By Chuck Richter - AngelsWin.com
Yes it would be nice to add a big bat such as Prince Fielder or Albert Pujols, but if that type of signing results in not improving other areas of the club that failed miserably in 2011 I don't think it's worth it. That said I wouldn't complain if Dipoto is able to reach deep into Arte's pocketbook this winter and sign or trade for a difference maker on offense along with my suggestions.
So, here's a quick look at three areas of focus I believe the Angels should look at to improve their club this winter. Three areas of weakness that saw the Angels fall short of winning the AL West for the second straight year to the hands of the Texas Rangers.
1.) Relief Pitcher - If the Angels can add a couple of solid bullpen arms in hopes of improving a shaky 2011 bullpen that led the league with 25 blown saves, there's a good chance they add 10-15 wins in the standings in 2012. Scott Downs was solid as usual, but while Jordan Walden has closer stuff he hasn't figured out how to put away hitters consistently late in the game, having trouble locating his high 90's fastball and slider. The Angels' bullpen was already better after the last game of the 2011 season just by the subtraction of Fernando Rodney, but adding a couple arms from the following: Heath Bell, Juan Cruz, Mike Gonzalez, Francisco Cordero, Kerry Wood, Ramon Ramirez, Jeremy Affeldt, Rafael Betancourt, Ryan Madson, (if the price is right) would solidify the Halos bullpen in 2012 and put them in a good position to overtake the Texas Rangers for the AL West title.
2.) Catcher - The Angels catching core across the board, in 2011 especially Jeff Mathis (.174/.224/.259) who played in the majority of games behind the dish (93), was a gigantic hole in a lineup that was held to two runs or fewer 51 times this past season. Signing Ramon Hernandez or trading for Chris Iannetta to start 65 % of the games in a time share with Hank Conger would be a boost in production.
3.) Starting Pitcher - Why would the the Angels who were 58-42 in games started by Weaver, Haren and Santana, who combined for a 45-30 record with a 2.98 earned-run average and 568 strikeouts in 7022/3 innings need another starting pitcher? Here's why. If the Halos shore up the bullpen, add some offense at the catching position, and add another starter like local product C.J. Wilson, it would not only cripple the American League Champs by signing the ace of their staff, but improve yet another facet of the Halos game which was so awful in 2011 and make them strong contenders in 2012. Tyler Chatwood and Joel Pineiro were terrible in the #4 and #5 spots. Joel Pineiro posted a 5.13 ERA and 1.51 WHIP, while Chatwood had his moments as a rookie, he posted a 1.67 WHIP and 4.75 ERA and put Angels in a terrible position to start many games as the offense was behind 4-5 runs early on. The Halos could boast the league's best rotation in the game if they sign C.J. Wilson to go along with a resurgent Jerome Williams who posted a 2.95 ERA in his nine appearances in six starts from the 5th spot of the rotation.
Conclusion: If the Angels can shore up these three needs before the 2012 season – to go along with an addition of Kendrys Morales in the lineup – I believe they will put themselves in a good position to overtake the Texas Rangers for the AL West.