Friday, December 14, 2012

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By David Saltzer, AngelsWin.com Senior Writer


At the start of the offseason, Chuck Richter, the founder and Executive Director of AngelsWin.com asked me what the Angels should do in the offseason. Without question I said that the Angels should sign Josh Hamilton after they fixed the bullpen. That was a minority position at that time.

My reasoning was simple. There were four main reasons to sign Hamilton. First, signing Hamilton would provide the left-handed bat that the Angels sorely lacked. The Angels needed to balance an extremely right-handed lineup, and Hamilton was the best left-handed hitter available. While the offense performed very well last year, it did so with an MVP-worthy performance from Mike Trout, a career year by Torii Hunter, an exceptional first half from Mark Trumbo and an exceptional second half from Albert Pujols. By no means was it a lock to repeat what it did in 2012. Any reversion in the offense in 2013 would negate the gains made in the rotation.

Second, adding Hamilton would greatly weaken Texas. Any chance a team has to improve itself and greatly weaken its main foe, it needs to do that. There’s no doubt that Texas will be feeling an extreme power outage with the loss of Hamilton and Napoli. Hamilton carried the Rangers in April and May last year. If the Angels had a start to the season like Hamilton’s, they would have been playing in the post-season instead of watching it on TV. Texas may be forced to overpay for a trade to respond to this move, and that could hurt Texas for a long time, giving this deal an even greater payout.

Third, signing Hamilton would provide the depth to make a trade for starting pitching in the event that Greinke signed elsewhere. Looking at the landscape, there were far more teams interested in pitching than in hitting. The likelihood of signing Greinke seemed remote compared to Hamilton, whom many teams considered a risk. More importantly, when factoring in the potential for an injury in a long-term deal for a starter, and the length of time to recover, it seemed more risky to sign Greinke to a 6 year deal than to sign Hamilton to a 5 year deal.

Trading for a starter, however, would be a more secure way to improve the rotation rather than focusing entirely on the best free agent pitcher available. The dropoff between Greinke and the remaining free agent pitchers was such that missing out on Greinke would almost guarantee the Angels would have to trade for a starter. Without Hamilton, the Angels would be hard pressed to make a trade for a pitcher because they would give up important pieces of their offense just to improve their pitching. With him, they Angels could trade Bourjos, Morales or Trumbo (not likely) to get another quality arm for the rotation.

Finally, adding Hamilton would be the best way to capitalize on the investments the Angels already made in Pujols, Weaver, and Wilson along with the emerging timelines for Trout and Trumbo. There’s no doubt that the Angels’ best shot to win the World Series again is in the next 3-5 years. So, the need to continue to invest in the club was readily apparent. If the Angels failed to get to the World Series during the next few years, this era would forever be viewed negatively by the fans.

Yes, pitching wins championships. But, the Angels already have an ace in Weaver. The pitching the Angels truly needed was in the bullpen, not so much in the starting rotation. It was all the blown saves that hurt the Angels the most. The Angels already went about improving their bullpen, and appear to have turned their major weakness into a source of strength. 

What the Angels really needed to do was to change their overall game-plan for how to win. Looking at how the Angels won the World Series in 2002, the Angels needed to fortify the offense to generate early leads and bolster the bullpen to lock them down in the win column. Instead of giving wins away, they needed a team that could secure victories in both the short and long haul. A killer offense, a nails bullpen, and solid pitching does that substantially better than an elite rotation, a solid offense, and a weak bullpen. 

The best part about the Hamilton signing is something that could not have been foreseen at the start of the offseason. With Greinke landing with the Dodgers, and Hamilton coming over from the Rangers, the Angels have just elevated the importance of several series throughout the year. Doubling the number of rivals greatly enhances the value of the team from a marketing standpoint. And, as much as the Dodgers thought that they were going to dominate the offseason in Southern California, it’s the Angels who are making the most thunder.

Last year, during Spring Training, Mr. Moreno spoke to the fans at AngelsWin.com and answered our questions—the questions that fans want to know. Tonight, as I reflect on an Angels lineup with Josh Hamilton, Mr. Moreno’s answer to one of our questions stands out. Asked if he had accomplished all of his goals in making the Angels the number one team in Southern California, Mr. Moreno had this to say:
The way I view modern day baseball is 1900 on. So this is 2012 so we are somewhere in that 112 years into modern day baseball. When you’re looking at an 8 or 9 year period, you’re only looking at a little blip on a long scale. The question is can we take that little blip and open it up so it goes up here [raises hand] and we stay there. So the real objective for me to—obviously I want to win—but to be successful, we need to be able to produce at a very high level over a very long period of time. So when anybody ever comes to our house they know they have got to play. Those are the kind of things to me I’m really interested in -- obviously in the younger generations of kids getting the opportunity to come to the ball park as see some of the best players. Get to see first, major league baseball, get to see their players and have part of that experience with their family, or mom, or their dad, brother, etc.

Signing Josh Hamilton to play along side Albert Pujols, Mike Trout, Mark Trumbo and Jered Weaver means that Mr. Moreno has continued to expand that blip for a second decade Anyone coming to our house will know that they have got to play because the Angels have the hitting and the pitching to beat them every night of the week.
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