The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim had a busy offseason leading to spring training 2013. For the second straight year, Arte Moreno and the Angels landed the biggest fish in the free agent sea. A year after signing Albert Pujols, the Angels signed outfielder Josh Hamilton to a five year $133 million dollar deal. General manager Jerry DiPoto replaced three starting pitchers from last years club and added valuable relief help.
The biggest prize of this year’s free agent crop was Hamilton, whose ability and power are tempered by concerns about the damage chemical addiction has done to his body. Hamilton has also suffered two widely publicized relapses, which have not affected his performance. Hamilton was healthy in 2012, but missed time each of the previous three years. In 2012 he finished second in the league in home runs, RBI with slugging going 42/128/.577 in those categories.
Three fifths of the starting rotation will be different in 2013. In with Jason Vargas, Tommy Hanson and Joe Blanton and out with Zack Greinke, Ervin Santana and Dan Haren. Greinke went 6-2 down the stretch after being acquired from Milwaukee mid year, he will be the hardest to replace.
Jason Vargas will try to pick up the slack of Greinke’s departure to the Los Angeles Dodgers. Vargas had a nice year in 2012 going 14-11 with a 3.85 ERA. However his wins total, ERA and WHIP were the best of his career. He was acquired in a trade for Kendrys Morales, who will always be remembered for the horrific home run celebration injury that greatly damaged his career.
Tommy Hanson will try to regain his form as the Angels fourth starter. After putting together three solid seasons for the Atlanta Braves, Hanson struggled in 2012. He was exchanged for right handed reliever Jordan Walden. Walden appeared in 107 games for the Angels the last two years, saving 32 in 2011. His services will be missed.
Jerry DiPoto strengthened his bullpen despite trading Walden. Ryan Madson was added via free agency. Before missing the 2012 season following elbow surgery, Madson saved 32 games for the Philadelphia Phillies in 2011 and was their primary eighth inning man from 2007 through 2010. Whatever his role, his flexibility will fit in well in Mike Scioscia’s bullpen.
Sean Burnett is another bullpen signing with postseason experience. Burnett had an excellent year in the National’s pen in 2012, appearing in 70 games, with 31 holds and a 2.38 ERA. He should be the Angels primary late inning lefty.
Catcher Chris Iannetta signed a three year extension during the offseason. He should be the Halos starting catcher.
Signing a player like Hamilton in a vacuum is a slam dunk move that helps create a contending team. But the financial aspects of the contract must be considered when evaluating the Angels offseason. By 2015 the contracts of Hamilton, Pujols, C.J. Wilson and Jered Weaver will be worth almost $100 million. Moreno and DiPoto hope that none of these turn into a Vernon Wells type of albatross contract.
Despite significantly raising their payroll each of the past three years the Angels have not made the postseason since 2009. The deep pockets of Arte Moreno and Jerry DiPoto’s transactions give the Angels a chance to end that streak. They should be considered frontrunners for the AL West crown entering the season.