No. 14 Angels: Quieter offseason may be for the better

David Brown
Yahoo Sports
mike trout
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The Angels have Mike Trout. And that is a heck of a lot. (AP Photo)

Editor's note: Yahoo Sports will rank every team in Major League Baseball from 30th to 1st before spring training begins in mid-February. Our series continues with the Los Angeles Angels.

2013 record: 78-84
Finish: 3rd place, AL West
2013 final payroll: $143,670,107 (6th of 30)
Estimated 2014 opening day payroll: $160,800,000 (6th of 30)
Yahoo Sports offseason rank: 14th
Angels in six words: Trout can’t do everything — can he?




OFFSEASON ACTION
For two straight offseasons, the Los Angeles Angels made big splashes in free agency, signing Albert Pujols for 2012 and Josh Hamilton for 2013. Not only did the Angels miss the playoffs again last season, they finished with 11 fewer victories than the season before and lost 13 games in the standings. Due to strict budgetary restraints that included a directive from owner Arte Moreno to stay below the luxury tax threshold, the Angels made no such splash in free agency this time. The most expensive signings for general manager Jerry Dipoto were right-handed relief pitcher Joe Smith, who got $15.75 million over three years, and slugger Raul Ibañez, who’ll get a base salary of $2.75 million plus incentives that could reach $5 million total. Who knows? Smith might end up closing because the totality of the Angels' bullpen is a tad iffy.

[Also: No. 15 Diamondbacks: More changes in an effort to rise above .500 ]

The team still is paying off most of the final season of Vernon Wells’ contract, and also that of Joe Blanton. Those voids also prevent Dipoto from making changes. At least those guys aren’t on the roster, too.

To feed the Angels' need for starting pitching, Dipoto had to get creative, moving slugger Mark Trumbo in a deal for left-handers Hector Santiago (from the White Sox) and Tyler Skaggs (from the Diamondbacks). The Angels also traded speedy outfielder Peter Bourjos for third baseman David Freese, so the offense won't be any worse — or at least shouldn’t be. Despite rough seasons from Pujols and Hamilton, the Angels still managed to finish seventh in the majors in runs scored. If they’re clicking again, with Mike Trout — there he is! — on base in front of them so often, the Angels ought to be a top four or five offense in 2014.

REALITY CHECK
For as much as the Angels have spent on sunk costs in recent seasons, they’ve gotten away with absolute larceny in regard to Trout, who is one of the best three players in the majors yet gets paid like a fourth outfielder (about $500,000). Now that’s the most valuable player in the league. The gravy train ends after this season, when he becomes eligible for arbitration. The salary escalators in arbitration have more to do with service time and comparable players and less to do with production. Trout’s looking at something like – this is a guess – $12 million a year. Imagine if he were to get what he was worth – $25 million or $30 million!

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Trout’s value is only one reason why the Angels haven’t acted on a contract extension yet. The luxury tax is another. If they gave Trout a significant raise now, they’d have to pay the tax. Arte Moreno isn’t made of the Yankees' or Dodgers' money.

Which is why the additions of Santiago and Skaggs — more Skaggs — will be important. After C.J. Wilson and Jered Weaver, the Angels’ No. 3 starter is Garrett Richards. They could use someone to step forward, which Blanton, Dan Haren and others couldn’t do. Is that guy on the roster? Well …

The problem with Santiago is his upside is probably no better than Jason Vargas. He’s a good fourth or fifth starter, if everything works out. If he regresses, and his peripherals suggest he will, he ends up in the bullpen as a middle reliever. Two years ago, Skaggs was the 13th-best prospect in baseball, according to Baseball America, but he’s lost something off his fastball and his luster. He needs to bounce back. If he does, he can be a No. 2 starter someday, maybe better.

The Angels probably need Skaggs to suddenly become Chuck Finley in order to contend for the playoffs. That might happen – but someday, not necessarily this season. Ah, well, Dipoto says. You can’t work in fear of losing your job. There’s a good chance his moves will be good ones, even if someone else reaps the reward.

The other notable offseason move was the re-starting of Mark Mulder’s career after four years away – and really, it was more like eight – from a major league rotation. His comeback is a compelling angle for spring training. And the Angels might end up needing him, or someone like him, to eat innings.

SAVIOR
Let’s just allow the Angels to enjoy what they have in Mike Trout, who gets on base, hits for power, runs and takes away home runs in a more complete package than anyone else since … really, just name your favorite player of all time. Mike Trout, at age 22, is probably better. How good is Trout? Going by wins above replacement, Fangraphs determined that Trout by himself projects to be better than the entire outfield of 22 teams in Major League Baseball.

HAIKU
Trout can’t do it all,
of course. But it might not be
a bad thing to try.


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