By Sean Scanlon - AngelsWin.com Columnist
December 14th, 2009…Turning Point?
A week off the heels of the Angel’s sparkplug Chone Figgins bolting to AL West Rivals all was quiet across Major League Baseball. Every rumor somehow involved the Halos, with GM Tony Reagins adding to the intrigue saying “"The next 10 days or so should be interesting . . . and busy."
Little did Angel fans know by the end of the day Monday the landscape had changed significantly…the dominoes falling quickly one after another.
Long time front-line starter, hero of 2002 and a major component of the most successful period of Angel’s baseball…gone 5/85 to the hated Boston Red Sox.
A rumored acquisition, and one of the top pitchers in baseball, sent off to Philadelphia…and to make it worse when the balls stopped rolling, AL West Rivals Seattle had added a top of the rotation starter, if not ace, Cliff Lee to their rotation to go along with Felix Hernandez.
Vlad Guerrero, who only a few short years ago looked like a lock to be the first Halo ever inducted in to the Hall of Fame sent packing as the Angel’s appear to have signed his left handed free agent counterpart, Hideki Matsui to a one year deal.
Now granted, it’s December 14th and a long way from pitchers and catchers reporting to the desert sun of Arizona to start spring training, but this does beg the question.
What, exactly, is happening beneath the shadows of the newly revamped Big A? Were the Angel’s simply out maneuvered by their counterparts? Were they so concerned about Lackey’s health they were unwilling to risk giving him a 5 year deal to sit on the DL for extended periods in the future? Was Erick Aybar once again a sticking point in a potential deal for Halladay?
Or, is there something else going on? With recent front office and broadcasting moves, the loss of Figgins and Lackey, missing out on Roy Halladay (and a 3/60 extension), the attempt at Abreu 2 in signing Matsui… should fans be asking themselves just how big a hit the economic downturn has hit the deep pockets of Arte Moreno? Are the Angels looking at 2010 as a rebuilding year?
Let’s take a closer look at where things stand now.
The Angels rotation is 3 deep with Weaver, Saunders, and Kazmir. At this point the Angels are also going to rely on a re-emergence of Santana to give them 4 bonafide middle of the rotation starters. Any of whom would fit nicely in a major league rotation as a second or third starter, but none of whom would be considered a shutdown top of the rotation ace (with that said, I’m not sure I would consider Lackey to fit that bill either in the upcoming years). Can the Angels survive without a top of the rotation guy? In the regular season depth is more important than having a single ace, but as CC showed this October (or November…who knows when the baseball playoffs are going to end in the future…snowballs anyone?). So that still leaves a huge question mark. No, not that Matt Palmer is the 5th starter but rather who is going to be that shutdown guy for the Halos?
And really, right now the less said about the bullpen for the Halos the better. It really is just one big question mark after another right now.
Lineup wise some questions linger as well. From all appearances the Halos aren’t going to run out and throw big bucks at Jason Bay or Matt Holliday, and I think we can all agree Albert Pujols or Joe Mauer aren’t landing on the Angel’s doorstop this offseason. So, that leaves the Angels lineup without that fearsome middle of the lineup bat. Much like the pitching rotation…a number of nice 2,5 and 6 guys who aren’t going to cause opposing teams to shudder. As it stands today the Halos are missing that leadoff spark and that fearsome 3 – 4 combination in the heart of the lineup. They’ll be relying more than ever on Abreu holding off father time (hoping that magic rubs off on Matsui and let’s face it, Hunter is not getting any younger). They’ll be asking Kendry Morales to take the next step to stardom and hoping Howie Kendrick has righted the ship. They’ll be clasping their hands and praying a few years down the road people aren’t laughing…seriously, they wouldn’t give up Aybar for Halladay? And they’ll hope the perennial question of when will Brandon Wood be ready, turns in to…see, we always knew he would break out like Kendry.
And let’s kick this further down the road. Big paydays are coming due for guys like Weaver and Saunders, and the farm system has little in the way of impact bats or arms on the near horizon with most of the top prospects at AA or below. It’s a long way until March, but with the way things have been going you have to wonder is the golden age going to hit a small snafu and are the Angel’s going to look at spending 2010 retooling for the next decade? Can Angel fans hope that maybe the Angels are pulling MLB’s version of contract dumping/LeBron prepping and waiting for the 2010 class of free agency when Albert Pujols, Joe Mauer, and Carl Crawford might find themselves on the auction block. Is that the Halos plan? Or maybe the more appropriate question is, should it be?
PS. And if by tomorrow the Angels have traded Juan Rivera for Derek Lowe we have a whole host of new questions...mostly of the head scratching variety.