Spring has yet to arrive, officially, but pitchers and catchers have reported for most MLB teams, and really, does winter even exist in Arizona (yes, parts of Arizona get a bit of winter) and Florida? Now I'm not one those who gets all nostalgic and weepy with the earliest signs that baseball is right around the corner, i.e. "the smell of fresh cut grass," "the pop of the mitts," "a fresh start for each team" and all that quasi-poetic crap. I don't start getting the least bit excited until the Angels and Dodgers play their annual pre-season exhibitions, or at least until I draft one of my three or so fantasy teams. But with all the upheaval the team went through this past off-season and the positive changes made by two of the Halos' division rivals, I thought it an OK idea to give an early look at the team's new make-up and their chances this upcoming season. I'll probably write a similar post as Spring Training progresses and we get a better look at how the team is shaping up, meaning, I'll look at how Brandon Woods' spring is going and whether or not he'll break camp as the starter at the hot corner.
But first thing's first! And what's first is looking at the team's off-season filled with career-Angels bolting, a few decent signings and some swings and misses at pulling off a trade for an ace who's name rhymes with Shmroy Shmalladay.
John Lackey, Chone Figgins, Vladimir Guerrero, Darren Oliver
Of course, the team said "buh-bye" to a few more players, but really, these are the only ones whose departure could affect the team(Sorry, GMJ). Let's start with the big Texan with the odd-shaped mouth. While it's tough to bid adieu to Lackey, giving him the kind of contract the Red Sox gave him just wouldn't have been a good idea for the club. I know you have to overpay in this day and age in the MLB, but I'd rather overpay for another, better (and younger) pitcher. Lackey has started the last two seasons on the DL, and even though he bounced back and had good seasons - including a nice 2009 post season - it's just not a good sign. There will be plenty of fish in the sea come the trade deadline and the 2010 off-season as far as starting pitchers go. I do think Lackey has two, maybe three more seasons in him at his current level of effectiveness, but this will be a move (non-move?) Angels fans come to praise very soon.
Oh, Desmond DeChone, it's gonna be tough watching you circle the bases up North in teal and navy. But I have a feeling you won't be circling them at quite the same rate (114 runs scored) as you did for the Angels in '09. I guess I would have been OK had the team re-signed you to a deal similar to that which you signed with the Mariners (4 years, $36 million). After all, you're one of the better lead-off men in all of baseball, and you had a nice season in 2009 - a near .400 OBP, the aforementioned 114 runs and 42 stolen bases (though you were caught a league-leading 17 times, OUCH!), and you played a GG-caliber third base. But you know, we have this kid named Brandon Wood who's been biding his time in the minors. He's supposed to be pretty good. We could have traded him a few times, but we didn't. I'm kind of curious to see him get regular AB's and he plays 3B as well. I guess what I'm saying Figgy, is I will miss you, but hopefully this Wood kid can lessen my pain by hitting a few (20? 25?) 450-foot bombs over the visitor's bullpen. As the saying goes, Chone, we will see. We will see.
As for Vlad. It was time, and I think most sane Angels fans would agree. Now, I'm not thrilled he ended up in Texas, but whatevs, he is an injury waiting to happen. I'll always appreciate his time with the team and will give him a standing ovation when he visits the Big A in Rangers gear. He better oblige by promptly grounding out to Erick Aybar.
To be continued...