Sunday, December 5, 2010

By David Saltzer, Senior Writer 

Wow! Boston got Adrian Gonzalez. By all accounts that was a great deal for them. And, by comparison, the Angels haven’t done much to improve after a disappointing 2010 season (although signing Takahashi was a good—but minor—move for the Angels). Some Angels fans are regressing back to the 1990s and starting to act like the offseason is already over.

Two words: Don’t Panic!

The Winter Meetings haven’t even begun and Arte Moreno is not going to let this offseason go by without making big improvements to this club. Arte has let it be known that he was not happy with the way things went last year, and he will make changes to improve the team for 2011.

Yes, Boston got better by trading for A-Gon. He is an elite hitter and will make their lineup dangerous. The A.L. East will be a beast. The road to the playoffs will lead through them and the Yankees. But, when doesn’t it go that way for the Angels?

If anything, the A-Gon trade helps the Angels more than it hurts them in several ways. First off, with A-Gon and Youkilis in their lineup, Boston is no longer in the hunt for Beltre. That removes a major competitor for a big-time upgrade at one of the Angels’ weakest positions in 2010. The Angels need to improve their offense and defense from the position, and Beltre is an ideal solution to solve both needs.

Sure, Beltre is rumored to have a big offer from Oakland. But odds are he isn’t going to take it. Beltre knows that Oakland finances are always in a state of flux, so, he’s not likely to choose to play for a team that constantly churns and burns players. And, by the time they get enough of their youngsters together to potentially field a competitive team, he’ll be looking to sign his next (and possibly last) contract. Beltre isn’t going to want to risk spending the next few years in another stadium that will kill his numbers prior to his last deal. So, the Angels are not out of the Beltre sweepstakes.

Similarly, the A-Gon deal helps the Angels with signing Carl Crawford. While Boston could afford to sign Crawford, and are rumored to be interested in doing so, they probably would be better off signing Werth. Adding his power to their stadium would give them the best offensive force in the A.L. East (if not in all of baseball). They would be better off investing in more power than to pay for Crawford’s defense because the Green Monster limits the effects that Crawford’s defense would add to the team. So again, the Angels have improved their odds of landing their most coveted prize this offseason as a result of the trade.

As for Texas and the Yankees, both of whom are rumored to be interested in signing Crawford, again, he isn’t the ideal fit for either team. Both Texas and the Yankees need one thing: pitching. Both have very powerful lineups that failed to go all the way because their pitching let them down. Both teams would be better off pursuing Cliff Lee as their primary source and trading for Greinke as their fallback option. If Texas signed Crawford, they’d have to play Hamilton in Centerfield, which would be a serious downgrade in defense. And, if the Yankees signed Crawford, it would only be a marginal improvement for their outfield. So, in the end, neither team is a likely destination for Crawford.

Looking at the team last year, my guess as to what upset Arte the most was seeing all the seats that were sold to the game that went unused. That difference was very noticeable at the end of the season—and it cost him money.

While ticket sales generate revenue for a team, they aren’t the only source of revenue. Advertising, merchandising, food concessions, and television deals generate more income for the team than ticket sales. When seats are sold, the team has to staff the stadium as if all the fans are going to show up. But, when they don’t attend the game, the team misses out on chances to sell all their merchandise and concessions.

More importantly, though, when fans don’t attend the game, it decreases the value of the advertising in the stadium. Advertisers want bodies seeing their signs. Empty seats don’t sell well to advertisers. And, it’s a safe bet that if fans are willing to skip going to a game that they paid for, they aren’t likely to watch the same game on TV. So, poor seasons mean poor ratings. If Arte wants to greatly increase his television revenue, he is going to do everything in his power to maintain attendance at over 3 million fans and to increase the TV ratings. That means fielding a competitive team and signing marketable players.

Next year will be a milestone anniversary for the Angels. Their 50th anniversary season is an ideal time to capitalize on a natural marketing plan. It’s very conceivable that Arte will make a big splash this winter, either by signing one or more major free agents, or by trading for one or more key players. My bet is that the Angels may do both a free agent signing and a trade or will sign two key free agents.

While it seems like the Angels haven’t done much so far this offseason, there’s still plenty of time for the team to make changes. Until the start of the 2011 season, don’t panic—the Angels will get better.
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