Sunday, December 6, 2009

By David Saltzer - Columnist

The annual Major League Baseball Winter Meetings will be held in Indianapolis, IN, from December 7th through December 10th. It presents owners, general managers, and free agents the opportunity to meet and mingle and work out deals. This year, the Angels are expected to be quite active at the Winter Meetings, both on the trade front and in the free agent market. Check in regularly on for updates concerning all the Angels’ activities as well as updates on all the major news items to come out of Indianapolis.

In 2010, the Angels will be in a unique position. They will host the All Star Game for the first time in 21 years. Since winning the World Series in 2002, nothing will place the Angels on such a national stage quite like hosting the All Star Game.

As such, this year’s Winter Meetings the Angels should have 2 very clear goals to accomplish. First, they must fill the holes made by our departing free agents. Second, they must acquire a marquee player who will be a starter in the 2010 All Star Game.

If the rumors are true, Chone Figgins is on the verge of signing a 4-year deal with the Seattle Mariners. For Angels fans, this will be a serious, but not an irreplaceable loss, as Figgy was one of the last remaining links to our World Champion team.

To replace Chone, the Angels need to look for a leadoff hitter. Rumors have swirled that Detroit might be willing to trade Curtis Granderson. If that is the case, the Angels should pounce on that opportunity. Detroit supposedly is looking to shed some payroll and said to be looking for catchers, shortstop, and minimum cost pitching. The Angels could offer some combination of Napoli and O’Sullivan or Rivera and Bell to make this deal happen.

This deal makes a lot of sense for the Angels. First off, Granderson fits into our style of play. He runs well, hits for power, and has patience at the plate. He can leadoff and play all of the outfield positions, which means he could backup Hunter in centerfield if Hunter experiences any delays from his offseason surgery or suffers another injury on the field. While Granderson did struggle against southpaws last year, Aybar hit very well against them, so the two of them could split the leadoff duties.

More importantly, though, Granderson is an ambassador to the game and is under control for 3 years. His contract is very friendly considering the offense he generates, and would improve our outfield defense. Even in his “down year” last year, Granderson had 61 extra-base hits and 72 walks. And, he fared much better away from Detroit than he did at home, so there is every reason to believe that trading for Granderson would be a good opportunity to get someone who whose numbers will improve

After landing Granderson, the Angels need to move onto shoring up the pitching. After all, they are a pitching-first team. Here, the Angels have some interesting and difficult choices to make. While Lackey is the home-grown talent, he may be pricing himself out of the market. The latest rumors have him asking for 6 years at approximately $18 million/year. Frankly, that’s just too much to pay him and for too long. We cannot cripple our organization with such a long contract—especially for a pitcher. Contracts that long, especially for pitchers, rarely come without an injury or two over the course of their duration.

So, the better alternative would be to make a serious run for Roy "Doc" Halladay. While we’ve been linked in discussions before to Halladay, the hang-up has primarily been over including Aybar in the deal. With the Blue Jays’ signing of Alex Gonzalez, that issue may finally be at rest, and the Angels and Blue Jays might be able to hammer out a deal.

Trading for Halladay would accomplish both of the Angels’ goals for this offseason. They would shore up the hole made by losing John Lackey, and would allow them to acquire that marquee player who is likely to start in the All Star Game. While Lackey is a good pitcher, Halladay is better. Halladay is far more likely to start an All Star Game in 2010 than Lackey. And, Halladay is far more likely to win games 1 and 4 against either Boston or New York in the post season than Lackey.

A deal for Halladay would cost quite a bit. Most likely, the Angels would have to part with Trevor Reckling, one of their top left-handed pitching prospects, Peter Bourjos, a speedy outfielder who has drawn comparison to Devon White, as well as other players off of their major and minor league rosters. As the old saying goes, you have to give talent to get talent. And, Doc Halladay is talent. No doubt, though, the Angels would insist on getting a window to extend Halladay before pulling the trigger on that deal.

If the Angels are unable to trade for Halladay, or decide that Halladay is not worth the cost, then, they could pursue a new option: They could trade for Granderson and sign Jason Bay. With Figgins’ departure, and, with a package for Granderson centered around Juan Rivera, the Angels could open up 2 outfield spots and stick with their internal pitching solutions. The Angels already have a strong enough rotation to make it to the playoffs next year. So, they could choose to pursue a boost to their power and outfield defense to help bash their way further into the post season next year.

In this scenario, Hunter would remain in centerfield, Granderson would move to left field and Abreu and Bay would split time in right field and the DH spots. Making this move, though, would create quite a stir at the Winter Meetings because it would make Matt Holliday the last of the top free agents, meaning that Boston, the Yankees, and even Seattle would have to compete very heavily for his services. Whichever two teams lost out on him would be weaker overall. And, by signing Bay, the Angels would most likely guarantee that they would actually improve their draft pick next year because they would gain a higher ranked pick from Seattle (for signing Chone Figgins) than they would give up to Boston for signing Bay.

With the start of the Winter Meetings, there is one thing of which Angels fans can be quite certain: Arte Moreno is not going to let the opportunity to showcase the Angels pass by. He knows that 2010 will be the largest national stage for the team in 8 years. With all the talk about limited budget, most likely, he would be willing to extend the budget if he can land the right combination of players to give us the best chance to go deep into October and to make a good appearance at the All Star Game. Tony Reagins will go boldly into this year’s Winter Meetings and we should emerge with an improved team for 2010.
Love to hear what you think!

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