The Angels' off-season is here. This much we know and this much we bemoan. What we do not know is what exactly the Halos have planned for the off-season (and whether or not we will bemoan said plans). My goal for this week is to try and figure out what it is that Angels GM Jerry Dipoto has up his sleeves. The problem is that we really only have one off-season of history on Dipoto to judge him by and it was probably an outlier off-season as well since one can only sign the best player of a generation to a quarter of a billion contract once. This won't be easy, but it should be a hell of a lot less depressing than trying to read the tea leaves with Tony Reagins. (Hmm, looks like all signs point to doom again, Tony. Sorry.)
Since this is an involved effort, I'm cutting it up into three parts. Today we tackle part two, the rotation.
You might have noticed that the Angels vaunted rotation didn't exactly live up to its billing. You could say that they were unvaunted... or is it devaunted... or non-vaunted... I'm not sure which is the right form, so let's just change it up and say that they kind of stunk. Weaver was great and then it was a whole lot of "meh" and not the quadrumverate of aces we were all hoping for. That's why JeDi had to go out at the trade deadline to acquire Zack Greinke. And it is also why he has made no bones about the fact that re-signing Zack Greinke is his top priority.
What little we know about Dipoto strongly suggests that Greinke will return to Anaheim. In the last year we have seen that Dipoto the GM is great at the one thing he wasn't very good at as a player: closing. The man simply gets what he wants. He got Pujols when everyone thought it was impossible. He got C.J. Wilson despite Miami making a superior offer. He traded for Frieri at a time of year when reliever deals seldom ever happen. He acquired Greinke even though other teams with better farm systems were bidding for him as well. Most importantly, he is able to get Arte Moreno to write big fat checks even though his predecessors struggled to do so. Maybe I am being over-confident here, but I like the Angels' odds of keeping Zack.
I also really hope that Dipoto pulls it off because, honestly, I have no idea what Plan B is. By all appearances, re-signing Greinke is the biggest domino in his off-season plan. If it falls the wrong way, who the hell knows what will happen. Perhaps that is why Dipoto has been silent about his plans for the rest of the rotation. Maybe he doesn't even know what his fallback is.
Of course, it isn't entirely clear that we know what Dipoto will do with the rotation if they do re-sign Greinke either. C.J. Wilson will be back too, hopefully in better shape. That fills out three spots. The other two slots are a mystery though.
We've all seen the reports that the club will decline the team options for Dan Haren and Ervin Santana, reports that Dipoto did not flatly deny (probably because it is painfully obvious that neither option should be picked up). That doesn't mean they won't be back though. Let me revise that, that doesn't mean Haren won't be back though. Santana? He's simply maddening and needs to go. I can't remember one quote in strong support of Ervin I ever read from Dipoto. But Haren, he's a different story. Even with his back problems, he is still the kind of strike-throwing machine that Dipoto has professed a favoritism for. Plus, he could make himself available to the team on a discount. As we saw with the C.J. Wilson signing, Dipoto is no stranger to taking advantage of a hometown discount.
To fill out the other spot (or maybe both if Haren's agent convinces talks him out of the guilt-induced discount), there are a few other pitchers to keep an eye on that Dipoto could pursue. Kyle Lohse, Anibal Sanchez, Jeremy Guthrie, Joe Blanton, Joe Saunders and Brandon McCarthy are all starters that have a knack for pounding the zone. My own speculation is that Lohse and Sanchez will be too expensive and Blanton will be too bad. That breaks it down to Guthrie, McCarthy and Saunders with the edge going to Saunders who Dipoto once thought enough of to acquire years ago in the original Dan Haren deal. If it isn't anyone from that group (likely because of price), well, I have to punt. We simply don't have any kind of evidence to determine the type of cheap low-end starter that Dipoto is willing to gamble on.
What I will say is that free agency may not be the path Dipoto follows here. If ever there was a moment to cash in Peter Bourjos as a trade chip, it would be here. Swapping Bourjos for a younger, cheaper rotation option than any of these older veterans would be ideal, especially if Jerry has to blow most of his budget on Greinke. A trade for Alex Cobb, Jeff Niemann or Wade Davis from the Rays makes some sense. As does a deal for the Mets' Jon Niese. And at some point we all must accept Peter's manifest destiny to get moved to the Nats, perhaps for Ross Detwiler.
Of course, he could also just give the final spot to Garrett Richards, who is shaky but cheap and at some point the team needs to either poop or get off the pot with him. They've said that he will be returning to the rotation next season, so he should at least get a shot. I just don't get the sense that he trusts Richards all that much.
Honestly, I don't know which route is more likely. Trading Bourjos is inevitable, but Dipoto has not been shy about spending money. My gut feeling with Jerry is that he would rather not live through another repeat of 2012 and opt for a starting pitcher with a more established track record that he can count on given the question marks involved with Haren and Richards. So, I say lightly pencil in Joe Saunders for the fifth spot.
Weaver-Greinke-Wilson-Haren-Saunders/Richards, that isn't quite the marquee rotation that the Halos entered 2012 with, but it might actually perform better. Or maybe it will look much different. Out of all these three WWJD prognostications, this one was the hardest for me to not project my own feelings onto. The only thing we can be certain of is that this part of the roster will receive the most attention from Dipoto and thus probably from us fans as well.
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