AL West Hot Stove Preview
Posted: Wednesday October 31, 2007 11:00AM; Updated: Wednesday October 31, 2007 11:00AM
Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
2007 Record: 94-68, first place
What They Should Do: Strong Buy. The philosophical question that the Angels must ask is whether they're competing with the Mariners, Rangers, and Athletics -- or the Yankees, Red Sox, and Indians. If it's the former, the team is probably strong enough to win the division unimproved. There are a few options for the corner slots that would be somewhere between league average and replacement level: make Reggie Willits your right-fielder, endure another year of Garret Anderson in left, and Vlad becomes your DH, or alter that by moving Chone Figgins back to the outfield and handing third base over to Maicer Izturis or Brandon Wood. Still, the incumbents are relatively weak and the marginal gain from bringing on superstar talent is therefore relatively high. Nor are the Angels any longer a team whose future is ahead of it; a lot of prospects have either graduated (Howie Kendrick, Casey Kotchman) or burned out (Jeff Mathis, and now perhaps Wood), and the total talent stock is probably peaking right about now. Coming off five straight years of three million-plus in attendance, the Angels are at a crossroads, where they can massively inflate their franchise valuation and become Red Sox West with a World Series title, while still having some bailout options as a lot of money is coming off the books in 2008 or 2009. Alex Rodriguez and Barry Bonds should be target Nos. 1 and 1A.
What They Will Do: Strong Buy. It's perhaps the best individual fit for both Rodriguez and Bonds. I'd give 50-50 odds that the Angels snag at least one of them, with a decent chance that they go after both.
What They Should Do: Weak Sell. You take some of that goodwill that you generated by re-signing Ichiro and call it a consolidation year and play for 2009, which means being willing to trade useful players like Kenji Johjima and Raul Ibanez. The Mariners were a 79-83 Pythagorean team, and even that record was established with some unlikely performances from the likes of players like Vidro and Batista. They'd need to acquire at least two second-rank quality starters to have a tangible shot at the playoffs, and those sorts of players will be prohibitively expensive this winter if they're available at all. On the other hand, things look pretty good for 2009; Jones, Balentien, and Clement will have full-time roles nailed down if they don't get them in 2008, while several bad contracts come off the books.
What They Will Do: Weak Buy. The Mariners are in a relatively dangerous position, coming off a year in which they were speciously close to the playoffs, and led by a GM (Bill Bavasi) who understands neither the value of young talent nor things like Pythagorean records. I envision a trade involving either Balentien or Jones for starting pitching, which may actually fetch something, but at too high a price.