Move over, Tony Reagins. I'm taking over for a bit.
The Angels have a lot of tough decisions to make this off-season. Who do they re-sign? What free agents and trades do they pursue? How much money can they spend? Tony Reagins and the Angel front office no doubt have a plan for upgrading the roster and it will slowly unfold before us over the course of the next few months. I, however, am incredibly impatient. I'm not going to sit around and wait for Reagins and company to tip their hand, instead I am going to put on the GM hat and layout my own blueprint for the Angel off-season in just 8 simple steps:
- Give John Lackey and Vladimir Guerrero a hearty handshake, a slap on the back and show the them exit. No offense to Big John or SuperVlad, but it is time for everyone to go their separate ways. The Angels simply can't afford to give Lackey the big payday he wants, especially when he is starting to get more and more injury prone. As for Guerrero, they could probably have him back at a reasonable price but I don't want to have to spend another year complaining about how he shouldn't be hitting clean-up anymore and this is the only surefire way to prevent it. Both guys will be missed, but this is really the best move for everyone involved.
- Lock Bobby Abreu in room and don't let him leave until he re-signs. Abreu was the team MVP this year with the way he helped the team revolutionize their batting approach. The Angels want him back badly and he wants to come back, but he has already turned down one contract offer over money. Of all their impending free agents, Abreu is the one they can't let get away. The Halos have a few weeks yet before free agency is officially open, so there is no sense in even giving other teams a chance to swoop in and make crazy contract offer to steal Abreu out from under their nose. They just need to lock him and his agent in a room with Tony Reagins until a deal is hammered out.
- Pay whatever it takes to get Aroldis Chapman. With Lackey headed elsewhere, the Angels need to find a new ace. They are hoping that Scott Kazmir can be that guy, but I don't see it happening since he struggles so much to go deep into games. That means that Angels are going to have to take a chance on the Cuban fireballer Aroldis Chapman. He may not be an ace right away, but he is a unique talent and only 21, so he has plenty of time to blossom into acehood. He will cost at least $40 million in a signing bonus though, so while he won't break the payroll structure, it will require a big one-time expenditure from Arte Moreno.
Could he be the Angels' new ace?
- Bring back Figgy at a reasonable price. Chone Figgins isn't exactly the most popular guy with Angels fans after his playoff failings, but he is still the straw that stirs the Angels' drink. Letting him get away would be a big mistake for an offense that just made so many strides in the last year.
- Coax Darren Oliver into playing one more year. The Angel bullpen stinks, let's be honest. Losing Darren Oliver is not something they can afford to do, so Sosh and Reagins will have to sweet talk DO into coming back for one more season. The Angels might be able to find a better reliever with Oliver's money, but his veteran presence is a wonderful calming influence for the relievers that they can't lose. Hopefully that won't be hard since it is clear Oliver still has some productive years left in his arm.
- Swap Gary Matthews and his bad contract for Francisco Cordero and his bad contract. Gary Matthews is horribly overpaid and of little use to the Angels. Somehow this entitles him to demand a trade. I will be more than happy to oblige. It won't be easy though because of Junior's two years and $23 million remaining deal. The best option here is to swap him for another bad contract, but hopefully at a position that the Angels need some help in, like the bullpen. I'm setting my sights on the Reds who are a mediocre team in a small market and it just so happens they need a centerfielder. What they don't need is an expensive closer like Francisco Cordero who has two years and $25 million bucks left on his own albatross contract. Unlike Matthews though, Cordero is still playing at a decent level. He had 39 saves and a 2.16 ERA for the Reds last year though he did walk 30 batters in 66.2 innings. That being said, the Halos will have to eat some money in the deal and/or toss in a prospect or two to make it an even swap. The Angels can then let Cordero and Fuentes battle it out for the closer job. With Cordero, Fuentes, Jepsen, Bulger and Oliver in the pen plus the return of Scot Shields and hopefully a rebound season from Jose Arredondo and the Angel bullpen suddenly is actually pretty good and possibly awesome.
Wait, you're telling me we can get a new closer AND get rid of Gary Matthews? Done and done!
- Give Brandon Wood an outfielders glove for Christmas. With Figgins back in the fold the Angels need to find a spot for Brandon Wood. Sure, he could be the new full-time DH, but he has too much talent to not play the field. I say turn him into a superutility player. He already plays third and short and has dabbled at first base, why not have him learn to play right field too? That way, not only does Wood get to play everyday, but Abreu, Figgins and Morales can all get some additional rest this year by getting the occasional start at DH. If Wood takes well to the outfield then Abreu can be moved to DH on a more permanent basis thus improving the Angels' outfield defense.
- Pick Mathis or Napoli and trade the other. OK this is a tough one but it is necessary. Scioscia likes having his little catcher tandem, but both Mathis and Napoli are going into their arbitration years which is going to make them relatively expensive. Bobby Wilson is ready to be a big league back-up and Hank Conger is getting close to being major league ready. So, in order to free up one or two million bucks, the Angels need to force Scioscia to just pick one catcher so the other can be traded for some prospects. If it were my choice, I would deal Napoli in part because he has a bigger salary but also because Scioscia clearly does not trust his defense.
So there it is, the perfect plan to keep the Angels financially solvent as well as improve their short-term and long-term championship prospects. What do you think of my plan? Let me know in the comments.