Welcome to the Angels, Jerry DiPoto! It is great to have you on board. Go ahead and take a seat at your fancy new general manager desk and bask in the opportunity to finally get to sit in the big chair... OK, time is up! Hope you enjoyed that brief moment in revelry because now it is time to get to work because, in case you didn't notice, there is actually a lot that needs to be done around here if the Los Angeles Angels are going to get back to being contenders. Put on your hard hat, Jerry.
Yeah, I know it sucks. Most of the time when you take a new job you get a few weeks to settle in, get some training, learn the lay of the land and so on. Worst case scenario, you get a few months to get fully up to speed. DiPoto though? Well, he's got until 12:01 am EST this Thursday, and even then he might find himself behind the rest of the pack by then. However, DiPoto does have a few days to play catch up on the off-season, but to do that, he must first check off a few tasks on his GM honey-do list first.
Get Symbiotic with Scioscia
The narrative forced upon us since Reagins was fired was that the Angel GM gig was not that great because Mike Scioscia had too much influence. Now, I'm sure there is some truth to that, but I kind of have to rant about this assertion. Somehow lost amid all the Scioscia slandering for his supposed meddling ways, everyone forgot that he is a GREAT manager. This is a guy who won a World Series with freaking Scott Spiezio, Adam Kennedy and David Eckstein prominently involved and then gone on to make the once anonymous Angel franchise an annual contender. So, maybe, just maybe, he knows what kind of players fit his roster and style of play, so listening to his opinion might actually be worthwhile. A crazy thought, I know.
Now, obviously Sosh isn't perfect since he has some blind spots when it comes to the catcher position and how much trust he places in his veterans, but if DiPoto can work with him, they can do great things together. That doesn't mean DiPoto needs to walk into Scioscia's office and lift his leg and pee on Scioscia's desk to mark his territory, but he does need to let Sosh know that while his opinions are always appreciated, they will not always be acted upon and that, conversely, Scioscia needs to take DiPoto's suggestions under advisement and give them a try, even if they make Sosh feel uncomfortable. If this turns into a some kind power struggle, this new regime is doomed, but if DiPoto and Scioscia can form a productive partnership, they can do great thing together.
Get Moreno Muted
OK, I'm not done ranting yet. I find it hilarious that Scioscia was the one getting slammed by the media for his undue influence in the organization while Arte Moreno more or less got a free pass. Arte is largely a great owner when it comes to funding the team and making the club fan-friendly. What he isn't so good at is getting involved with player personnel decisions. Reagins had his own struggles when it came to negotiating free agent deals, but the Carl Crawford negotiations didn't really fall apart until Moreno stepped in and nuked the whole situation. And I am still convinced that Arte played a major role in the ill-fated Vernon Wells trade coming to fruition.
Sorry, Arte, but you need to butt out and Jerry is the one who is going to have to make that happen. Yes, it is his team, but Arte needs to take a step back and only enter into free agent or trade negotiations when DiPoto requests it, and the only time he should request it is when someone needs to put their signature on a big fat check. We've simply seen too many times where Moreno has gotten to emotionally or personally involved and turned matters from bad to worse and that just can't happen anymore if DiPoto is really going to be able to operate with the "complete power" that Arte promised.
Get Down With OBP
DiPoto made a big deal about "controlling the count" during his introductory press conference which, for me at least, was music to my ears. The Angels have operated as if they were agnostic to the concept of OBP for the entirety of the 21st century. Having now said that, Jerry needs to put his money where his mouth is.
Starting yesterday, DiPoto needs to look over the Angel roster and decide which low-OBP offenders, and there are many, he is going to tolerate keeping around and which ones he is going to replace. He obviously isn't going to be able to turn over the entire lineup in one off-season, but given how many current starters will be hitting free agency in the next year or two, DiPoto needs to start formulating his lineup overhaul strategy now. That is going to mean making some unpopular decisions with the fans, but all he really has to do is hold up a picture of Tony Reagins and everyone will calm down.
With Arte proclaiming that payroll will have to be between $130 million and $140 million, DiPoto isn't going to have a whole lot of financial resources at his disposal this off-season. If he intends to make major changes, he's going to have to find creative ways to do it. That most likely means working the trade market instead of the free agent market. Fortunately, DiPoto proved to be an adept trader. Not only did he make the Haren deal, but he also turned Edwin Jackson into Daniel Hudson and another prospect. DiPoto will have to try and recapture that trade magic, but see if he can use it to either dump salary or make salary neutral talent upgrades. If that doesn't sound easy, it is because it isn't. The Angels just don't have a lot of big league or high minors depth in order to make deals, so Jerry is really going to have to use some smoke and mirrors to get anything significant done all without adding much to the payroll.