The Angels came into this season with extremely high hopes but they stumbled badly out of the gate – dropping 27 of their first 42 games – and never recovered. This season, owner Arte Moreno wants to get his money's worth.
- Albert Pujols, 1B: $212MM through 2021
- Josh Hamilton, OF: $90MM through 2017
- C.J. Wilson, SP: $54MM through 2016
- Jered Weaver, SP: $54MM through 2016
- Erick Aybar, SS: $25.5MM through 2016
- Howie Kendrick, 2B: $18.85MM through 2015
- Chris Iannetta, C: $10.5MM through 2015
- Joe Blanton, SP: $7.5MM through 2014
- Sean Burnett, RP: $3.75MM through 2014
Arbitration Eligibles (service time in parentheses)
- Mark Trumbo, 1B/OF (3.027): $4.7MM
- Jerome Williams, SP (5.049): $3.9MM
- Tommy Hanson, SP (4.082): $3.9MM
- Ernesto Frieri, RP (3.101): $3.4MM
- Kevin Jepsen, RP (3.163): $1.4MM
- J.C. Gutierrez, RP (4.035): $1.1MM
- Peter Bourjos, CF (3.062): $1.1MM
- Chris Nelson, 3B (2.123): $1MM
The Angels would love nothing more than to make their first order of business a lengthy extension for star Mike Trout, but that's probably not in the cards thanks to the hefty contracts given to Albert Pujols, Josh Hamilton, and others. The collective bargaining agreement calls for deals to be calculated by their average annual value, meaning that the Angels couldn't skirt the luxury tax with a backloaded pact.
The Angels have their top three starters taken care of, but beyond that they've got question marks galore and a major need for reinforcements. Jered Weaver and C.J. Wilson will be joined at the top of the rotation by Garrett Richards, who broke out in a big way in 2013. The No. 4 starter could be filled by Jason Vargas, if he's re-signed, but that's far from a given. The Halos are unlikely to extend him the one-year, $14MM qualifying offer as it would zap most of their available money. Vargas posted a 4.01 ERA with 6.6 K/9 and 2.8 BB/9 in 143 2/3 innings in 2013 and missed a good amount of time due to a blood clotting issue.
Even if Vargas does return, the Halos will search far and wide for starting pitching depth after being ravaged by injuries in 2013. Jerome Williams and Tommy Hanson are both arbitration eligible and both could be non-tendered by the club this winter. Joe Blanton, who is owed $8.5MM over the next two years, could be released before Opening Day. Even if he's back, the Angels certainly won't be counting on a guy who posted a 6.04 ERA with 7.3 K/9 and 2.3 BB/9 in 20 starts and eight relief appearances. Unfortunately for the Angels, they won't have a ton of money to spend as they will try and be mindful of the $189MM luxury tax threshold. Starting pitchers that might fit into their budget include Roberto Hernandez and Chris Capuano. Looking a notch below, Jeff Karstens and Chad Gaudin are on the open market and can be used as relievers/spot starters. The Angels want to lock down a quality starting five, but they'll make an effort to have at least a couple of guys beyond that who can step in if the injury bug bites again.
The Angels' bullpen was pretty bad in 2013 – their collective 4.12 ERA was the fifth-worst in the majors – but they turned things around late in the season and showed what they are capable of when everything is clicking. They figured to get solid production out of their pen heading the season, but injuries to left-hander Sean Burnett and Ryan Madson proved to be devastating. Burnett will be back in the fold in 2014 to lend support to closer Ernesto Frieri along with guys like Michael Kohn, Dane De La Rosa, Kevin Jepsen (if he's tendered an offer), J.C. Gutierrez (ditto), and Cory Rasmus. The Angels could look into affordable relievers like Chad Qualls and Matt Lindstrom (if his option is declined) to ensure that next season won't be a repeat of 2013 for the bullpen. If they want to pair Burnett with an inexpensive second left-hander, southpaw Mike Gonzalez is out there.
The Angels have several attractive assets but the most likely to get moved is second baseman Howie Kendrick. The veteran was dangled to clubs before the trade deadline this year but GM Jerry Dipoto didn't get any offers worth taking. Moving Kendrick becomes easier this offseason – his no-trade list shrivels from a dozen teams to just six. With $18.85MM owed to him over the next two seasons, Kendrick isn't the cheapest second baseman out there, but there are definitely clubs that are looking for answers at the position. The Royals need help at second base and GM Dayton Moore figures to make at least a couple phone calls to the west coast. The Orioles will also be in the market for a second baseman if they don't re-sign veteran Brian Roberts. The Halos can move Kendrick for some arms and get by with Grant Green in his place.
The Blue Jays have interest in catchers Hank Conger and Chris Iannetta, according to Bob Elliott of the Toronto Sun, and Toronto has already reached out to the Halos to get the conversation started. Moving Iannetta ($10.5MM through 2015) would certainly free up some cash and the Angels could even kill two birds with one stone if they're dealing with the Blue Jays, who are in need of a second baseman.
They''ll find an especially robust market if they are willing to move shortstop Erick Aybar, but all indications are that they're resistant to that idea. Moving Kendrick is doable because they can use Green in his stead, but they feel that replacing Aybar would be trickier since they don't have anyone in-house to take his spot. The Cardinals came calling this summer when they were looking for an upgrade over Pete Kozma, but talks petered out quickly when the Angels asked for top prospects Michael Wacha or Carlos Martinez.
Mark Trumbo could bring the club a nice pitching haul if they decide to move him. The Halos fielded calls from the Mariners, Pirates, and Royals in July and the Marlins showed their fondness for him last December. The alternative to parting with Trumbo's big bat could be trading center fielder Peter Bourjos. While the defensively-sharp 26-year-old probably wouldn't bring in the same kind of return as Trumbo, he definitely has value. Bourjos will be under team control for the next three years and he figures to stay affordable since his skill set isn't rewarded all that well in arbitration. Freeing up center field for Mike Trout could also help the club in their bid to lock him up long-term.
Third base is in flux now that Alberto Callaspo is out of the picture. Green is a candidate to be the full-time guy there, but if Kendrick goes then there's going to be a hole at one position or the other. Luis Jimenez (.260/.291/.317 in 34 games in 2013) and Chris Nelson (.227/.273/.327 for three teams in '13; possible non-tender candidate) could also take the reins, but neither one is particularly inspiring. But, once again, the team's budget constraints means that finding an outside solution will be difficult.
Arte Moreno has spent major money over the last two winters to try and construct a powerhouse team in the AL West. This year, he'll have to do the best he can with limited resources.