A Differentiated Approach to the Offseason
There are a lot of “Three’s” in baseball. Three strikes, three outs, three main facets in relation to the ball (catch the ball, throw the ball, hit the ball), and even three parts that make up a team (lineup, rotation and bullpen). In fact, this is going to be a three-part series, the first analyzing the offense, the second will examine the rotation and in the final installment we’ll take a look at the bullpen. In analyzing the Angels offseason prospects (no, not the minor league type), I like to differentiate between three parts, “What I would do”, “What’s the smart thing to do” and finally “What the Angels will actually do”. In a perfect world, these three perspectives would line up equally, I’d be lauded as an amazing couch-GM, Jerry Dipoto would be praised for his brilliant planning and negotiating and every move would work out. It’s a safe bet that this will not happen. As far as I can tell, it’s never happened. Nonetheless, I’d settle for two of these lining up (what the Angels do and the smart thing to do).
First and foremost, we should make it clear that statistically speaking, the Angels were one of the top three offensive teams in 2012. So is there really room for improvement? Yes and no. Yes in that players can always get better. No in that different personnel would make a big difference for a reasonable salary.
What I would do – Simple, yet radical. I don’t want to reinvent the wheel, but I do want to improve this team. Torii Hunter must be re-signed, if not for the sake of team identity, then for the sake of offensive production. However, given his age, I would keep this to a one-year deal in the 7-10 million range that includes a clause for performance based rewards and an option year. But I wouldn’t sign Hunter at the cost of Bourjos. Peter Bourjos is a special player, one that needs playing time.
In his first season, Bourjos was debatably the Angels most valuable player. Granted Mike Trout replaced him, but Trout could replace every player in baseball. As unpopular as this is, I would deal Kendrys Morales for a big time reliever, preferably one that is under team control for many years to come. I love Kendrys’ bat, but I believe Trumbo would make an amazing DH, the Angels pitching staff would perform better with Trout in LF, Bourjos in CF and Hunter in RF and I also believe that Bourjos is capable of giving the Angels across the board production only exceeded by Mike Trout. I think that Bourjos could hit .280, steal more than 30 bases, hit 15 or more homeruns and win a Gold Glove. My belief is further justified by the fact that Mike Scioscia simply REFUSES to start Kendrys Morales against LHP despite the fact that he’s a switch hitter. Kendrys Morales shouldn’t be a part time player, Peter Bourjos should not be a backup. This move fixes the issue. In my mind, the Angels offense would still remain one of the best in the league, but their defense and pitching staff would be improved.
But my moves wouldn’t stop there. I wouldn’t re-sign Iztuirs, I think Andrew Romine is a better player than Maicer Izturis in every facet of the game and should inherit the utility infielder role. I also don’t believe that Alberto Callaspo should be handed the starting spot at third base next season. If it were me making the decisions, I’d have Trumbo practice all winter at third base, I’d promote prospect Luis Jimenez and give him a shot in Spring Training and leave it open to even Andrew Romine taking over. This pits Callaspo, Romine, Jimenez and Trumbo against each other for third base. Even if Trumbo fails, he’s a starting DH. Even if Jimenez stumbles, he can go back to AAA. At worst, the Angels will be just as good at this position in 2013. At best, they could improve significantly. It isn’t as if Callaspo proved in 2012 that he deserves to be the unchallenged, unquestioned starting third baseman for the Angels. I’m not against him being their starter in 2013, but I do believe he needs to earn it.
In essence, these moves reflect my belief that the Angels need to “return to their roots” so to speak. When Mike Scioscia first took over as manager, the Angels were successful because they were a young team that played “NL-style” baseball and had a deep, dynamic bullpen. Change is needed, in all parts of life you must evolve to live on. I feel however that the Angels have devolved. They aren’t as aggressive on the bases, they play a larger role in Free Agency, they aren’t as young of a team and have not built a bullpen that can match up with the pens from 2002-2008. I believe that trading Morales for a young reliever and replacing him with Bourjos is evident of a trend within baseball. Successful teams don’t just bash their foes with a barrage of homeruns anymore. That’s an outdated scheme. Granted it still works to a certain extent, but this is becoming more of a “Pitcher’s Game”, as evidenced by the plethora of no hitters and perfect games recently. To stay ahead of the curve, the Angels should evolve when they can, and right now, they can. They proved in 2012 that they could bash with anyone in the league. Taking away Kendrys Morales won’t prevent the Angels from scoring runs. But putting Bourjos in the lineup everyday saves runs, more than the difference that Kendrys can create. Now is the time to get younger, faster, more aggressive on the base paths, more disciplined at the plate and deeper in the bullpen. Now is the time for the Angels to evolve and at the same time, return to what made them so good in the first place, youth, speed, aggression and pitching depth. It’s what worked for worked for teams like the Giants, A’s and Orioles and it is what will make the Angels successful in 2013 and beyond.
What’s the smart thing to do? – This is where my journalistic integrity will be stretched to its limits. After all, I believe what I would do is the smart thing to do. However, I know that I am optimistic and a risk-taker by nature. Reality, better yet the Angels, may not believe that such risks are necessary. The safe thing to do here would be to simply re-sign Hunter and not change a thing. It’s smart to a certain extent. If you’re already successful, why change? It’s not exciting, not creative, but it would work. Romine is the smart choice for utility infielder and there are a lot of reasons to believe that Luis Jimenez is not ready to challenge Callaspo at third base or that Mark Trumbo can’t play there.
What the Angels will do – I’m 90% positive the Angels will re-sign Hunter. They need him and he really seems to want to be here. I’m also sure that Peter Bourjos is going to be traded if this happens. I don’t like it, because the Angels need Bourjos more than they know and Bourjos’ trade value is low, but it is more than likely what the Angels will do. As for the infield, it’s a safe bet that Andrew Romine will inherit the utility infielder spot, Alberto Callaspo will return as the Angels starting third baseman, Mark Trumbo will play LF, Kendrys Morales will DH and Luis Jimenez will stay in AAA. I think that Jerry Dipoto is all for progressing in the right direction as an organization, but last offseason I think he proved to be a traditionally aggressive GM. He went and got the big name free agents and tried to piece together a smart veteran bullpen. I don’t think Dipoto is here to change the Angels as much as he is here to slowly guide them in their transition to a more modern ball club. While I believe my plan would expedite this process without sacrificing the present or future, it seems to be that Dipoto will take a more “measured” approach.