The Angels have drawn a lot of attention to themselves the last few winters thanks to some significant and arguably reckless spending on big time free agents like Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton. Unfortunately for them, they have draw even more attention, this time of the unwanted variety, because their massive investments have blown up so badly in their face. Still, the Angels fancy themselves as a team that needs to contend for the World Series, so they figure to be major players in one way or another this offseason even if they don't have the same kind of spending power they've flashed around the last two years. Then again, you never know what Arte Moreno might make his GM do as the franchise desperately tries to claw its way back into relevancy.
Pitching, pitching and more pitching. Even with the injury to Albert Pujols, the dismal season of Josh Hamilton and Mark Trumbo "anchoring" the middle of the lineup with a sub-.300 OBP, the Angels had a pretty strong offense finishing 6th in the AL in runs and 4th in wRC+. Turns out having Mike Trout in your lineup covers up a lot of your blemishes. Really the only thing the offense needs is Albert Pujols to be healthy and Josh Hamilton to stop playing as if he was possessed by the ghost of Vernon Wells.
What it can't cover up though are the major issues on the pitching staff. They tried rebuilding the back end of their rotation with Jason Vargas, Tommy Hanson and Joe Blanton last off-season and, um, let's just say that didn't go very well so it is back to the drawing board with the Angels set to be in search of at least two new starting pitchers to slot in behind Jered Weaver, C.J. Wilson and Garrett Richards. Of course, the rotation wasn't completely at fault for the Angels' poor pitching season. The bullpen was an outright disaster with the fifth-highest ERA in all of baseball. Relief has actually been an issue for this club for a few years running now, so don't be surprised to see the Halos focus a great deal of effort in turning over their relief staff.
The Halos already have a $126 million in committed payroll before arbitration, so they don't figure to have a lot of cash to spend on the free agent market this winter. That budget constraint is only compounded by the fact that they are pressing up against the luxury tax threshold thanks to all of the backloaded contracts they have handed out the last few years. Now, they aren't about to plead poverty, but just don't expect them to go on another wild spending spree. If they do pursue any big ticket items, Masahiro Tanaka figures to be the one. The Angels are desperate for a young stud to add to their rotation and Tanaka fits that description perfectly. They've already been linked to him, however they aren't considered frontrunners so they might have to find their pitching help elsewhere. They could very well solve their rotation problem by re-signing Jason Vargas, a local boy with a perfect profile for Angel Stadium, and making a trade for another young arm. If the either of those options falls through, expect them to sniff around less expensive veterans like Chris Capuano, Roberto Hernandez and Phil Hughes.
As for the bullpen, don't expect GM Jerry Dipoto to break the bank to solve that problem. He has gone on record multiple times as being philosophically opposed to spending more than a few million dollars on any reliever. Then again, after his failed gambles on Ryan Madson and Sean Burnett last winter, it isn't entirely out of the question that Dipoto gets overruled by owner Arte Moreno (again) and is ordered to throw a crazy contract at Joe Nathan.
If you need a hitter this offseason, you would do well to give the Angels a call because they have plenty to offer. They very nearly traded Howie Kendrick at the past trade deadline and figure to follow through on that in the coming months. He is arguably their best trade asset and any team willing to surrender a high quality, big league ready starting pitcher can have him. The Halos also figure to look to clear out their logjam in the outfield. By all accounts their preference would be to trade center fielder Peter Bourjos, but two straight injury-ravaged seasons have depressed his price to the point that the Angels might decide to hold onto him instead. That would leave fan favorite Mark Trumbo with the For Sale sign around his neck. While his sub-.300 OBP is a scary, his 30+ homer power will make certain teams drool. Trumbo's status as a native son beloved by the fans will make them reluctant to let him go, so it could end up being that the Angels are only willing to move him to a GM that is willing to wildly overpay.
On the cheaper end of the spectrum, the Angels have a solid catching tandem in Chris Iannetta and Hank Conger. Both could probably handle the starting job on their own, so it would be no surprise if they decided to move one of the two in exchange for relief depth. Iannetta is likely who they would prefer to move since it would allow them to clear a nice chunk of payroll.
A slew of top pitching prospects (Zach Lee, Marcus Stroman, Yordano Ventura, etc.) have already been linked to the Angels in talks for Kendrick and Trumbo. Any other team that comes calling on those two can expect to be asked for one of their top three starting pitching prospects. If the Angels want to look for someone a little more experienced, there has been some thought the last few years that they match up well with the Rays in a swap that involves Bourjos or Trumbo in exchange for Hellickson, Cobb or Archer.
There is little doubt that Jerry Dipoto will work the trade market hard for relief help as well. In the past two season he has unearthed Ernesto Frieri and Dane De La Rosa as diamonds in the rough, so he will surely continue to try and do the same this winter. Basically, if there is a reliever that throws hard, misses bats but has control problems, there is a good chance Dipoto is willing to take a chance on acquiring that player and trying to harness that big arm like he did with Frieri and De La Rosa.