With the Angels' new GM vacancy they've made it publicly know that they want to pursue aggressive and creative options on the free agent market. The standing opinion is that the Angels need to upgrade in the bullpen and at 3B, and while these aren't the only spots that need improvement, they are the most important. But what if I told you that the Angels could fare much better chasing a starting pitcher on the FA market over anything else? What if I told you that pitcher should be longtime Ranger C.J Wilson? Now let's be nice and civilized Angels fans while I state my case, in fact, let's just throw our Angels fandom in the backseat so I can throw some cold hard facts your way without facing some ire from the Rangers haters (all of us).
Yes, this C.J Wilson, in case you were hoping I was talking about a different one.
Now, before you bite my head off, I do realize that C.J Wilson is one of the least liked Rangers to us Angel fans. He's made some less than desirable statements about the Angels to the media before, and there's the fact that he magically dominates the Angels in nearly every start. You can't hate a man for showing loyalty to his team, even if it is the wrong team. I know you're probably saying to yourself "Why would the Angels chase a starter, an expensive one at that, when they have other holes that need immediate attention?" While C.J Wilson sees himself as a 100 million dollar man, like most of the media, he is not, it's as simple and clear cut as that. Out of the 3 years starting experience he's had (2005,2010,2011) he's only been good for 2 of them, posting a 6.94 ERA with a 1-7 record in 24 starts in 2005. A pitcher with 2 years of starting experience, no matter how great they were, is not going to command a 100 million+ contract. The only teams willing to throw that money at him will be teams desperate for starting pitching, namely the Red Sox and the Yankees. With the Red Sox throwing half of their payroll at players like Gonzo and Crawford they won't have the financial liberty OR the organizational support to throw a reckless amount of money at C.J. If the Angels were to chase C.J they wouldn't give him any more money then Weaver got with his extension, they would likely use that 5 year $85 million contract as a precedent for Wilson.
With the Angels limited financial room to make big moves this season why would they throw all of their remaining money at a starting pitcher when they could very well use that money to pay for a exceptional hitter or bullpen arm? Like I said, the Angels have limited room to make a big splash in the free agent market, therefore they'll probably only be able to pull either one quality hitter or a reliever or two. The Angels could make a move for a 1st basemen and slot Trumbo at 3rd, or at least give him a chance to prove he won't be an absolute train wreck at 3rd. Before we start speculating on more "ifs," "ands," or "buts" let's take a quick look at which players will be free agents that fit the Angels needs going into the off-season.
(I'm going to go ahead and weed out the less than desirable players on the FA list to shorten up the list)
Michael Cuddyer (33)
Prince Fielder (28)
Carlos Pena (34)
Albert Pujols (32)
Aramis Ramirez (33)
Edwin Encarnacion (28)
A few of these names could be interchanged with 3B, namely Michael Cuddyer. We can go ahead and cross Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder off the list, as they would be much too expensive and would make the infield logjam worse than it already is. Pena is a tricky case, as he cannot put up a strong BA, yet he can get on base at an average clip and bash homers at that. He would come as relatively inexpensive, but he would also be a big gamble to take on. After seeing how Reagins previous gambles worked out I doubt the new GM will want to follow in those footsteps, so now Pena is out of the running. That just leaves Cuddyer, and while he is getting up there in age his performance this past season has only solidified his value as a player. He's coming off his first All-Star season, and while he doesn't have the pop the Angels are looking for, he does have enough power to justify an acquisition. Unfortunately for him, the last thing the Angels need is another player who's getting up there in age and has the occasional pop in his bat. While I wouldn't slam the GM for signing Cuddyer, I wouldn't praise that move either.
On top of that list you can go ahead and throw Aramis Ramirez into that discussion, as he is most likely going to opt out of his contract with the Cubs. Since there is a rather thin market for 3B this year a small bidding war could possibly break out over Ramirez. One of the bidders could possibly be the Angels, though they would just be adding another aged veteran to the lineup, a move that has become incredibly unpopular with the fans and extremely counter productive to the team. However, Ramirez has more pop than Cuddyer and can get on base at a better clip this move would not do much to improve the team. If this is a move that is bound to happen, I would prefer for the GM to shell out no more than a 2, MAYBE 3 year contract for Ramirez if it's absolutely necessary. The only way the Angels are going to find a 3rd basemen that fits them both financially and skill-wise is on the trade market, which leaves the Angels with relievers to cross off the FA list. Those reliever FA's are as follows.
(For your convenience I'm going to weed this list out as well, namely taking out bad or old relievers)
Right Handed Relievers:
Ryan Madson (31)
Heath Bell (34)
Johnathan Papelbon (31)
This year's free agent righty reliever pool is flooded with over-aged relievers and guys whose production can be replicated by guys already on the staff like Rich Thompson and Bobby Cassevah. Though if the Angels do want to improve their bullpen they would be best fit to chase one of the three previously stated candidates. There was some concern last year as to whether or not Papelbon was on the downslide, but after a strong year he's proven himself to be as strong a closer as you would expect from him. Though, there was that rather ugly blown saves against the Orioles that kept the Red Sox out of the postseason, that and he probably hates the Angels. I couldn't see Papelbon commanding a bidding war in his name, though there will be a few takers willing to shell out some cash for him, there always is. Heath Bell, on the other hand, could command a generous contract this coming off-season, although the general consensus is that Bell will end up staying with the Padres.
If the Angels really wanted to bring on another righty reliever to right the ship (hur hur hur) they'll be better off signing Ryan Madson if they could snake him away from the Phillies. If the Phillies end up choosing to go outside the organization for a closer this would give the Angels a huge chance to pounce on the righty closer. He'll probably pull a nice contract wherever he goes, so the Angels will have to willing to shell out the money hard and early in order to avoid what could be an ugly bidding war.
Assuming the Angels went ahead and signed Ryan Madson they would still have some money to play around with, granted the new GM doesn't throw stupid money at him. That still gives them room to play with an offer for C.J Wilson; though they won't be able to reach any 100 million dollar offers that the Red Sox and the Yankees are bound to throw at him. The best playing cards the Angels would have is the Southern California sun that Wilson is in absolute love with, that and the promise the team could make to him that they "totally wouldn't suck with you on the staff", with a brah or broskis thrown in for good measure. Southern California Hipster language is the only language Wilson understands, and if the Angels want a shot they're going to have to get in on the lingo. C.J wouldn't roll with a team with a bunch of "unfab oldsters", or whatever the hipsters call middle aged men nowadays.
It would be a toss up as to where C.J Wilson goes, as he's stated he loves California and really likes Texas and the East Coast. That's already three big time players that have entered the C.J Wilson lottery, though the Rangers and the East Coast teams will be more involved in Wilson than the Angels. The Angels wouldn't be able to handle a bidding war of that magnitude, the best chance they would have is if C.C Sabathia decides to opt out of his contract. If that happens you better believe the Red Sox and the Yankees will be going hard for Sabathia, hard enough to take all the attention away from C.J Wilson. C.C's dreams to become the richest pitcher in baseball history could come true for the big man, and if it does it will do nothing but wonders for the Angels. The Angels are going to have to play on C.J's love of Southern California and throw him a sizeable offer right out of the gate, and not a self destructive offer like the ones Reagins was so in love with giving. It's either hit him so hard he can't possibly say no, or give him time to size up the free agent market to see what the desperate teams will be willing to throw at him. If C.C does opt out the bidding war will start between the Angels and Rangers, but if the Wilson sweepstakes gets drawn out past the C.C bidding's then the Angels could face a third big time bidder, which would probably take them out of the war. We're going to have to hope that C.J's love for SoCal is greater then his love for ridiculous free agent market ruining contracts much akin to the one Jayson Werth received a year ago.
Last year the Angels had arguably one of the best starting staffs in the AL, even with a crappy Pineiro and a 5 spot that was constantly up for grabs between 4 pitchers the entire season. If the Angels signed C.J there would be no argument about it, they would have the best starting staff in the AL, that's a staff that could go pound for pound with the Phillies starting 4 in a playoff series. That would make the Angels starting rotation problems much easier to solve, with a set 1-4 they would only have one spot for Chatwood and Williams to battle for. Think about that for a second; imagine looking at the Angels rotation 5 months from now and seeing Jered Weaver, Dan Haren, C.J Wilson, Ervin Santana, and Jerome Williams. Just thinking about that lineup rocks my socks off, to put it as tamely as possible. That's a starting 4 that could rival even the 1966 Los Angeles Dodgers.
I can only hope that this gets to the Angels front office, not so their new GM can take my advice, but so I can get thrown on the GM shortlist. Don't overlook me now Arte, I've already proved myself better than Reagins with these fresh ideas!