By Jonathan Northrop, AngelsWin.com Feature Writer -
I'm starting to wonder whether this will be the radical offseason some predict, or if it will be moderately conservative. Assuming a fair amount of positive regression to key players next year (especially Pujols and Hamilton), the Angels might just make a few minor to moderate moves to fill gaps and upgrade here and there. Here are some points to consider that, I think, lay out the major issues of the offseason, position by position:
CATCHER: Iannetta might go, with the Angels preferring to bring in a defensive back-up for Conger. Alternately, I'll offer a (for me) rare trade suggestion: Offer Trumbo, Conger, and Grichuk or Cron to the Orioles for Matt Wieters and Kevin Gausman.
FIRST BASE: Pujols should be good to go, although will likely see a fair amount of time at DH. Trumbo might be the Angels best trade chip at this point.
SECOND BASE: The Angels will likely dangle Kendrick but won't trade him unless they're wowed. They might prefer to keep him at 2B and platoon Grant Green and Luis Jimenez at 3B.
SHORTSTOP: See above, but even more so. Trading Aybar is a bit tricky because he's a known quantity and provides above average play for a reasonably price. The Cardinals need a SS but Aybar is likely third or fourth on their wishlist after Tulowitzki, Andrus, and Iglesias. But if they would give up one of Lynn or Kelly for Aybar, Dipoto might not be able to say no, which would leave the Angels with defensive whiz Andrew Romine and potential super UT Tommy Field, who could be a sleeper.
THIRD BASE: A possible upgrade, but if the Angels keep Kendrick than they might try Grant Green here, or in a platoon with Luis Jimenez. Kaleb Cowart, despite a poor 2013, is still the third baseman of the Trout Golden Age, but he's at least a year away.
OUTFIELD: Trout and Hamilton are set, although where they play depends upon which of Calhoun, Bourjos, and Trumbo is with them. Calhoun looks to be the third starter and considering that Trout wants to play CF and Trumbo works well at DH and 1B, Bourjos might be the odd man out. But he'd also make a killer 4th outfielder, or "3.5" outfielder along with Calhoun if Trumbo is traded.
ROTATION: Three slots are set - Weaver, Wilson, and Richards. I think we can assume that Hanson and Williams are gone. Hallelujah! I can only see one of the "Three Stooges" (Hanson, Williams, and Blanton) being kept, and Blanton has the biggest salary ($7.5M) and is virtually untrade-able, so I think he stays as a mop-up man and emergency starter. But that leaves the Angels needing two more pitchers, one of whom should at least be a #2-3 type (or young #3 with upside), and the other a #3-4 type. Vargas fits the latter and might be re-signed. Tanaka for the first? I think if Dipoto can't net a Lynn, Kelly, or Cashner for Bourjos, Trumbo or Kendrick, he'll go hard after Tanaka.
BULLPEN: The obvious move is to go after a closer, but that might be easier said than done. Brian Wilson is the most likely target (I for one would prefer him over Joe Nathan). Wilson has some energy and character, so could provide the bullpen with the fiery leadership they've been needing. Wilson would be set-up by Frieri and Burnett, with Kohn and Del La Rosa in middle relief, Blanton mop-op, and a bunch of in-house candidates filling in as needed. That said, the Angels aren't among the interested eams listed in the latest rumors.
The conservative approach would be to keep the team basically intact, but trade one of Bourjos or Trumbo for the best package offered, re-sign Vargas, sign Wilson if possible, or at least a very good reliever, and keep everyone else.
The radical approach would be to trade both Trumbo and Bourjos, one of Kendrick or Aybar, Iannetta, and go hard after Tanaka.
I must say, I have no idea what route Dipoto is planning on taking - which makes this the most interesting offseason in years. I think a lot depends upon what is offered. What he should not do is trade out of desperation. Worst-case scenario and the Angels re-sign Vargas, pick up a one-year high-risk, high-reward starter like Josh Johnson, a good reliever, and hope for the best. Trumbo and Pujols can rotate at DH and 1B, and Bourjos can be a great 4th outfielder or platoon with Calhoun and Trumbo for playing time.
But I think we'll see at least one of Trumbo or Bourjos gone at the very least. After that, who knows.