COMMENTARY | The Los Angeles Angels lost three-fifths of their starting rotation during the offseason, mainly by design.
Zack Greinke, who was acquired in exchange for three top-25 organizational prospects, was simply deemed too expensive. The Angels wisely opted not to enter into a bidding war along with the Los Angeles Dodgers and Texas Rangers.
Dan Haren was nearly traded to the Chicago Cubs until questions concerning Haren's health nixed the deal. Instead, the Angels opted to decline Haren's 2013 option on his contract for $15.5 million, buying him out for $3.5 million instead.
Now, the questions started flowing. Who would be replacing this trio in the back end of the starting rotation?
Angels general manager Jerry Dipoto went to work, trading reliever Jordan Walden to the Atlanta Braves for starter Tommy Hanson. Dipoto then signed free-agent starter Joe Blanton during the MLB winter meetings.
He then filled out his rotation by trading designated hitter/first baseman Kendrys Morales to the Seattle Mariners for southpaw starter Jason Vargas.
Several critics viewed the replacements as a downgrade. However, in comparison the stats for the replacements are eerily similar to that of the original trio.
Last season, Vargas, Hanson and Blanton combined for a 37-34 record and 4.32 ERA overall while Greinke, Haren and Santana were a collective 27-28 record with a 4.50 ERA.
Still the questions persist.
However, the Angels also have a collection of arms readying themselves right now during spring training who could be important to the cause for the 2013 season -- Brad Mills, Jerome Williams, Barry Enright and Garrett Richards.
Of that quartet, Williams and Enright have the most major league experience. Williams' career has been revitalized with the Angels after several years of inconsistency. Enright saw a promising start to his career in 2010 but took a complete nosedive after he strayed from his original delivery.
Enright was finally given up on by the Arizona Diamondbacks, who dealt him to the Angels last July for a player to be named.
Enright straightened out his mechanics with the Salt Lake Bees, the Angels' Triple-A affiliate. In eight starts, Enright posted a solid 2.73 ERA and earned a September call-up.
Thus far during spring training, Enright has been one of the more impressive pitchers in camp. He worked with Angels pitching coach Mike Butcher during the winter to stabilize his delivery and develop more consistency with his mid-90s fastball. The results seem to be paying off. Enright will have several opportunities to show off his newly discovered delivery and fastball velocity this spring.
While it's likely that Enright will start the season in Triple-A, he'll be a hidden gem should the Angels need reinforcements later in the season.
Williams will in all probability already be on the roster for the Angels. Manager Mike Scioscia had no problem using Williams last year both in long relief and in spot starts. At this point he's slated to fill that role once again this season.
Mills has already started strong, throwing two perfect innings in the Angels' first Cactus League game against the San Francisco Giants on Saturday, Feb. 22. Mills, son of former Houston Astros manager Brad Mills, made a spot start last year for the Angels, throwing five scoreless innings and picking up the victory against the Baltimore Orioles on July 8.
Richards too has shown flashes of consistency, posting a 3-3 record and 4.66 ERA in 12 starts over the past two seasons.
While experts and pundits may still believe the Angels' weak link is their starting rotation, there are four quality pitchers lying in wait who are more than ready to prove them wrong.
Doug Mead is a freelance sportswriter living in the Los Angeles area. His work has been featured in Bleacher Report, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, SF Gate, CBS Sports, the Los Angeles Times and the Houston Chronicle.
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