Playing Pepper 2014: Los Angeles Angels

Since 2009, one of the traditions of the spring has been the Playing Pepper series.  I ask a number of questions of blogs–some in the Baseball Bloggers Alliance, some not–that cover the other 29 teams in Major League Baseball.  This year, not only is my son involved–he and I came up with the last question together–but the series is also brought to you by Purpose, Perseverance and Power Arms, the United Cardinal Bloggers annual publication.  Only $2.99 at the Kindle store, so get yours today!  But first, get out the bats and gloves and let’s play some pepper.

Los Angeles Angels
78-84, third in the AL West

You could make the argument that the Angels “won the offseason” two years running.  The major splash of signing C.J. Wilson (oh, and that Albert Pujols guy) in 2011 followed by nabbing Josh Hamilton in 2012 would have seemed to set up this club for some postseason glory.

Instead, due to injuries and ineffectiveness (and not as much pitching as they’d like), the Angels haven’t been playing in October since the major outlays began.  This year, they went the trade route for their offseason fixes, swapping Mark Trumbo to Arizona and, as we know, bringing in a postseason hero in David Freese (and Fernando Salas) for a couple of outfielders.

Garrett from Monkey With A Halo is here today to tell us what this new approach will mean to the folks in Anaheim and just what they think of their new third baseman.  You can find Garrett on Twitter @monkeywithahalo.

C70: How would you grade the offseason?

MWH: I’d have to give the Angels a B, but that isn’t complete yet since (as of this writing), they have yet to complete a contract extension agreement with Mike Trout. That’s kind of a big deal. Outside of that, they made a lot of smaller moves that I liked. Somehow getting two quality young starting pitchers for Mark Trumbo and his .299 career OBP was an impressive bit of maneuvering from Jerry Dipoto. It may not push them over the top, but it helped solve their biggest problem. I even like the Bourjos-Freese swap. They clearly overpaid, but it made the team better and plugged a weakness while dealing from a strength. Ask me again about that deal in two years though because Bourjos could be a guy they really regret trading.

The area where I feel like they really fell short though was building depth. They have literally nothing behind their projected Opening Day starting rotation. If anyone gets hurt, they are boned. Their bench should be better than last season, but it still is pretty suspect. These are the problems you have to deal with when your farm system is giant sinkhole.

C70: How are people taking to that David Freese fellow?

MWH: Fine, I suppose. I think most folks are taking a wait-and-see approach. On one hand, enough people are aware of his shady history with drinking and driving, a topic that is still quite sensitive after the Nick Adenhart tragedy. Then again, he is replacing Alberto Callaspo, who was no model citizen himself. My sense is that if Freese plays well, he’ll be welcomed warmly, but if he doesn’t and Bourjos breaks out in St. Louis, the knives are going to come out.

C70: Which roster battle will be the most intriguing during spring training?

MWH: There really aren’t any real battles. That’s the aforementioned lack of depth for you. I know they really wanted Mark Mulder to challenge Santiago and Skaggs for a rotation spot, but that plan went the way of Mulder’s Achilles tendon, so Santiago and Skaggs are all but assured of their spots in the rotation now. The only real battles are for reserve infield spots on the bench and the final spot in the bullpen. But those are boring and likely to change as the season wears on anyway.

C70: What rookie, if any, will make the most impact on the team in 2014?

MWH: Rookie? That’s cute to think that the Angels are capable of producing a rookie player who could make an impact. I guess if I have to pick someone, it would be reliever Mike Morin getting a mid-season call up and providing a boost to the middle relief. That’s pretty much it.

C70: What will be the final record of the team and where will they finish in the division?

MWH: My prediction is 87 wins and I think that will be good for second in the AL West, but not good enough for a Wild Card. The AL West is still tough, but my suspicion is that the A’s will win it again, but that the Rangers’ health issues in their rotation are going to submarine an otherwise talented roster.

C70: Which player from your team do you most enjoy watching?

MWH: Mike Trout and I feel like that might be the most obvious answer to any question in the history of history.

There’s no doubt seeing Trout on a daily basis does ease a little bit of the hurt from the last couple of years.  We’ll see if some of the bigger names on the squad can produce to their former levels and put this team right in the mix during 2014.

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