Tuesday, August 12, 2008

(Photo by - Getty Images) Will Vlad be a part of the Angels long term future?

By David Saltzer - Angelswin.com Columnist

When Bill Stoneman took over managing the Angels, he instituted a simple philosophy for making our organization a perennial champion: Draft for strength within and sign free agents to fill in the needs that arise. At the outset of his tenure, Stoneman predicted that if we stayed the course, it would take 5 years to turn the franchise around, but, once done, would lead to many years of playoff caliber teams.

Well, we stayed the course, and the fans have seen the results. We have won the A.L. West 3 out of the last 4 years. We have the best record in the majors this year. We have signed marquee free agents, such as Vlad and Hunter, and developed a strong cadre of players from within. We are the envy of major league baseball and the model for many other franchises wishing to duplicate our success. There is no question that we are the most balanced team to beat in the American League right now.

For fans, the question is: Are we a team only built for today? Or, do we have the potential to continue the success into the future? Long-time fans know that in the past when we have had great teams they fell apart in subsequent years because ownership could not/would not maintain the team.

To analyze if this team is built for the future, let’s take the worst case scenario, one in which we do not resign any of our current Major League Players.

By 2011, our lineup would look like:

C Hank Conger
1B/DH Mark Trumbo
2B Howie Kendrick
SS Erick Aybar
3B Brandon Wood
LF Sean Rodriguez
CF Peter Bourjos
RF Torii Hunter
1B/DH Kendry Morales

SP Jordan Walden
SP Nick Adenhart
SP Trevor Reckling
SP Sean O’Sullivan
SP Michael Anton

SM Kevin Jepsen/Ryan Aldridge
CL Jose Arredondo

That is a solid team!

There are several reasons why posting such a lineup is necessary to evaluate the health of our franchise. First, it shows our ability to overcome any potential injury over the next few years from within the organization. If anyone goes down, we have a solid replacement ready or nearly ready to step up and fill in.

Second, it shows that we have a solid mix of prospects to maintain a balance of veterans and youngsters to keep the payroll affordable. As we all know, baseball is a business and needs to run at or near a profit. Arte Moreno has said that we do not have the ability to pay every player $15-$20 million/year. However, because of the economic structure of baseball, we can afford to pay a few players $15-$20 million per year if we maintain a steady supply of cheap and talented prospects to balance out the costs of the veteran players. While this will result in some fan favorites leaving on a regular basis, it also means that if we act carefully, we can continue to dominate for a long time without raising ticket prices too dramatically.

Third, it shows just how much talent one of our prospect must overcome in order to be given the chance in the majors. Although we would all love it for our prospects to step up and produce, such as Longoria, we have to be realistic and realize that there is still a big jump from AAA to the majors. We can be confident that the talent that does make it to the majors is truly talented because they had to earn each and every promotion within our minor league system.

In my opinion, the key to maintaining our A.L. dominance is to resign Teixeira next year. Having a beastly heart of the order in Teixeira, Vlad, and Hunter means that we can continue to develop and promote rookies on a yearly basis without needing them to perform at a high level at the outset. And, having Teixeira, Vlad, and Hunter in our lineup will require us to continue to promote prospects to balance out the cost of their salaries.

While resigning Teixeira may result in us losing players like GA and K-Rod, as a fan, I can live with that. I am a fan of the team first and want to see us playing in every October every year. I know that new players will emerge as fan favorites if we have a winning team. And, I know that the best way to promote rookies is to bring them up when the team does not need to rely entirely on their performance and instead they can ease into our lineup.

If Reagins maintains the Stoneman philosophy, by 2011, I could easily see this as our lineup:

C Hank Conger
1B Mark Teixeira
2B Howie Kendrick
SS Erick Aybar
3B Brandon Wood
LF (Insert Free Agent here) or Kendry Morales
CF Peter Bourjos
RF Torii Hunter
DH Vlad Guerrero

SP John Lackey
SP CC Sabathia (or insert another free agent signing here)
SP Ervin Santana
SP Joe Saunders
SP Jered Weaver or Nick Adenhart

SM Kevin Jepsen/Ryan Aldridge
RP Jose Arredondo

Now that is a sick lineup—one that is built for now and for the future.
Love to hear what you think!

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