By Glen McKee, Senior Christmas Correspondent -
‘Twas the day after Christmas, and all through the house…there were no Angels presents for Glen, which was quite unusual. On a typical day-after-Christmas at the McKee household there are at least a few Angels-related knick-knacks amongst the rest of the Christmas loot: a drinking glass, a t-shirt, a bloated contract for an aging and questionable superstar or two – you know the drill. But this year was different. This year there were no Angels gifts waiting for me under the tree, but that’s okay, because I’ve already gotten the best gift an Angels fan could get. That gift is…you guessed it, Frank Stallone. No, seriously, it’s this guy:
That’s Jerry freakin’ Dipoto, and though the value of his gift (I know, that sounds kinda creepy, but get your minds out of the gutter for a minute, eh?) has been slow to show, we’re finally seeing it. He’s like a more-handsome Billy Beane but without the temper-tantrums (have fun next year, Oakland) and with a budget. The Pujols/Wilson/Hamilton signings have been beat to death but we now know who the impetus was for those, and it wasn’t the handsome guy with the spikey hair. Only during the last two offseasons have we seen Dipoto truly putting his stamp on this team and in that time the Angels posted the best record in MLB. True, they followed that with a complete turd in the postseason, but that just means there’s room for improvement. Let’s just look at some of his accomplishments since last November:
1. Signed a bunch of Rockies/D-Backs castoffs for depth. Um, yeah. Depth is good but there are roughly 27 other teams that have scrap piles you can loot. This might not be the best way to start my praise-fest.
2. Traded Mark Trumbo for Hector Santiago and Tyler Skaggs. It may be a while before this trade is fully appreciated, but Dipoto turned a one-dimensional hitter (whom I loved and miss) into two promising young cost-controlled pitchers. That’s a sweet deal that you have to make, especially if you’re considering having to re-sign Joe Blanton as a rotation option.
3. Traded Howie Kendrick for Andrew Heaney. Again, another player I loved and will miss (if this had been Aybar, I would have revolted) and this time he went to the Dodgers, which is like trading your girlfriend to your worst enemy. But…the return he got, the return he got. The Angels had one year left with Kendrick and he was probably gone after that. They now have another…wait for it…cost-controlled young pitcher with huge upside. That’s like baseball gold.
4. Traded Hank Conger for Nick Tropeano and Carlos Perez. This trade is good for several reasons. Admittedly, I will miss Conger for his clubhouse presence (I’m working on a metric to measure that) and his Conger-ness. But we got yet another young cost-controlled pitcher and Conger’s replacement at catcher. Essentially, Dipoto traded Conger for Mexican Conger and a pitcher to boot. That’s like trading you Hyundai Elantra for a different Hyundai Elantra and getting a Hyundai Santa Fe to boot.
Anybody here would make that trade. I’ll still miss you though, Hank. RIP to the Hammerin’ Hmong.
5. Traded Ernesto Frieri for Jason Grilli. Are you kidding me? This was the trade that solidified the bullpen for the rest of the 2014 season and made chicken salad out of chicken bones. Are you ready for another analogy? This trade was like trading your yappy little Pomeranian for a Doberman pinscher.
6. Traded Jose Rondon, R.J. Alvarez (and change) for Huston Street. This trade is debatable and in the future we might have a different view about it, but for now it was aces. The Angels haven’t had a legit closer since Frankie Rodriguez left town, and Street filled that hole. True, AngelsWin.com now has “Rondon” as a term for a blue-chip prospect and a few years down the road the Padres might have won this trade, but it sure is nice to have the ninth inning no longer being a concern.
In short, Dipoto has reshaped the entire pitching staff, and it was a desperately needed reshaping. The pitching future now looks bright, whereas two years ago we were looking at Joe Blanton as one of our starting five. I can’t emphasize enough how bad that Blanton signing was, or how far the team has come since then. Dipoto has turned our pitching from a debit to a credit and now I look forward to seeing what he can and will do with the offense. I’ll miss you, Aybar. Dammit.