November 3, 2009

Let's get cookin' in Anaheim

The Hot Stove is upon us (okay, it officially starts when the World Series concludes, but humor me) and here’s what I believe the Angels will cook up this off season. Please keep in mind that I have no inside knowledge what-so-ever. That being said, I do have some thoughts (and no, I didn’t hear anything sitting in a bathroom stall or from a friend’s cousin). As always, my posts come with a personal story or two (for those players I believe won't be back).

Prediction: John Lackey is back. Come on; do you really think an organization that values pitching as much as the Angels do would let Lackey walk? Lackey leaving would send a tsunami through the organization. In my opinion, he’s THAT important. The Angels aren’t the kind of team that goes into a season with significant question marks in their rotation, at least not if they can help it. It’s going to cost them, but this is one investment they’re sure to make. Pitching is often a crap shoot. The list of free agent pitching busts is long and depressing. Jeff Weaver anyone?

The Angels know exactly what they’re getting in Lackey and that familiarity is going to make the decision an easy one. I think John Lackey has a little bit of Chuck Finley in him and one day the Angels will induct Lackey into their Hall of Fame, just like Finley.

Prediction: Vladimir Guerrero is gone. I’m sure he’ll land some place where fans would still pay to see him play; a place where the ball flies out of the park; a place where he can DH. No, I’m not thinking Texas. My guess is he will sign with the White Sox, where he can take over the DH role that Jim Thome once occupied.

Memory: In Vlad’s six years in Anaheim, I had one face to face encounter with him. He did an autograph signing at Elmore Toyota his first year. I arrived several hours early and waiting in a very long line to get him to sign a baseball. It’s my one and only in person experience (although I read on Halos Heaven he’s doing a paid autograph signing at OC Dugout in Anaheim’s Hobby City this weekend).

Prediction: This one hurts, but Chone Figgins will be swiping bags for someone else. Chone is a favorite of mine, but it’s time for Brandon Wood to get his shot and based on the Angels past history, they’re inclined to let players like Figgins walk. The market figures to drive his asking price quite high. He's due for a big pay day and I'm happy for him.

Normally I don’t much stock in the idea that players base their contract decisions on wanting to play close to home, but I think that’s actually the case for Figgy. I see Figgins heading to Atlanta to take over second base (Martin Prado is not the answer) or possibly left field (taking over for free agent Garret Anderson). He will be close to his family in Florida.

Memory: Right after the 2005 season, Chone Figgins did an autograph signing at Infiniti of Mission Viejo. Figgins finished the season with 62 stolen bases to lead the league. Cheryl and I made our way there, hoping to have Figgins sign a miniature base with an inscription that would note his accomplishment. One problem, we didn’t have a base. On our way there, we scrambled around to various locations to find one and didn’t have any luck. We went on to the dealership anyway. The line for Figgins was short and this gave us the idea that I could get in line, get something signed and Cheryl could continue to look for a base.

To make a long story - short, we never did find a base that day – but Chone and his brother (who was with him) kept suggesting places where we might find one. Chone was gracious as always. He even let Cheryl try on his World Series ring! He said, “don’t worry, it’s insured.”

During the off season we finally did find a base and the following Spring Training, we tracked Figgins down. He remembered our story and gladly signed our base with an inscription about his being the stolen base champ.

Prediction: Bobby Abreu is 35. Generally speaking, the days of the Angels handing out big contracts to players past their prime is history; at least I hope so. Never-the-less, Abreu will sign a one year deal with an option year with the Angels. He will get better offers, but this will be the one he takes because the Angels will likely be the best (most likely to win) team in the mix. I also think it’s a distinct possibility that he will simply accept arbitration. Bobby says he loves California and if he can replicate his 2009 season, Angel fans will continue to love Bobby.

Abreu will take over the DH duties next year and Juan Rivera will move to right field. Why you ask? Prediction: Because Jason Bay is going to be an Angel. You heard it here first. Okay, I have no idea if I’m the first or only person to say this, but I do believe he’s coming west. There are two things at play here. First of all, he’s not a Scott Boras client and secondly, he’d like to sign sooner rather than later. Both of these things bode well for the Angels. Perhaps they’re small things to hold on to, but that’s my feeling. Also of note (although less important), Bay is from Vancouver, British Columbia and I’m guessing he’d like to be in this time zone. That will be the icing on the cake for Bay. He’s saying all the right things about leaving his options open for this important financial period in his life, but go with me on this one; Bay will be an Angel.

The easy pick is to say that Boston will do whatever it takes to keep Bay, but I’m not buying it. Boston will focus on Matt Holliday and while the Yankees, Giants, etc. are being held hostage by Scott Boras, the Angels will swoop in and nab Bay.

Prediction: Robb Quinlan has been a dedicated professional during his time in Anaheim, but his days in Anaheim are over. Popular sentiment would probably have going home to Minnesota, but I think he’ll take a job in Seattle.

Memory: We have a couple of 8x10’s that Rob has signed for us. He’s always been very nice and sometimes seems almost surprised that anyone would seek out his autograph. Cheryl always referred to him as “twinkle toes” for the way he ran down the line. I will always remember that swing of his. It was the most unorthodoxed swing I have ever seen, but he managed to carve out a nice career.

Prediction: Who’s cooler than Darren Oliver? No one I tell you and the lefty will be back in Anaheim for one last go around. He was the most consistently good pitcher the Angels had in their bull pen this past season. He’ll accept arbitration and have a nice pay raise.

Prediction: I’m going to miss Kelvim Escobar. Word is he is going to pitch in Winter Ball to show people what he can do. If he’s healthy, I’m sure someone will take a shot at him with an incentive driven contract; I’d just be surprised if it was the Angels. I can’t even fathom a guess as to where he’ll end up, but just for the heck of it I’ll say St. Louis.

Memory: This is one funny dude. In 2007 Cheryl and I visited Safeco Field for an Angel road trip late in the year. Kelvim was warming up before one of the games during batting practice (he wasn’t pitching that day). I yelled out to him “Cy Young!” He looked up, smiled and then gave me the “shhhh” sign by holding his index finger over his lips. It was as if he wanted that kind of talk to be kept on the down low…

This past year when the Angels played San Francisco at AT&T for an interleague series, Kelvim was playing with a heckler. A Giants fan was in the upper deck yelling something and Kelvim kept signaling for the guy to come down and say it to his face. The heckler wouldn’t stop and Kelvim just kept smiling and waving the guy to come down. He never did. When teams were introduced, Kelvim hammed it up by giving us the thumbs up every time the Angels were mentioned and a big thumbs down every time “Giants” was heard. He was always very loose.

He and I share the same birthday, albeit, I’m much older and I’ve told him as much. He seemed to get a kick out of that. Escobar will always be one of my favorites. When he was good, he was very good and he always knew how to have a good time.

A couple of free agent predictions. I think it’s doubtful that the Arizona Diamondbacks exercise the $7 million option they have on Chad Tracy. I think they’ll exercise the $1 million buy out instead and the Angels will sign him as an insurance policy for Brandon Wood. Tracy can play first or third and even a little outfield, if necessary. He’s only 29 and will fill the spot soon to be vacated by Robb Quinlan. His left handed bat will come in handy and he could initially find himself in a platoon situation with Wood.

I also believe the Angels could kick the tires on Tony Pena, the right handed relief pitcher who started this past season in Arizona and ended it with the Chicago White Sox.

There you have it. I’ve now thrown my recipes into the Hot Stove mix. I guess you can cook up just about anything out of thin air these days.

No comments:

Post a Comment