The Los Angeles Angels of Aneheim have been at center stage for much of baseball's offseason as they've seen a fair amount of roster turnover and pursued the biggest free agents available. Given that, I thought it would be good to kick off a series of AL West blogger Q&As with Monkey With A Halo's Garrett Wilson.
(Questions submitted before the Jason Vargas-Kendrys Morales trade.)
JS: What are your general impressions of the Angels' decision to swoop in and break the bank for Josh Hamilton?
GW: The Hamilton signing was a surprise in that it was Hamilton, but I can't say I'm shocked that they added another sizable contract. They had been pretending all off-season that they were going to cut payroll by $15-20 million, but I don't think anyone ever really believed that. It just isn't Arte Moreno's style to respond to a disappointing season by spending less. I thought they might go out and grab Anibal Sanchez, but had waved bye-bye long ago to the notion of them pursuing Hamilton. I honestly still don't know if I would have rather they signed Greinke instead though. Even with Greinke having a contract that is one year longer, it seems like he was the less risky investment and a much bigger need for the Angels.
JS: Heading into the 2012 season the much-hyped Angels rotation was set with Jered Weaver, Dan Haren, C.J. Wilson, Ervin Santana and Jerome Williams. Weaver and Wilson appear to be the only two returning for 2013. How badly did the Angels need to re-sign Zack Greinke, what do you make of newcomers Tommy Hanson and Joe Blanton, and do you believe the team will add any new starters between now and Spring Training?
GW: I wouldn't say that the Angels "needed" to re-sign Greinke, but they did "whatever word is just shy of needed" to re-sign Greinke. The Halos have had some good lineups in the past decade, but for the lion's share of the Scioscia era, it is a team that was built off the strength of their rotation. Rebuilding the staff with the very risky Hanson and then bringing in Vargas and Blanton to just eat innings is something of a change in philosophy. However, I'm not sure it is the wrong strategy since the Angels' ballpark and defense can likely make even the scrubbiest of pitchers look decent. I think Hanson is really the key to the whole thing though. Weaver and Wilson should be just fine, but out of the other three, Hanson is the only guy with any upside whatsoever. If he can rebound even part of the way back to his 2010 form, the rotation will be much less of a concern. And I do think that could happen as he is reportedly in, wait for it, the best shape of his life! I'm not exactly holding my breath for that though.
JS: What remains on the Angels' to-do list this offseason?
GW: Jerry Dipoto says they are done, but he said that literally the day before he signed Hamilton too. Seriously, never ever believe a word that comes out of that guy's mouth. He isn't a liar or anything, he just has the best GM pokerface in the world. He never tips his hands on moves, but he always leaves just enough ambiguity in his statements that if he goes out and does the opposite that it isn't a total contradiction. Anyway, I kind of do believe him this time save for the potential trade dump of Vernon Wells. I'm not sure that will happen, but if he can find a real buyer offering so much as a sack of peanuts, he'll take it.
JS: As things stand now, what could be the Angels' Achilles heel in 2013?
GW: I can't begin to tell you how good it feels for the answer to this question NOT be "the bullpen" for the first time in years. Unfortunately, the answer is pretty obviously the rotation. Not only is the rotation kind of mediocre, but it has a lot of risk in it. Dipoto did a good job of trying to minimize that risk by bringing on safe, inning-eater guys like Vargas and Blanton, but Hanson is a giant question mark, Wilson is coming off a lousy second half and elbow surgery and Weaver isn't exactly a sure bet anymore since he had some back problems last year as well as a velocity dip. If they get lucky on those three, the rotation could be pretty dang good, but if they get unlucky, this season could go off the rails fast.
A big thanks to Garrett for submitting these responses. Check out Monkey With A Halo if you ever feel the need to scope out the competition.