Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Winter Meeting Musings

As Bill Stoneman settles in for the General Manager's meetings in Dallas, let's take a look at the moves the Angels have made so far in the off-season and the Halo Herald's wish list for this week.

Angels Miss Konerko

The Halos made no secret of their covetous pursuit of Paul Konerko and went after him hard. The Angels presented Konerko with a 5 year, $60 million dollar deal up front. The White Sox scrambled and matched the offer late for an 11th hour re-signing of their slugger. But when asked how close he was to signing with the another team (the Angels) Konerko replied "you wouldn't believe how close."

HH Grade: A for effort. The Angels offered the right contract to the right player and he simply opted to go elsewhere. Fresh off a World Series victory it is hard to blame PK for re-upping with the home team.

Angels Cut Ties With Paul Byrd

Unlike with Konerko, the Angels apparently took their time making and then upgrading subsequent offers before asking him to make an immediate decision. Reportedly the Angels original offer of a one-year deal for $5 million was quickly bested by the Indians (2 years at $14.25 million with an option on a third year that could push the deal to $22 million) and the Royals (3 years at $22 million) after the Angels exclusive negotiating period with Byrd ran out. The Angels eventually increased their offer to two years at $11 million before finally offering two years, $14 million. But unlike Konerko, Byrd felt no home town loyalty to a team that only employed him for one year and took the Indians offer instead.

HH Grade: C According to Byrd, negotiations with the Angels were slow and he was being courted by six other teams. "That made me feel very wanted by other teams" and "it made me think that the Angels might be going in a different direction." Sort of. The Angels were actively purusing Hector Carrasco and wanted an answer from Byrd immediately so that they could concentrate on Carrasco if necessary. "Money wasn't an issue" said Byrd. "It was the deadline. I didn't want to make decision that would affect my family for the next three years in minutes, in hours. There was a lot of pressure. The Angels didn't give me the time." Yeah, Ok, whatever Paul. Convenient out for you but everyone knows you would prefer to be closer to your home in Atlanta. Gee, should I make $14 million and live in Southern California? What a tought choice between freaking Cleveland, OH and Orange County. Take it from a guy who has to live in Arizona, that was a no-freaking brainer Paul. So be it. I'm not all that excited about a starting pitcher who gets flustered "under pressure". After Byrd could not answer by their deadline, the Angels cut ties with him, rescinding their previous offer. According to Byrd the Angels could have re-signed him to a one-year deal at the end of last season. If that is true then shame on Stoneman & Co. for missing that bargain opportunity.

Angels Make No Effort to Re-sign Washburn

What a shock. The man best known for giving up a towering home run to David Ortiz to end the Angels playoffs in 2004 and a towering home-run to Barry Bonds in the World Series can now give up towering home-runs somewhere else.

HH Grade: A+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
From a report on the Angels website: "It really didn't surprise me or upset me," Washburn said of hearing that the Angels were not going to attempt to re-sign him. "I knew we had not been contacted. I wasn't really ever given an explanation. As soon as the year was done, it was 100 percent in my mind that it was my last as an Angel." Really? After David Ortiz ended the Angels '04 season it was 100% in my mind that you shouldn't be an Angel.

Angels Sign Pitcher Hector Carrasco

In a move that may have surprised some, the Angels gave relief pitcher Hector Carrasco $6.1 million and a two-year contract plus a shot at the starting rotation.

HH Grade: B Stoneman was decisive when he figured out what he wanted. Carrasco at $6.1 million instead of Byrd at $14 million. So kudos for clipping coupons and finding a 'bargain'. But Carrasco is only a bargain if their gambit to turn him into a #5 starter pays off and he can match Byrd's numbers of 12-11 with a 3.74 ERA. With the Nationals last year Carrasco went 5-4 with a 2.04 ERA in 64 games which included five starts in September. He did not go past 6 innings in any of those outings and went 1-1 with 4 no-decisions. Carrasco as a starter will likely tax the Angel bullpen but probably not much more than Byrd did once he is able to build-up his stamina.

Interestingly, Carrasco pitched in relief against the A's, Mariners and Rangers in interleague play but not the Angels. Carrasco pitched 6.1 innings against the Angels' divisional rivals and gave up 0 runs on 4 hits. Overall a bit of a gamble for the Angels but there seems to be more upside with HC. Best possible scenario is he turns out to be a 15 - 18 game winner. Worst case - Hello long-relief duty. As Jeff Howe at League of Angels mentions, the key difference between Byrd and Carrasco is the number of walks. Carrasco has been more wild over the course of his career with a 1.65 K/BB ratio. Stat geeks love to tell how many walks a guy gives up per 9 innings. Well, Carrasco is not going to give you 9 innings so it does not matter. He is going to give up a walk every 2 innings according to his stats last season. A changeup and cutter Carrasco added to his repertoire has changed his style of pitching and made him much more dangerous. This guy is a good risk at the right price. He will have to beat out minor league prospects Joe Saunders, Chris Bootcheck and Jared Weaver as well as anyone else the Halos invite to camp this spring.

Halos Stay on Sideline with B. Molina

The New York Mets presented Bengie Molina with a $24 million three-year deal before abruptly taking it off the table and completing a trade with Florida for catcher Paul LoDuca. That takes the biggest spender out of the market and leaves Molina with two options: (1) Sign a less lucrative (and likely shorter) deal with a second-tier (spending wise) team such as Arizona, Houston or San Diego; or (2) Accept arbitration from the Angels and sign a nice one-year deal, pushing this free-agent stuff to 2006-07. If he does opt for the one-year deal it will be fantastic for the Angels. It gives Jeff Mathis another year to mature, likely in the bigs as a #3 catcher and takes a level of uncertainty out of the 2006 catching position. After the McPherson debacle of 2005 the Angels have got to be a little gun-shy turning over a major league job to a rookie. For Molina a one-year deal can help him continue to develop as a hitter and prove he can remain healthy all season.

HH Grade: A If they lose him then at least the Angels did not have to make a long-term commitment to a guy with a short-term Angel future. If he comes back, even better as it will be on the Angels' terms.

Angels Sign Tim Salmon to Minor League Contract

Everybody wants this to work. After missing the entire 2005 season with injuries, Salmon has a chance to comeback and leave the game with his head held high. Salmon agreed to a $400,000 minor league deal and likely was happy to do it after fleecing the Angels for $10 million last season. Salmon needs 10 HR's for 300 in his career and 11 RBI for 1,000 in his career. If Salmon can make the team he will clearly be a DH/bench player. But given the touchy nature of Vlad Guerrero's and Garrett Anderson's backs he would likely see plenty of playing time.

HH Grade: A - Class move by both organization and player.

So what work needs to be done? Plenty. Here is my wish list for Bill Stoneman at the winter meetings:

1. Manny Ramirez -- Not asking much, just a $54 million left-fielder with a 'quirky' personality. The very private Ramirez is a perfect fit with the Angels, a team already inhabited by hermits such as Vladimir Guerrero, Garrett Anderson, Adam Kennedy and Darin Erstad. Guys so low-key only dogs can hear them. Manny can take the family shopping at Fashion Island and odds are he won't get a second glance as opposed the rabid 'Red Sox Nation' fans who stalked the slugger like Amy Fisher. If the Angels can make the economics work out they could send Erstad out east with him. But likely they will need to get a third team involved and rumors involving the Arizona Diamondbacks are starting to heat-up again. The D-Backs would not mind unloading Troy Glaus' salary and could package him in as part of the deal heading to Boston. In return, the Angels would likely have to send a couple of prized prospects to Phoenix. Arizona has a glut of corner infielders and outfielders but a severe shortage at centerfield and catcher. The D-Backs will likely be looking for help along the lines of a Chone Figgins to fill their centerfield slot which would be a steep price. Maybe we could coax them into taking Steve Finley back? If not a starter for center then a couple of highly placed prospects will likely be needed. This is a trade possiblity that should be monitoried closely (and I shall).

2. Juan Pierre - If the Angels do have to package-up Figgy in a Ramirez deal how about stopping by the Florida Marlins fire-sale and picking out a late-model centerfielder? Blazing speed and a prototypical lead-off hitter -- Pierre would be a nice addition.

3. Johnny Damon - The caveman is a free-agent but it would take a boat-load of cash to get him out of bean town. The suicide rate in the northeast would skyrocket if the Sox lost both Ramirez and Damon in the same off-season.

4. Jeff Weaver -- According to the Ventura County Star Weaver's agent, Satan, err -- Scott Boras, was seen talking with representatives of the Angels. Interesting. Big brother could mentor little brother Jared while throwing to the brothers Molina. Only hitch would be explaining to Hector Carrasco how we now seem to have a complete set of starting pitchers. We only said you could 'compete' to start in the rotation Hector, now go to Tempe and compete with these five established big league starters. This could dove-tail with a potential Manny Ramirez trade should the Angels have to ship off a starting pitcher to Arizona (John Lackey perhaps?).

Some rumors I would like quashed: Angels are interested in Frank Thomas (can he still walk?).
Angels are interested in Mike Piazza (does that mean we get Lo Duca in 2 - 5 years?).


Anonymous Halo at 57/60 said...

Hope the Angels offer arbitration to Washburn. If he declines (likely), the Angels get a draft pick. If he accepts, they get Washburn for one more year (not bad).

I think Stoneman should go after a good bullpen arm. That way, if Carrasco doesn't make it as a starter, Sheilds can start. He'd be great! I'd rather have Shields pitch 200 innings per year as a starter than 100 innings per year in relief.

I'll believe the Manny trade when I see it. Giving up Figgins means that Finley gets to play every day. hmm... is having Figgins play CF and Rivera DH better than having Manny play DH and Finley/Erstad play CF? I think I'll take Manny plus Finley/Erstad over Figgins plus Rivera.

You will definitely not be getting wishes 2, 3 or 4 if I get to be Santa.

5:08 PM  
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