The Los Angeles Angels have never been afraid to spend money in the offseason. From Vladimir Guerrero to Gary Matthews Jr. to Torii Hunter to, more recently Albert Pujols, C.J. Wilson, and Josh Hamilton, the club has sunk significant resources into improving themselves and winning another pennant. Unfortunately for the Angels, they have reached the ALCS just twice since winning the 2002 World Series, getting dispatched in five games by the White Sox in 2005 and in six games by the Yankees in 2009.
The last four seasons have seen the Angels put together the four highest payrolls in team history. Not only has the club not made the playoffs in any of those four seasons, they also haven't even cracked the 90 win mark and have finished under .500 twice. This offseason, many expected the Angels to once again start throwing money around in an attempt to pass the Rangers and Athletics in the AL West standings. But a funny thing happened: GM Jerry Dipoto hasn't thrown much money around this winter, and arguably, has improved the team more this winter than in his first two offseasons with the club.
Not spending much money doesn't mean that Dipoto isn't working at making the Angels better this winter. Before Thanksgiving, he shipped center fielder Peter Bourjos to the Cardinals and picked up third baseman David Freese, filling a position that has been in a state of flux since Troy Glaus was in his prime, helping the team win that World Series a decade ago. Dipoto then made his lone multi-year free agent signing of the winter, inking reliever Joe Smith to a three-year deal. Dipoto then traded one of his main chips, Mark Trumbo, to the Diamondbacks in a three-team traded that netted him a pair of young pitchers to solidify the Angels rotation – Tyler Skaggs and Hector Santiago. Finally, we come to today, when Dipoto signed former Mariners DH Raul Ibanez to a one-year, $2.75 million contract, effectively replacing Trumbo's power in the Angels lineup while not breaking the bank or giving up anything of value.
Dipoto also managed to walk away from roughly $10 million in salaries by non-tendering arbitration eligible players Jerome Williams, Tommy Hanson, J.C. Gutierrez, and Chris Nelson, but the salaries earned by Freese, Fernando Salas (also acquired in the Bourjos trade), Kevin Jepsen, and Ernesto Frieri will be roughly equal to that $10 million.
The Angels are still reportedly in the market for another starting pitcher, but the ridiculous contracts getting handed out are scaring Dipoto off from guys like Matt Garza and Ubaldo Jimenez. But even if he does sign a starting pitcher to strengthen the back of the rotation, what Dipoto has already done this winter while only adding $20 million in guaranteed contracts is pretty remarkable. Dipoto's strategy this winter was a remarkable shift in what he's done in his tenure with the Angels, and has the potential to work out better than his previous strategy of throwing around money with no regard for how it's being spent.