Offseason In Review: Los Angeles Angels

The Angels stole Winter Meetings headlines by signing the offseason's best free agent hitter and pitcher in the course of a few hours.

Major League Signings

Notable Minor League Signings

Extensions

Trades and Claims

Notable Losses

In August, MLBTR surveyed dozens of baseball people for their GM candidates.  Former big league reliever Jerry Dipoto was mentioned more than anyone else.  After a thorough search, the Angels named Dipoto as Tony Reagins' replacement in late October.  Dipoto came with a great drafting track record, and also had made several excellent trades as Arizona's interim GM in the summer of 2010.

Shortly after his hiring, Dipoto told ESPN's Jim Bowden catcher was one of multiple positions for which he wanted to improve the Angels' on-base percentage.  Several weeks later, Dipoto backed up his words by acquiring Iannetta for Chatwood.  Iannetta has a .357 career OBP, and The Fielding Bible considers him a "terrific defensive catcher."  Though the Rockies may not have appreciated Iannetta, they extracted a solid bounty in Chatwood, who Baseball America ranked the 76th best prospect in baseball prior to the 2011 season.  Given Iannetta's ability to void a $5MM club option for 2013 because of the trade, the Halos may have acquired only one year of control in exchange for six of Chatwood.  This was the first sign the Angels were embarking on a win-now offseason.  The Iannetta acquisition made non-tender candidate Jeff Mathis expendable, so Dipoto picked up Mills to essentially replace Chatwood down the rotation depth chart. 

Even in November, Dipoto warned Bowden not to assume the Angels had no interest in Prince Fielder or Albert Pujols.  However, many assumed Angels owner Arte Moreno would continue to drop out of the bidding on top free agents, and that Moreno's expected $130-140MM payroll precluded signing multiple impact players.

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The Marlins had shocked baseball by committing $191MM to free agents Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle, and Heath Bell during the 2011 Winter Meetings, and they were in play for Pujols as well.  The Rule 5 draft typically signals the conclusion of the Meetings, but just as it began Yahoo's Tim Brown posted a tweet that required a double-take: the Angels had signed Pujols to a ten-year deal.  The contract was worth $240MM, a figure that rose to $246.8MM once the present-day value of ten-year, $10MM personal services contract was considered.  In baseball history, only Alex Rodriguez has signed for more.

With a .421 career OBP, Pujols was the best fit for Dipoto's OBP mandate.  One concern, however, is that Pujols' unintentional walk rate dropped to 7.1% in 2011, after staying above 9% in almost every other season.  The Angels are betting that at age 32, Pujols has many more elite, durable seasons ahead of him.  Pujols is about four years older than Fielder, but is probably the game's best defensive first baseman while Fielder might be the worst, according to The Fielding Bible.  The Angels signed the better player for 2012, but will Pujols still be a superstar in 2015?  His backloaded contract averages a $27MM salary over the last seven years.  Pujols will likely be a $30MM designated hitter by 2021, but the Angels are planning on celebrating milestones in his final playing years.  Even if Pujols' contract becomes burdensome, an unceremonious breakup seems unlikely given the personal services commitment.

The Pujols signing had a ripple effect on the Angels' depth chart.  First basemen Kendrys Morales and Mark Trumbo will move to designated hitter, reducing Bobby Abreu's playing time.  Trumbo is also an option at third base.  Vernon Wells, a below-average defensive left fielder, cannot be pushed to the DH spot to clear a starting outfield position for top prospect Mike Trout.  Dipoto told Bowden in November Wells "deserves a chance to bounce back," but since that trade was Reagins' mistake, I expect a short leash.  Torii Hunter is 36, Wells is 33, Abreu is 38, and Morales is coming off a broken ankle, so it's possible an injury will help sort out this logjam.  If not, I think Dipoto will have the authority to release or bench Wells and/or Abreu to ensure the best possible lineup is on the field.  If $2-4MM of Abreu's $9MM commitment can be cleared via trade, that route should be pursued aggressively.

Shortly after the Pujols signing, the Angels continued their spending spree by signing top free agent starter C.J. Wilson to a five-year deal.  At $15.5MM per year, Wilson gave the Angels an irresistible hometown discount.  With a front four of Jered Weaver, Dan Haren, Wilson, and Ervin Santana, they continue to boast one of the best rotations in baseball.

Dipoto allocated the least resources toward the bullpen, grabbing serviceable free agent Hawkins and taking a flyer on Isringhausen on a minor league deal.  With minimal losses and quality arms in Jordan Walden, Scott Downs, Hisanori Takahashi, and Rich Thompson, the need never seemed dire.

Dipoto a finishing touch on his offseason by signing second baseman Kendrick to a four-year extension, months before the player entered his contract year.  With arbitration savings and three free agent years at $9.2MM each, Kendrick's extension provides good value to the Angels.  The Angels have been unable to find common ground with another impending free agent, shortstop Erick Aybar.  The Fielding Bible suggests Aybar has never been Gold Glove-worthy despite his 2011 win, and maybe the best course of action is to try prospect Jean Segura in 2013 if he has all-around success in the minors this year.

The Angels' heavy spending makes them a 2012 contender, in what might be a two-horse AL West race.  They have a fantastic rotation backed by strong defense, and the league's tenth-best 2011 offense will be on the rise.

Photo courtesy of Icon SMI.


48 Responses to Offseason In Review: Los Angeles Angels Leave a Reply

  1. BrettLawrieBiggestFan 3 years ago

    Wrong K Rod listed. 

  2. Eduardo Medina 3 years ago

    well, they are in the weakest AL Division…anything can happens

    • BK 3 years ago

      Except for maybe the central

    • CHendershott 3 years ago

      Central is definitely the weakest division. A’s and Mariners are for sure the two weakest teams in the AL, but the Rangers and Angels are better than every team in the Central (yes, even the Tigers).

      My call for AL Playoff Spots:

      West: Rangers
      Central: Tigers
      East: Yankees (Kills me to say so)
      1st Wild Card: Angels
      2nd Wild Card: Rays

      Just for fun I’ll Do the NL:

      West: D’Backs
      Central: Reds
      East: Phillies (No matter how much makeup and perfume you put on a pig, it’s still a pig… I’m looking at you, Marlins)
      1st Wild Card: Nationals
      2nd Wild Card: Cardinals or Brewers

  3. Eduardo Medina 3 years ago

    well, they are in the weakest AL Division…anything can happens

  4. thebigbangdito 3 years ago

    I am not going to say that the Angels just bought the division.. because until we win it again, its the rangers division to defend… but I must say that I havent been this excited for a season in a long time.

    • start_wearing_purple
      start_wearing_purple 3 years ago

      With the flashy moves the Angels have made it’s sometimes forgotten that the Rangers are still a major player in the AL. But yeah, the AL West could be quite the dogfight this season. In my opinion the key to the division is who has a better season: Wilson or Darvish. 

  5. stl_cards16 3 years ago

    holy crap Pujols looks thin in that picture.  Maybe it’s just the angle or something, but that’s how he looked when he was a rookie.

    • astrostl 3 years ago

       I saw him on the MLB Network today – he looks way fitter to me than he did in 2011.

  6. Snoochies8 3 years ago

    queue the rangers fans going “over pay on a declining pujols and an overrated wilson!” 

    then angels fans going “rangers overpaid on an unknown quantity (darvish) and depending on an unhealthy hamilton!”

    then both sides ultimately coming to an agreement: “at least we’re not the a’s”

  7. “Vernon Wells, a below-average defensive left fielder”… That is utter nonsense. Wells is more than a solid defender– he was a GG caliber center fielder who made the adjustment to LF quite strongly for the Halos in 2011. With an OF of Wells-Bourjos-Hunter, the Angels have one of the league’s best defensive outfields.

    • Lunchbox45 3 years ago

      he was never a gold glove centerfielder, he won the the GG because of his bat at the time..

      while he didn’t post terrible fielding numbers last year, he’s no where close to the an above average fielder

    • Lunchbox45 3 years ago

      he was never a gold glove centerfielder, he won the the GG because of his bat at the time..

      while he didn’t post terrible fielding numbers last year, he’s no where close to the an above average fielder

      • bjsguess 3 years ago

        5 runs saved last year in left field according to Fangraphs. UZR/150 had him at +11.7 (4th among qualifying LF’ers in baseball last year).

        • bjsguess 3 years ago

          I should also add that his fielding during those years that he didn’t deserve it was pretty darn good. From 2004 to 2007 he saved at least 4 runs defensively every year. While that wasn’t tops in the league it is nothing to sneeze at. 2008 through 2010 was a trainwreck though in CF.

        •  There’s that, but the data and reviews from the Fielding Bible people trounces it for me.  They have a good explanation of why he was below-average in LF in 2011.  I think it’s the best publicly available defensive info.

        •  There’s that, but the data and reviews from the Fielding Bible people trounces it for me.  They have a good explanation of why he was below-average in LF in 2011.  I think it’s the best publicly available defensive info.

    • monkeyking42 3 years ago

      Wells was never GG caliber in CF, but this same quote did stick out to me.  2011 was his first year in left and he posted well above average UZR numbers.  Limited sample, to be fair, but to state bluntly that he’s below average seems more than a bit strong.  

    • monkeyking42 3 years ago

      Wells was never GG caliber in CF, but this same quote did stick out to me.  2011 was his first year in left and he posted well above average UZR numbers.  Limited sample, to be fair, but to state bluntly that he’s below average seems more than a bit strong.  

    •  I was going with The Fielding Bible here…looking at that offers much more info than a guy’s Gold Glove history.

      • Runtime 3 years ago

        I guess we all agree to disagree. It’s a pretty bold statement to say Wells is a poor defender.

        •  I don’t think it is…I think it’s just that GG records and UZR is easier to come by than what the Fielding Bible is doing.

        •  I don’t think it is…I think it’s just that GG records and UZR is easier to come by than what the Fielding Bible is doing.

      • Runtime 3 years ago

        I guess we all agree to disagree. It’s a pretty bold statement to say Wells is a poor defender.

    •  I was going with The Fielding Bible here…looking at that offers much more info than a guy’s Gold Glove history.

  8. Thurman8er 3 years ago

    With the extra WC, there is a great chance that two teams from the AL West go to the post-season, while the other two finish at the bottom of the American League.

  9. j6takish 3 years ago

    Small correction, you have Jeff Mathis listed in the “notable losses” category

  10. mjnord 3 years ago

    Anyone else see the Angels as the new version of the New York Mets? Give out ridiculous contracts and make ridiculous trades and they still won’t win anything. Who would seriously trade for Vernon Wells? That trade still cracks me up thats 21 million a year for the next three years lol. Not to mention the 26 he got last season (Blue Jays payed 5 million). 

    • Devon Henry 3 years ago

      Have you never heard of Tony Reagins?

    • bjsguess 3 years ago

      Yeah – Reagins is gone. We ALL knew it was a horrible trade. You won’t find any Angel fans that supported the move – even before Wells took his first swing as a Halo.

      Hunter’s deal comes off the books after this year. That’s $20m that won’t need to be replaced (thanks to Trout). You’ve got Abreu and his $10m that won’t be replaced (Morales/Trumbo). Meanwhile, you have Kendrick, Weaver, CJ, Pujols all locked up for the next 4+ years. Trumbo, Trout, Bourjos are all pre-arb and will be contributors while earning next to nothing. The core of the team is under contract or under team control for the foreseeable future. And even if guys left (like Haren and Santana) that just puts more money in the bank to go spend somewhere else.

      The Angels are primed to win in 2012 and beyond. The similarities to the Mets simply don’t exist.

  11. mjnord 3 years ago

    Anyone else see the Angels as the new version of the New York Mets? Give out ridiculous contracts and make ridiculous trades and they still won’t win anything. Who would seriously trade for Vernon Wells? That trade still cracks me up thats 21 million a year for the next three years lol. Not to mention the 26 he got last season (Blue Jays payed 5 million). 

  12. Coollet 3 years ago

    I miss Tony…
    – from a Blue Jays fan

  13. Snoochies8 3 years ago

    it tells you who wrote the article (at the top, under the title)

    i think that guy might know a thing or two about what he writes

  14. Runtime 3 years ago

    I disagree. Unless his arm falls off, you can never say that a multiple Gold Glove winner is a poor defender.

    I also can’t believe they moderated a completely legitimate statement. No vulgar language. Not even an offensive statement.

  15. Snoochies8 3 years ago

    gold glove is one of the worst ways to judge the defense of a player, that’s like basing a pitcher on wins, or a hitter on rbi’s. most of the time players hit their way to a gold glove. 

    case in point: rafael palmeiro won a gold glove at 1st base one year while spending only a fraction of the season there, and recently (2010/2009)derek jeter won over players like elvis andrus, cliff pennington, and eric aybar who were/are much better defensively

    edit: 1999, palmeiro was the 1st base gold glove winner after playing all of 28 games there

  16. Runtime 3 years ago

    Fair enough.

    Because obviously Nick Markakis is a better fielder AND batter han Jose Bautista… but I digress. Just venting.

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