Last year the Angels gained 4 excellent prospects, Mike Trout, Randal Grichuk, Garret Richards, and Tyler Skaggs from free agent compensation picks. This year they'll have several more high picks. From 2004 to 2008 the Angels gave up a lot of picks for free agent signings. I wonder how many of those they regret? How much major league talent was lost? How much better would the farm system have been? Of course, there is no guarantee that the Angels would have taken the same players that were taken by the teams who got our picks. Here's the signings that turned out to be strong investments, and those that were duds:
Colon - Tyler Lumsden, Wes Whisler
Escobar - Zach Jackson, Adam Lind
Lumsden and Whisler are pitchers with unimpressive minor league numbers. Jackson has been traded a few times and has a 5.81 ERA in 22 Major league games over 3 years. Lind developed into an excellent power hitter last year, but has no defensive value. If he were on the Angels he'd fit in nicely as a DH, and there would have been no need to sign Matsui this year or Abreu last year. Then again, Bobby and Hideki didn't cost much.
Both pitchers finished their Angel careers with two years of damaged goods, but Colon did win the Cy young in 2005 and pitched a brilliant game 160 in 2004 as the Angels came from behind to beat the A's. Escobar was a huge part of the 2004, 2005, and 2007 division champions.
Would I do it a again? Hell yeah.
Orlando Cabrera - Jacoby Ellsbury, Jed Lowrie
This was a move I didn't like at the time. Mostly because the Angels non-tendered David Eckstein because of this move. Eckstein was, and always will be, one of my favorites, and played well for the next 3 years in St. Louis. Cabrera was slightly more valuable over those 3 years, he rates at 9 wins above replacement according to my stats on Baseballprojection.com. But Eckstein had 8 WAR himself. One fewer win over three years would not have cost us the 2005 or 2007 division titles. Ellsbury would have been a fine addition to the Angels. A good cheap outfielder with great speed, in my alternate universe he would have come up in late 2007 and replaced Gary Matthews Jr. as little Sarge faded in August and September. He'd be a #2 hitter behind Figgins until this year, when he steps into the leadoff role and provides the speed that Scioscia needs.
Would I do it again? No way. Give me Eckstein for 3 more years until Aybar's ready, and a cheap, speedy outfielder saved from the clutches of evil.
Jeff Weaver - Avery Morris, Preston Mattingly
Hector Carrasco - Stephen Englund
Both Dodgers are only 22, so it's to early to write them off, but their minor league numbers are not good. Jeff Weaver pitched so poorly that he may have cost the Angels the 2006 division title. Had he not been around Weaver the Younger may have gotten to the majors a bit earlier, and might have been the difference. It especially hurts to think that after that effort, Jeff Weaver actually ended up with a world series ring. Carrasco gave the Angels one good year, Englund has not hit for the Nationals.
Would I do it again? Weaver No way. Not for the prospects lost, but to avoid having Weaver the Elder. Carrasco, sure, he had value in 2006.
Gary Matthews Jr - Michael Main, Neil Ramirez
Justin Speier - Eric Eiland, Brett Cecil
Main has had some injury concerns, but is still the #21 prospect for the Rangers. Cecil made 17 starts for the Blue Jays last year, was not effective but is still young enough to improve.
Would I do it again?
Nope, mostly because Matthews and Speier weren't close to being worth the money spent on them.
Torii Hunter - Carlos Gutierrez, Shooter Hunt
Hunt has walked more than a batter per inning in the minors. Gutierrez does not have great numbers but is still considered the #7 prospect in the Twin's system.
Would I do it again? Think of Jon Lester serving up a 3 run homer in game 1 of the 2009 playoffs. You better believe it.
Draft results found on Baseball-reference.com.