The Angels have been painfully quiet this off season thus far. They have watched all-stars Mark Teixeira and Francisco Rodriguez sign elsewhere for more money while they have been reluctant to go after any big free agents. To date, their biggest move this off season was re-signing Juan Rivera to a three year contract. Not exactly setting the bottom line on fire with these moves.
So after letting Rodriguez go free and taking themselves out of the Teixeira sweepstakes, are the Angels in danger of losing their grip atop the AL West? Probably not. But if they are going to compete with the beasts of the AL East, they need to make some moves and keep improving this team.
Here are some moves that make sense for the Angles moving forward:
1. Sign Brian Fuentes
-Even after losing Francisco Rodriguez, the Angels still have a stacked bullpen led by Jose Arredondo and Scot Shields. There is no doubt in my mind that if the Angels did not address their bullpen, that they would still survive in 2009.
However, by signing Brian Fuentes, a Californian, the Angels would be constructing a potentially dominant bullpen that would give manager Mike Scioscia lots of options and flexibility. Fuentes would give the Angels a dominate left handed presence out of the Angels bullpen and would make a wonderful 1-2 punch with Arredondo. If the Angels are going to compete in the AL, they need to have a deep bullpen to supplement their powerful rotation.
Plus, the Angels could probably sign Fuentes at a reduced rate. Because the economy is so bad, mid level free agents like Fuentes will have to sign below what the market previously demanded they receive. How often can a team acquire a three time all star at a bargain price? Gotta love this market!
2. Sign Adam Dunn
-With Teixeira gone to the Yankees, the Angels need to acquire a power hitter to add some juice to the Angels lineup. Dunn would be the perfect fit. He has hit 40 homers in each of the past four seasons and can be counted on to produce a high OBP and OPS. Dunn would thrive hitting in front of Vladimir Guerrero, who would provide great protection for the patient Dunn.
Sure Guerrero is aging, but he is still one of the best hitters in baseball. However, he cannot carry the load by himself. He needs help.
The Angels cannot expect to seriously compete for a pennant with their lineup as constructed. In big situations, Guerrero will be pitched around and instead of facing another prominent hitter, teams will only have to deal with Juan Rivera, Torii Hunter, and Howie Kendrick. Good players, but none are in the same category as Dunn.
However, there are several issues that we need to address here. The Angels seem to be committed to giving their young players more playing time in 2009 in light to losing Teixeira. Reggie Willits, Kendry Morales, and Juan Rivera all seem to be in line for more playing time this season, which should eliminate the Angels interest in Dunn.
In addition, where would Dunn play? The Angels are already overloaded at OF and unless Dunn is willing to play 1b or DH full time, he does not appear to be a fit with the Angels.
However, not attempting to sign Dunn would be a massive mistake. The goal should be to win right now especially after failing to win a championship in 2008. Dunn would make a perfect DH for the Angels not only for his ability, but because of his price. Like Brian Fuentes, Dunn will probably receive far less on the open market than he ever expected because of the bad economy. The Angels will probably only have to commit to Dunn for a year or two, which mitigates their risk.
And finally, Dunn should be willing to play 1b or DH for several reasons. Considering how poor this market is, Dunn should feel fortunate to play with the Angels and play in a market that will increase his stature and visibility. Playing and succeeding with the Angels could help line up Dunn for a bigger contract down the road. Also, Dunn's wants to play for a winner and play in the post season, both of which the Angels have excelled at over the years.
I still believe that the Angels will be a major factor in 2009. However, if they want to be serious competitors they need to remain active in trying to improve their roster.