The Clippers were not the only team in Los Angeles to land major acquisitions over the offseason. Similar to the Los Angeles Clippers, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim made major offseason noise. The only difference is that they did not have to use any trade bait to land their big catches.
For months, the race for Albert Pujols was a two-team race between the St Louis Cardinals and the rags-to-riches Miami Marlins. Having locked in Jose Reyes, Mark Buerhle and Heath Bell, the Marlins would arguably have had the greatest offseason in the history of sports if they landed Pujols. However, the Marlins were not willing to give Pujols a no-trade clause, an obvious dealbreaker for the Pujols camp. One cannot blame the Cardinals for being unwilling to hamper their payroll on one man after an incredible World Series run. With or without Pujols, they have a solid team and could utilize that free cap space to shore up any weak points.
Like a thief in the night, the Angels snatched Albert Pujols via a ten year, 254 million dollar contract with a much desired no-trade clause. And the shopping spree wasn’t over yet. Later on in the day, the Angels snatched Rangers ace C.J Wilson with a five year, 77.5 million contracts.
Without a doubt, Dec 8th 2011 had to be one of the five greatest days in the history of the Angels. It was as if actor Christopher Lloyd resumed his role in the Disney film “Angels in the Outfield”. It’s not every day that a franchise makes a big splash with a potential Hall of Fame slugger (Please don’t let it come out that he did roids!) and a pitching ace. All of this was accomplished by GM Jerry Dipoto. In less than 3 months, he’s accomplished more than many GMs in other sports: Isiah Thomas as the Knicks GM, Matt Millen as Detroit Lions GM: Kevin McHale as Timberwolves GM.
He’s managed to lock up All-Star 2B Howie Kendrick for the next four years and avoided arbitration with Erik Aybar 3 days ago.
The Angels have a starting rotation that includes: CJ Wilson, Dan Haren, Ervin Santana and Jared Weaver. Not too shabby. However, it’s not always how you start; it’s how you finish games. Finishing games was a major issue for the Angels last year. As it stands, the bullpen is a major question mark. Besides the signing of veteran relief pitcher LaTroy Hawkins, little has been done to address that question mark into a clear answer. The Angels blew more saves than any other team in the MLB last year. Jordan Walden was Mr Unreliable. One has to ponder whether the Angels made a significant boo-boo by not investing in the bullpen enough over this offseason. With all the moves made, it’s not like they can do much about it now. They will have to revisit this issue at the July trade deadline.
Overall, they’ve landed one of the greatest hitters of our time. A man who may be headed right for Barry Bond’s all time-HR record. Conventional wisdom may see a 10-year contract with a no-trade clause for a 32-year-old slugger as risky, but Albert Pujols has been in Beast mode ever since he’s entered the league and shows no signs of slowing down. Now that he’s in the AL, he will undoubtedly become a DH in the very near future even though he fields his position well.
A stellar offseason has put the Angels as a contender for the 2012 season.
Look out, Texas Rangers.