on one hand, but a curse on the other. You see, we have Trout, Calhoun and Bourjos as our most talented of guys. Should be common sense to play the three of them. But we have Hamilton that we're forking $25 million a year to, so he has to play for vanity's sake if nothing else. Add in the bench depth we have in Shuck (who is not likely to go to the minors after the role he played this season) and Cowgill (who's definitely making his name as a defensive substitute; not so much on offense), and something's got to give. Trout's untouchable. Hamilton's untradeable. Calhoun could bring back a good return, but his bat is needed. Shuck could bring a decent return, but not good enough. And Cowgill was barely worth the low-A outfielder we yielded for him. That leaves Bourjos, always the center of trade talk around here. The Twins do have young, controllable Aaron Hicks in center field, but his offense is atrocious (.192/.259/.338 this season; Mathis-esque) and while his defense is good, it's clear he needs a bit more seasoning. Enter Bourjos, who has made a couple of highlight-reel catches in Minnesota's park alone, let alone any other outfield grass he's graced. Minnesota also has a growing amount of stellar minor-league talent up for grabs. Melotakis and Walker are both top-20 minor leaguers. Both Melotakis and Walker are lower-level players with MLB potential. Melotakis could be a formidable rotation guy (a 3 or 4 starter) and Walker's comparables include Mark Trumbo and current Twins outfielder Oswaldo Arcia.
Do I really need to explain this? They were both gambles last offseason that bombed in the worst ways possible. Now, I could just be coming down harshly on Hanson, who never had a chance to get into a groove with the abundance of family tragedy/drama he went through this season, making just 13 starts. But he's going into his second arbitration year and isn't going to get cheaper. He isn't worth a second gamble. And Blanton? No explanation necessary. His season was a dog from the start, and now it's got fleas. Keeping him in any capacity is a liability to the team. A 6.02 ERA and 12.2 hits per nine innings isn't worth even a minor league contract. Toss in his -2.0 WAR and it's a cinch to cut him.
Magic Johnson has already said the team is "probably not" going to pay for Robinson Cano. Their negotations with Cuban second base superstar Alex Guerrero have crumbled. They tried for Howie in July and something was amiss, but his demand in the offseason will be even higher, especially after Cano signs. I get the feeling, however, that there won't be too much of a wait if the Angels are going to trade him. His agent is Larry Reynolds, who is also Torii Hunter's agent, and he is known for being an "anti-Boras"; that is to say that he does NOT like waiting around for his players to sign or to make any sort of move. If something's going to happen, he wants to get it done ASAP. This was the offer reported to be on the table at the July trading deadline when talks suddenly turned south, rumored to be due to our benevolently meddlesome owner. It's an offer that could still be on the table come this offseason, especially if the Dodgers get desperate enough. Lee is likely to need 1-2 more seasons in the minor leagues before jumping into the rotation, which would be perfect timing at maximum; his readiness would come at the twilight of both the contracts of Jered Weaver AND C.J. Wilson. As for Withrow, he'd be an immediately-ready bullpen piece likely to cause some spring training competition.
4. Sign LHP Jason Vargas to a 3-year, $30 million contract.
A qualifying offer is likely to be too much (roughly $14 million) for Vargas, and it's unlikely that he, behind the likes of Matt Garza and Ervin Santana, will get that much per year. A $10 million AAV, however, isn't out of the question, and given that Vargas wants to stay in Anaheim, close to home, with Weaver, bargaining with him will not be hard to do. Plus, if we can expect a 3.80 ERA from him across three years, and that he'd be consistent, it's a worthwhile expenditure.
5. Trade 1B/OF Mark Trumbo and RHP Garrett Richards to Colorado in exchange for RHP Jhoulys Chacin and a player to be named later.
By "player to be named later" I mean Jonathan Story, Colorado's top pitching prospect, who is ineligible to be traded right now due to the Incaviglia Rule. Trumbo is likely to be traded, and Colorado needs a first baseman with Todd Helton retiring. Trumbo-for-Chacin straight up would be worthwhile enough, but tossing Richards into the deal makes it easier to milk a pitching prospect out of it. Story, if he's the guy, would be low-level like Melotakis, but could develop quickly enough to ascend to the show shortly after Lee would. Colorado has a bevy of minor league pitching talent to choose from, including Chad Bettis, who made a brief debut with the big-league club this season. Richards would be an immediate installment in Colorado's rotation with staff ace Jorge De La Rosa and former teammate Tyler Chatwood. This could be a trade that works for both sides; Chacin's home ERA in Colorado could translate to a full run lower in Anaheim, while Trumbo's power would be mightily inflated, possibly into 50-HR territory, at Coors Field. Oh, and by the way: Chacin is under control at a $3.5 million salary in 2014, then arb-eligible for 2015 before hitting free agency in 2016.
6. Sign RHP Masahiro Tanaka at a total of 5 years and $77 million ($30 million post, $47 million contract).
This guy is a must-have in ANY rotation, but especially in ours. We've scouted him. We've sent a guy to Japan to watch him. Our international presence is beginning to grow again, but we've never made a huge impact in Japan. This is a great chance. Guys like Yu Darvish and Hyun-Jin Ryu have been had with exorbitant posts; a $30-million post could get it done. A $47 million contract averages out at a $9.4 million AAV, and when added together with the post, it's like signing C.J. Wilson with half the impact on our payroll for luxury tax purposes (if I'm not mistaken, posting fees do not count against payroll). This sets the rotation through 2016, allowing us to cultivate our lower-level minor league pitching (Weaver, Wilson, Vargas and Chacin would all be under contract through then, while Tanaka's would run through 2018).
7. Sign OF Mike Trout to an 8-year, $144 million contract extension with two mutual options at $24 million each.
With the options, the maximum value of the deal (performance bonuses and other bonuses notwithstanding) would be ten years at $192 million. If the deal were to start this coming season, it would take him to his age-32 season with both option years. An AAV of $19.2 million is not at all bad, especially considering that it would actually be $18 million given the GUARANTEED value of the deal. Now, whether the deal goes into effect next season or at the start of his would-be arbitration years is a separate argument. But it's vital that Mike Trout is locked up ASAP. He wants to settle down. He wants to buy a house. He's the greatest player of our generation and he's right here in Anaheim. We can NOT let him go anywhere else. If it were up to me solely, I'd hand him and his agent a blank check and tell them to write in whatever amount they felt fit. Money should be no object with this guy. And it's hard to really calculate what value is proper; I tried last offseason to determine that, and wound up spitballing some McCutchen-like numbers. After this past season, however, it's clear he deserves more, and with every similar season, that price will go up and up and up until we sign him. We need to lock him up while it's still financially feasible to do so, and an $18 million AAV is a steal for the best player in the game. Time to end the talks of other fans of how good he'd look in their uniform. He's made for Angel red, for life.
LOSSES: Mike Scioscia, Jim Eppard, Mike Butcher, Rob Picciolo, Peter Bourjos, Tommy Hanson, Joe Blanton, Howie Kendrick, Mark Trumbo, Garrett Richards
HOLDOVERS: Dino Ebel, Alfredo Griffin, Steve Soliz, Jason Vargas, Mike Trout
GAINS: Tim Bogar, Troy Glaus, Bobby Abreu, Mike Hampton, Omar Vizquel, Mason Melotakis, Adam Walker, Zach Lee, Chris Withrow, Jhoulys Chacin (+ PTBNL), Masahiro Tanaka
The team isn't in need of a total rebuild. We just need to continue stocking our system with young pitching--through cheap international signings, through trades, through any means necessary.
Not every move can happen, clearly. But making ANY of these moves would be beneficial to the team.