The Angels are in trouble.
They've got several bad contracts, young players starting to get expensive, and a farm system thats pretty depleted.
They're already an inferior team to the Ms and Rangers as currently constructed in '10 and unless they make some drastic moves they won't be able to change that. Maybe Moreno adds $25mil to the payroll and goes after Bay and Lowe to really make this a dogfight, but even that doesn't gaurantee anything and puts them in an even worse position long-term.
The Angels are going to be a good team in '10. The problem is that they are no longer the best team and might not even be the 2nd best team in the division.
The Rangers are loaded both at the MLB and minors league in high impact talent, Oakland is quietly a very good young team thats well run with a jam packed farm (unlucky record last year), and the Mariners are a rising contender run by one of (if not the best) GMs in baseball. It may be several years before the Angels rejoin the top dogs in the division.
Arte Moreno has apparently decided that if his ship is going down, it's going down in a spectacular ball of flames. The Angels have signed Fernando Rodney to a 2 year 11 million dollar contract to apparently complete their off-season in spectacular failure. I say their off-season is complete because, as I will show momentarily, they are now essentially out of money and are left with possibly trading for one more mediocre starting pitcher or signing other bit payers.
Here is the new Angels Payroll for 2010 and 2011
- CF) Torii hunter: 18.5 / 18.5
- OF) Gary Matthews Jr.: 11.4 / 12.4
- SP) Scott Kazmir: 8.0 / 12.0
- RF) Bobby Abreu: 9.0 / 9.0
- SP) Ervin Santana: 6.0 / 8.0
- RP) Fernando Rodney: 5.5 / 5.5
- C) Mike Napoli: 3.5 (arb 2) / 5.5 (arb 3)
- CL) Brian Fuentes: 9.0 / FA
- LF) Juan Rivera: 3.2 / 3.3
- DH) Hideki Matsui: 6.0 / FA
- RP) Scot Shields: 5.4 / FA
- RP) Justin Speier: 5.3 / FA
- 1B) Kendry Morales: 1.2 / 3.0 (arb 1)
- SP) Joe Saunders: 1.2 (arb 1) / 2.5 (arb 2)
- SP) Jered Weaver: 1.2 (arb 1) / 2.5 (arb 2)
- IF) Maicer Izturis: 3.0 (arb 3) / FA
- IF) Erick Aybar: 1.0 (arb 1) / 2.0 (arb 2)
- 2B) Howie Kendrick: 0.8 (arb 1) / 1.5 (arb 2)
- C) Jeff Mathis: 0.8 (arb 1) / 1.5 (arb 2)
- OF) Reggie Willits: 0.6 (arb 1) / 0.8 (arb 2)
That's 20 roster spots filled with guys making more than league minimum salary and they must fill the remaining five. Guys most likely to see league minimum payroll at some point include:
- 3B/1B) Brandon Wood
- SP) Matt Palmer
- SP) Sean O'Sullivan
- RP) Rafael Rodriguez
- RP) Jason Bulger
- RP) Kevin Jepsen
- P) Anthony Ortega
Figure they spend 2.5 million on reserve players making the league minimum in 2010 and 4.0 million on those players in 2011
Bolden players in the above lists are "new spending"..players acquired in the last year.
Total obligations including arb estimates and the slush fund for club controlled scrubs is roughly 103 million dollars in 2010 and 88 million in 2011 for only 15 roster spots (meaning the have to find 10 players in 2011 somehow while only spending about 30 million). Based on previous budgets, the Angels have 12 million or so left to spend in 2010 and are focusing their efforts primarily on finding a fifth starter to go with Saunders/Weaver/Kazmir/Santana. Their proflagate spending on lame relievers (Fuentes, Rodney, Sheilds, Speier) has prevented them from being able to afford Lackey so now they are looking at trade options like Derek Lowe (giggle) or lame stopgap free agents like Jon Garland and Jarrod Washburn (double-giggle).
What's worse...all of this spending still leaves them a notably worse team than last year's model. Not only have their lost their ace in the rotation, but they've also aged their line-up considerably and will soon be forced to trade away some of their arbitration eligible players (the youth in the line-up) to afford their expensive free agent contracts. Moreno's irresponsible spending is dooming the Angels in the short term, that much is obvious from a cursory look at their budget/payroll.
This is a golden opportunity for the Rangers and Mariners to assert their will on the AL West while the Angels' farm system remains in disarray and their arbitration eligible players (all ten of them) start costing them a fortune.
The Angels are in trouble.
Before the 2008 season, (IIRC), I noted that the Angels were starting to get old, and if they didn't address the issue soon, they'd be facing similar age-out problems that the 2003 Ms ignored. I believe I actually pegged 2011 as the year they'd implode. But, at the time, I noted that the club had historically been pretty good about maintaining a "two codger" limit on the roster, and that while the club "could" collapse due to age, it wasn't a foregone conclusion, because they had the payroll, and the developmental system where correction was possible.
At this point, I gotta agree with Matt. They are taking a bad situation and making it progressively worse. They aren't delaying their demise. They are accellerating it.
That said - the club had TEN (10) hitters post OPS+ above 100 in 2009. So, pretending their offense is going to "immediately" disintegrate is just wishful thinking. Matsui for Vlad is a likely upgrade at a third of the cost. Losing Figgins, (especially to the Ms), is a definite hit. But, it's a hit for one position on a team overflowing with guys who can post 100 OPS+ figures. The *OFFENSE* is likely fine (for 2010).
The pitching and defense are where the seams are coming undone - (which is precisely why they make a desperation move like Rodney). But, I think the belief that the Ms are "already" better than the Angels is significantly overstating the reality. The trends are very clearly in the Ms favor -- but 2011 remains the more likely year for the Ms to take over the West.
I don't think my post says anywhere that I expect the Angels' offense to immediately implode. I think it's going to get worse. You're going to be surprised how much it hurts their run and gun offense to lose the little engine that could. And I think Matsui is just as likely to be mediocre as be an upgrade over Vlad at Hideki's age. Plus I think Abreu will regress as will Hunter and possibly Morales (who may have had a career year).
I still think they're going to be a good offensive club (not great...but solid...probably a tick better than the Ms)
The problem is...their pitching, which was already pretty blah last year...has gotten a gigantic step worse and is costing just as much as it did last year. And the Mariners' pitching/defense is probably going to be the same or better (slightly) in 2010 as it was in 2009. So all they have to do to beat the Angels is assemble a league average offense.
Their offense will regress just due to the fact that a lot of guys had career years last year and their team BABIP was too high. I think I calculated their true team BABIP at around .308-.11 earlier this year and it was in the .320s last year. They also did flukishly well in high leverage and RISP situations (which made them score well over the expected run total this year).
Still a slightly above-average offense (99-103 OPS+ is a decent estimate), but definetly not an elite one like last year (106 OPS+ driven by BABIP and flukishly and high Rs scored). The pitching and defense right now is somewhere in the upper end of 95-100. They are an above .500 team, but not much more than that right now.
I'm more worried about Texas next year (unless the Angels make some huge moves), and long-term I'm more worried about Texas and Oakland.
The Ms are a better team at this second.
You can use your own estimate using WAR or OPS+/ERA+ if you'd like, but as currently set up I have the Ms as roughly 4 Wins better than the Angels and about 2 Ws better than the Rangers, and Z isn't done yet.
I'm sure the rest of the division isn't finished with their offseasons either, but there is some serious ground that that needs to be made up. Cliff Lee and Chone Figgins alone are a 9-10 W swing in the standings. Then you have the Milton Bradley and Brandon League acquistions which I figure for 3-4 Ws (that could swing in either direction dramatically with Bradley though).
The Ms started the offseason with a core that was worth about 76-79 Wins (considering departing FAs), now they are conservatively at about 88-91 Ws and they're still going to get better.
I honestly would not be suprised with a sub-.500 record and 4th place finish for the Angels. Theres just a ton of downside on that roster and unreal amount of smoke-and-mirrors with their 2009 offensive production.
You're talking a team that generously pythaged 92 Ws (including the very flukishly high Rs production) and has already lost 10+Ws this offseason with the departures of Chone Figgins (had a 7 WAR superstar season in '09) and John Lackey.
They are going to need some big FA signings or trade acquisitions, or unseen breakouts from guys like Brandon Wood and Santana to come back to form. They're in even more trouble than it looks like on the surface.