Last night I brazenly tweeted, “Albert Pujols going to the Angels is about as likely as Mo Vaughn going to play 1st for the Angels #powderblues.” …Yeah, I’ll have my crow with a side of ketchup please. Bone-in if at all possible. Thanks.
$260 million for perhaps the greatest first baseman of all time. 10-year contract for someone turning 32 next month. But the Angels did not stop there. The Angels went on to ink left handed starter C.J. Wilson to bolster an already impressive stable of arms. Five years at $77.5 million. With Ervin Santana entering a contract season, not a bad pickup to keep along side Jered Weaver and Dan Haren going forward.
One hell of a morning for the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. But: Peter Bourjos, Mike Trout, Torii Hunter, Vernon Wells, Mark Trumbo, Erick Aybar, Howie Kendrick, Alberto Callaspo, Bobby Abreu, Kendrys Morales, and Pujols are all Major League starters on this roster. 11 players for nine spots in the everyday lineup. None of them are catchers. Eight spots in the lineup. Two are center fielders. One is their top prospect who is likely to start from day one this year (Trout). Seven spots in the lineup. Pujols isn’t going to start? Pssh. Six spots. Kendrick and Aybar are their middle infield. Four spots. Callaspo plays third. Wells, Hunter, and Abreu would have made one hell of an outfield a decade ago. Now, with three spots left, two outfield positions left, and the DH position likely occupied by Trumbo, the Angels have a problem. A good problem, but a problem nonetheless.
First, what to do with Morales? The last time we saw the Cuban first baseman, he was cracking a walk-off homerun before breaking his leg celebrating with his teammates at home plate. That was a season and a half ago. Once considered to be a top hitter in the league, he seems to be completely left out of this equation. If he is finally healthy, the last thing he will want to do is be a backup first baseman as well as the DH’s backup to the backup. Maybe the Angels will now be active on the trade market, putting together a package of Morales, Bourjos, and Santana for…
David Wright? The Mets have a bunch of holes throughout their roster and the third baseman would certainly be an upgrade over Callaspo. If the Mets can ink Santana long term, the deal would certainly seem worth it to them. They would land a center fielder who can replace the stolen bases vacated by Jose Reyes. They could get a relatively young bat in Morales to sell at first. And they get a top tier pitcher to put at the top of their rotation. For the Mets, it seems like a no brainer assuming Morales is finally healthy. It would also allow them to move Ike Davis for another piece and give them a more complete team than if they were to just hold on to Wright in order to sell a couple of jerseys. Certainly something both sides could benefit from.
Even still, the Angels will have to put a consumate starter on the pine, and that could (potentially) cause problems in the clubhouse. Torii Hunter, Bobby Abreu, and Vernon Wells. Who gets to play? Abreu is 37 and will be making $9 million this season. Wells was inked to a massive deal (for his talents) before joining the Angels via trade with the Blue Jays. The Angels are on the hook for $26 million this season to Wells alone. That leaves Hunter. The 36 year old will make $18.5 million this season. If the Angels agreed to eat half of his contract this season (the final year of his deal) they could find a suitor for Hunter, who can play all three positions in the outfield.
But to think, the Angels were actually to out-spend the heavyweight Marlins? Unfathomable. Incomprehensible. Unbelievable.
While those are all jokes, what is interesting is seeing how the Marlins have been able to rope in Mark Buehrle into their rotation. Since 2001, Buehrle has yet to register less than 10 wins any single season. While he has never peaked higher than 16 wins, his consistency is worth every penny the Marlins shilled out for him. While he does not possess the talent that new teammate Josh Johnson has, his ability to stay healthy and go out and pitch over 200 innings every year of his career is where his value lies. With them at the top of the rotation paired with Anibal Sanchez and Ricky Nolasco, this has the potential to be a legitimate rotation in the National League.
While they struck out on the Pujols, Prince Fielder is still on the market. And if the Marlins lose out to the Cubs or, who knows, the Angels again, Gaby Sanchez isn’t the worst option at first heading into the 2012 season.
But the real problem for both the Angels and the Marlins is simple. As of right now, NEITHER TEAM IS THE BEST IN THEIR OWN DIVISION! Yeah, I said it. While the Angels are certainly the second best team in the AL West, there’s a great chance that the Marlins may not even be the second best team in the NL East. While the Braves had an epic collapse last season, their talent level is off the charts. Freddie Freeman was runner up in the NL Rookie of the Year voting behind his own teammate, closer Craig Kimbrel. Dan Uggla tore the cover off of the ball in his first season at Turner Field while Jason Heyward had season which is the definition of a sophomore slump. Michael Bourne is one of the most dangerous base stealers in all of the game and Brian McCann is one of the best hitting catchers in the major leagues. Let’s not forget about their pitching. Tim Hudson, Tommy Hanson, Jair Jurrjens, Brandon Beachy, Mike Minor, Eric O’Flaherty, Jonny Venters, and Kimbrel? One of the most complete rotations and bullpens in all of baseball. Not to mention, the Philadelphia Phillies still reign supreme in the NL East until they are usurped. While Ryan Howard will be sitting to start the season, this team has the pitching to beat anyone with a single run of support. The Marlins need Prince Fielder to contend for a World Series. Otherwise, they’ll be competing for a chance at the new Wild Card position, for the opportunity to play a one game playoff.
Meanwhile, the Angels have to take down the two time defending American League Champs. The Texas Rangers have now lost their ace in consecutive offseasons when Cliff Lee signed with the Phillies and now C.J. Wilson has jumped to their division rivals. But, the Rangers still have one of the most dangerous lineups in all of baseball. Josh Hamilton, Mike Napoli, Ian Kinsler, Nelson Cruz, Elvis Andrus, Adrian Beltre, and Michael Young are all capable of putting this team on their back on any given night. Hamilton has an MVP to his name while Cruz, Kinsler, and Beltre all belted over 30 homeruns individually last season. While the Rangers once again lost their ace, their rotation is not one of woe. Alexi Ogando impressed during his first season as a full time starter. Derek Holland was borderline lights out in the postseason. Neftali Feliz will move from the bullpen to the rotation (as Wilson and Ogando both have) and could develop into a top of the line starter with the pitches in his arsenal. Their bullpen was one of the best in baseball last year, and Nolan Ryan brought in Joe Nathan to replace Feliz as their closer.
Is Albert Pujols the best player in the league? For my money, yes. Are Weaver, Haren, Wilson, and Santana an impressive rotation? Of course. Am I going to hand them the division after two major acquisitions? I’m a Red Sox fan, so I know better than that. But the Marlins and the Angels have certainly made massive splashes this offseason and should see dividends as soon as next season. I’m just not sure either are World Series bound…yet.
Now, who wants Yu Darvish?!?