Three months ago, who would've guessed that the Dodgers would have the most active winter of any Los Angeles ballclub? Following a barrage of criticism from fans and media over how the McCourts' divorce and ownership dispute was hurting the franchise, the Dodgers added a bullpen arm in Matt Guerrier, rebuilt their catching corps following Russell Martin's departure, and re-signed all three of their free agent starters (Hiroki Kuroda, Ted Lilly, Vicente Padilla), also adding Jon Garland to the rotation to boot. Not every move has been well-received — the Juan Uribe contract jumps to mind — but overall, it's been a solid offseason for the Dodgers.
Compare their situation to that of L.A.'s other team. The Angels suffered their first sub-.500 season since 2003 and looked primed to add at least one top-tier free agent to their roster. Almost all of the Halos' top targets, however, went elsewhere: Carl Crawford signed with Boston, Adrian Beltre signed with Texas and some longer-shot targets that the Angels at least mildly explored (Cliff Lee, Derrek Lee, an Adrian Gonzalez trade) failed to pan out. The club added left-handers Scott Downs and Hisanori Takahashi to the bullpen, but those have been GM Tony Reagins' only major moves of the winter.
In the wake of Beltre signing with a division rival, the knives have come out in regards to the Angels' underwhelming winter. Danny Knobler of CBSSports.com says "not only have the Angels shown they're not prepared to compete financially with the big boys, but they've shown they can't even compete financially with the big boys in their own division." Fanhouse.com's Tom Krasovic says the club has had "one stinker of an offseason…so far" and quotes an unnamed AL executive who says that missing out on Crawford was a big mistake.
"If [the Angels] are being scared off from premium players in the market, they're in big trouble," said the AL executive. "They don't have a lot of talent coming up. They are known for being difficult to trade with. They are going to have to spend wisely in free agent to make up that difference, but that's getting harder and harder to do with what's out there."
Reagins told MLB.com's Lyle Spencer during the Winter Meetings that the Angels wanted to stay away from "unaffordable bidding wars" over players who were asking for more than the Halos thought they were worth. This policy certainly has merit, and given that L.A. had signed the likes of Torii Hunter and Bobby Abreu in recent years, Los Angeles can't be criticized for ignoring the free agent front. As Knobler points out, however, it doesn't make the team look good when owner Arte Moreno promises to spend and then comes up short.
Spencer also notes that the Angels didn't do anything this winter to combat the perception that they aren't "capable of engaging [Scott] Boras in meaningful dialogue," which is an obvious issue given the number of top players Boras represents. Rafael Soriano, for instance, is a Boras client, though even if the Angels went after the top-rated free agent left on the market, a top closer is a much less pressing need for the Halos given the Downs and Takahashi signings and the presence of Fernando Rodney.
MLBTR's Tim Dierkes identified a third baseman, an outfielder/DH type and a leadoff man as the primary "unfinished business" the Angels had to address before Opening Day, mentioning recent rumors tying the club to the likes of Scott Podsednik and Johnny Damon. The Rangers' signing of Beltre also may open the door for Vladimir Guerrero to return to Los Angeles, while Spencer suggests the Angels might consider trying to re-acquire another former Halo in Chone Figgins.
There's still plenty of time for the Angels to make moves that will make their team better next year, but barring something surprising, it will be hard for the team to shake the perception (or perhaps its own feelings) that the 2010-11 offseason was a missed opportunity.