So Arte Moreno has guaranteed big changes in Los Angeles this winter. Let's explore his current obligations and needs.
C - Mike Napoli - $0.35MM
C - Jose Molina - $1.25MM
2B - Howie Kendrick - $0.35MM
SS - Orlando Cabrera - $7.5MM
IF - Robb Quinlan - $0.365MM
IF - Maicer Izturis - $0.35MM
LF - Juan Rivera - $2.025MM
CF - Chone Figgins - $3.5MM
RF - Vladimir Guerrero - $13.5MM
DH - Garret Anderson - $11MM
SP - Bartolo Colon - $14MM
SP - Kelvim Escobar - $8.5MM
SP - John Lackey - $5.5MM
SP - Ervin Santana - $0.35MM
SP - Joe Saunders - $0.35MM
SP - Jered Weaver - $0.35MM
RP - Francisco Rodriguez - $3.775MM
RP - Hector Carrasco - $2.75MM
RP - Scot Shields - $2.1MM
RP - Brendan Donnelly - $0.95MM
RP - Kevin Gregg - $0.36MM
This club has about $80MM committed for '07, and we can tack on another $5MM or so for raises. But I haven't seen any particular payroll limit mentioned, so they may be willing to take on another $40MM for next year.
The needs are fairly obvious: big bats at the corners. I'm sure they're praying Aramis Ramirez opts out of his contract, because then there'd be a bona fide slugger available for third base. Assuming he doesn't, there's always the Miguel Tejada option. The Angels are stacked with enough starting pitching and position prospect depth to get a deal done. Even if the Orioles are difficult.
Another good option at third would be Joe Crede, should the White Sox make him available. Guys like Hank Blalock and Adrian Beltre could be had, but no one knows if they'll bounce back. Morgan Ensberg is a name you don't hear a lot in connection with the Angels, but he'd be a decent fit.
First base doesn't offer many top tier choices, though Gary Sheffield would be interesting. And really, who can't play first base? The Angels could make room for Alfonso Soriano, Carlos Lee, Moises Alou, Barry Bonds, or even Jim Edmonds if they had to. Also, given the fragility of Garret Anderson and Mike Napoli's abysmal second half performance, signing Mike Piazza would be a smart move.
While most free agent signings mean overpaying, it may be a better option for L.A. than trading top-tier prospects like Nick Adenhart, Brandon Wood, Erick Aybar, or Hank Conger. The team is also stocked with lesser but still interesting talent like Kendry Morales, Reggie Willits, Jeff Mathis, Casey Kotchman, Dallas McPherson, Terry Evans, and Sean Rodriguez.
One could practically assemble a team of "failed" Angels prospects. I'm sure the club expected the corners to be a strength when McPherson and Kotchman were on the rise. McPherson will be 27 next year and took a step backward at Triple A, so his star is dimming quickly. Though Kotchman lost this season to mono, he'll only be 24 next year and has quite a bit of promise. And Mathis? He had a 12 game trial before his demotion. He's only 23, and he posted a decent .763 OPS in Triple A this year. Morales got less than 200 ABs to establish himself at age 23.
Moreno has pledged to shake things up, so we are going to see trades, signings, and veteran acquisitions. Personally, I'd rather see the team try Wood at third, Kotchman/Morales at first, and Mathis behind the plate. I'd sign Piazza in case Kotchman/Morales/Mathis doesn't work out, and acquire a third baseman midseason if Wood proves he's not ready. Given the rotation depth and young talent, I don't see the need for a huge expenditure.
If I had to spend money, I'd give Sheffield a two-year deal to play first and let Kotchman re-establish himself in Triple A. Then I'd use him as primary trade bait to fill any midseason needs. Trading a starter like Saunders or Santana could prove shortsighted, as Colon and Escobar are not entirely reliable. Colon, for one, is recovering from a torn rotator cuff. Ask Mark Prior how that worked out. Flashback to February: "My shoulder is perfectly healthy."
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