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Los Angeles Angels Have One Offseason Need to Win Now

Pitching, Pitching and Then Some More Pitching

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COMMENTARY | So many things went wrong for the Los Angeles Angels in 2013 that it would easy for the casual observer to assume that this team will continue to struggle.

They started last season with playoff aspirations that quickly evaporated and ended the season six games under .500 and 13 games out of the wild-card race.

The Angels spent over $135 million this season, but they weren't alone in overpaying for futility. The Philadelphia Phillies, New York Yankees and San Francisco Giants were all just as grotesque financially and had nothing to show for it.

However, what separates the Angels from those others is that each of them was disappointing in all aspects of the game. Whereas, the Angels -- even with an injured Albert Pujols, a struggling Josh Hamilton and Mark Trumbo's inability to take a walk -- still wound up with the fourth-best offense in all of baseball.

I'm not really breaking any news here when I say that what the Angels need is pitching. Once they get that, they need some more pitching. Then a little bit more. Then they're a very real playoff contender for 2014.

The good news for the team is that there's actually quite a bit of pitching available in free agency this offseason. The potential bad news is that the Giants' silly contract extension for the not-very-good Tim Lincecum (two years at $35 million) just jacked up everyone's prices.

If Lincecum -- the worst pitcher in baseball over the last two years -- is worth that much, just how much should a team pay for a guy that actually gets opposing players out?

The Angels need starting pitchers and relievers. This free agent market is loaded with guys that could come in and fill in their fourth and fifth pitching slots. They don't need to be staff aces. They just need to not be Joe Blanton and Tommy Hanson.

The team would be wise to stay away from Hiroki Kuroda, Ubaldo Jimenez and Ervin Santana, since they'd be required to forfeit their first-round draft pick to get any of those guys. While, for the Angels, the future is definitely now, there's simply no need to decimate their minor league system any more than they have already.

Starting pitchers like Rick Nolasco, Scott Feldman and Matt Garza would be very nice additions and don't have any draft-pick compensation attached.

I'm not sure how much more money the Angels are willing to spend this offseason, but they shouldn't spend one cent on hitters. They have plenty already and actually have some redundancy.

More good news for the Angels! A team doesn't need two center fielders, two first basemen and two second basemen. And to that point the rumors are already flying that the Angels are shopping Peter Bourjos, Mark Trumbo and Howie Kendrick for pitching, pitching and pitching, respectively.

Some insiders feel the Angels are one of the frontrunners for acquiring David Price from the Tampa Bay Rays if they do decide to trade him. A package of Trumbo, Kendrick, a minor leaguer or two and some cash ought to do the trick.

Then the Angels come out next season with one of the best starting rotations in baseball and with almost no real loss to their offense.

Kendrick would be replaced at second base by the recently acquired Grant Green. The real problem with trading Trumbo is that fans love him so much, but his all-or-nothing approach at the plate and below-average defense would be forgotten as soon as David Price goes eight strong innings stifling the other team's bats.

The bullpen this year was a mess and its use by manager Mike Scioscia was suspect. Maybe it was one of those chicken and egg things, though: Which came first, the suspect pitchers or their suspect use?

Just as with mid-level starters, there are also plenty of relievers available on the open market. I hope the Angels take a page out of the Rays' book: buy low on a few guys and hope a couple have good seasons. Relief pitchers are the biggest crapshoot of any position in baseball and there's no point in dumping tens of millions on them.

This Angels team is close to being right back in contention. They just need to get their pitching sorted out. Yes, it's a lot of pitching and a lot of sorting, but at least they're not the Yankees. Or the Phillies. Or the Giants.

Jed Rigney is a Los Angeles-based award-winning filmmaker who also fancies himself a baseball writer. He is the lead humor columnist at Through The Fence Baseball.

You can find him on Twitter @JedRigney.

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