Carl Crawford? Strike One!
Adrian Beltre? Strike Two!!
Strike Three? Not... just... yet.
The Angel off-season technically isn't over, but many out there seem to think it is. Their two biggest free agent targets have been stolen out from under their noses and people are justifiably pissed. But you know what? Get over it. What's done is done and crying about it isn't going to change anything. What is important is figuring out what the Angels are going to do from here. I can't say that I know for sure, but I certainly have some ideas.
Do you know what to do next? No. How about you? Not a clue.
Let me get this out of the way first. I touched on this earlier this week, but if the Rangers want Beltre for six-years, $96 million, they can have him. That is franchise player money for a guy who has only made one All-Star team, had just one 30+ homer season, just two 100+ RBI seasons and hit over .280 just three times. That is the resume of very nice complimentary player, one that should be getting paid two-thirds of what the Rangers are about to hand him. Good luck with all of that, Texas. I look forward to all the explanations for why Beltre is sporting a slash line of .265/.320/.440 at the All-Star break next season.
The real reason people are pissed about losing out on Beltre isn't Beltre himself, but rather that it means the Angels have done literally NOTHING to upgrade their pathetic offense and there is about six weeks left before Spring Training. Adrian Beltre merely represented the last somewhat reliable, somewhat potent bat on the free agent market. That is clearly a problem, a problem with no clear solution. But that doesn't mean the Angels don't have options, it is just a question of which one is the best choice and which one they will actually take (as there is no guarantee that they are a package deal).
OPTION #1 - Stand pat and hope for the best AKA The Bill Stoneman Maneuver
Your not going to like it, but this option is very much on the table right now. If there is one thing the Halos are good at, it is cognitive dissonance. I can almost picture the conversation being had in the Angel offices right now. Hey, we're getting Kendry back. Aybar still has loads of potential. Abreu is too professional a hitter not to bounce back. Rivera is looking good in winter ball. Callaspo can't possibly be as bad as he was last season. Jeff Mathis has to hit sooner or later. Yeah, tell me you aren't imagining it now too.
What makes this an even more real possibility is that the Angels have been quite frugal this off-season, so it seems unlikely that they are just going to spend like crazy on subpar players just to make a show of it. If anything, this option makes sense because Moreno can sell the line of BS that they have decided to save their big spending dollars for next off-season when they will have a lot more budget room.
OPTION #2 - Just sign the best of what is left and do it now AKA The PANIC!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Maneuver
As I hinted at above, I don't think this is really an option, but there is a slight chance that Arte Moreno could succumb to all of the mounting public pressure and start throwing money at overrated players just so he can point to those moves and say they made their "big splash" in order to appease the season ticket holders. In this scenario, the Angels will start kicking the tires on every washed up player who still has name recognition. You really think it is a coincidence that there are already rumblings of Vladimir Guerrero returning to the Angels? Just wait until the Manny Ramirez speculation starts or until you see Johnny Damon's cro-magnon mug plastered all over Angel promotional materials.
OPTION #3 - Move on to the trade market AKA The Get Busy Tradin' or Get Busy Dyin' Maneuver
This would probably be the fan's choice for the next step in the Angel plan. This will make everyone feel better, but I'm not sure there are a lot trade options available to the Angels right now. Justin Upton would be awesome, but it sounds like he has been taken off the market. After that, there is virtually nothing that anybody would consider a major win. Sure, Tony Reagins could make calls to see if he can't pull off a shocker and pry loose Jose Reyes, Hanley Ramirez or Matt Kemp, but let's face it, those are longshots to begin with and I kind of doubt the Halos have the prospects needed to make such a blockbuster happen.
What could happen though is taking riskier trade chances on reclamation projects that won't cost much via trade. I like the idea of taking on Carlos Beltran's and part of his $18 million salary and hoping he returns to form. I'm not even all that opposed to the Angels bringing back Chone Figgins, though I don't like his contract (although it is far more reasonable than Beltre's). The Cubs might be willing to unload Aramis Ramirez after his rough 2010 campaign, if only to save money.
This latter route seems like it has a pretty good chance of happening since the Angels knowingly have some roster logjam they want to clear anyway, not to mention that these lesser targets won't force them to dip into their farm system too much.
OPTION #4 - Punt on 2011 and initiate a rebuilding process AKA The Hit the Reset Button Maneuver
I really don't see Arte Moreno ever admitting defeat, but maybe that is the best option. There are a lot of youngsters on the Angels right now and a handful of tradeable veterans that could fetch a nice return. With a few select trades of a guy like Jered Weaver (who would bring back a big bounty of prospects) and/or Torii Hunter, the Halos could restock their farm system, save money and be positioned to become big-time players in 2012 or 2013 where they will have a boatload of cash and (hopefully) Mike Trout on the verge of super-stardom.
This isn't really an option though. Arte Moreno is already getting trashed in the press and even the slightest hint of a fire sale would be a PR apocalypse. Actually, I should say it isn't an option right now. If the Angels to stand pat and struggle out of the gate in 2011, a partial fire sale could definitely be in the cards come July.
OPTION #5 - Make a few small low risk-high potential moves and hope for the best AKA The It is Better Than Nothing Maneuver
This one is the path of least resistance. Angel management has to see the writing on the wall and realize that they just don't have anyone left worth making a "big splash" over, so the best they can do is go out and make a few moves that won't cost much money, but have a chance to payoff handsomely. I don't like Scott Podsednik, but who knows? Maybe he'll be a match made in heaven for the Halos. Maybe Lastings Milledge can come on board and finally figure out what he has to do to harness his full potential. Maybe Jorge Cantu can be a solid fill in at third base. None of these moves would be very risky for the Angels, but at least they are moves and some of them could pay off... although they probably won't.
So what do I think they are really going to do? Here it is...
OPTION #6 - Fill out the roster for now, then make a big play at the trade deadline AKA The Lie in the Weeds Maneuver
Consider this a combo of #3 and #5. With so few impact players available on the free agent or trade market, the Angels would be best served to just sit back and wait for the trade market to become ripe again, closer to this season's trade deadline. By that time, teams like the Cubs, Mets, Astros and others will realize that they actually stink and be more amenable to selling off their best players, and usually for less than they would cost right now.
For the Angels, it would give them a few months to figure out which of their underperformers from last year are going to bounce back and which ones won't. For example, if Juan Rivera and Bobby Abreu actually do recapture their 2009 form, the Angels suddenly have left field and DH covered, leaving them in need of only an upgrade at third base. Not only might this give the Angels more trade options, it will be more cost effective since they can focus on filling fewer holes. The only catch is that the Angels need to hang close to the Rangers long enough to make such deals worthwhile. I'm not sure they can do that, but I suspect that Angel management thinks they can.