Things should start to develop this week. Tomorrow is a big day; it’s the last day teams can offer their free agents arbitration.
In the Angels case, they have to decide whether or not to offer arbitration to John Lackey, Chone Figgins, Darren Oliver and Vladimir Guerrero. The Angels are likely to offer arbitration to Lackey, Figgins and Oliver. All three have Type A status and if they choose not to accept arbitration, the Angels will receive a compensation pick(s) (in most, but not all cases from the team’s that sign them) should any of them sign elsewhere.
Should any of the three accept arbitration they would be foregoing the free agent market and accepting the salary they will be offered via the arbitration process. Lackey and Figgins are highly unlikely to accept; however, there’s a chance Oliver will (as he did last year).
If the Angels don’t offer arbitration, teams are free to sign Type A players without losing any draft picks. In Guerrero’s case, it’s not likely the Angels will offer him arbitration; however, since he’s a Type B free agent any team that signs him will not lose a pick. The reason the Angels aren’t likely to offer him arbitration is because they would either like to move on without him or make him part of a back up plan and bring him back at a reduced salary.
It’s always a telling sign when a team offers or doesn’t offer a player arbitration. It’s usually an indication as to whether or not the team wants the player back. Last year Jon Garland and Francisco Rodriguez were both offered arbitration and both refused; a move that ended up costing Garland some money as he signed for less than what he most likely would have received had he accepted.
Again, tomorrow is the deadline and Type A players not offered arbitration become a little more appealing to teams since they won’t lose any draft picks. This happened with Troy Glaus after the 2004 season. The Angels were ready to move on without Glaus and didn’t offer him arbitration (he might have accepted had they offered it). Glaus went on to sign with the Arizona Diamondbacks. Players who refuse arbitration and have Type A status can be less appealing to some clubs. This happened to Orlando Cabrera last year – who found signing with a team harder because of his Type A status. This year Cabrera made sure his contract included a clause prohibiting a team from offering him arbitration in hopes it would make him more appealing to teams looking for a shortstop.
Hopefully, that all makes sense. Okay, so now what, right?
Well according to Mike DiGiovanna and Dylan Hernandez of the LA Times it looks like the Angels only have about $12 million to spend. That’s if you believe the Angels will stick to roughly the same budget as they had in 2009. According to the LA Times article – Reagins claims the Angels have money to spend in free agency, but may have to be creative to really fill out their roster.
Translation – the Angels will spend above their budget if the situation is one they deem beneficial to the team.
At this point in time all we can do is wait and see. Obviously, Lackey and Figgins are key to what the Angels do next. Signing or not signing one or both is going to dictate what the Angels do next. That may not play out until December 7-10, 2009 when the winter meetings take place in Indianapolis, Indiana. Historically, this is when activity (signings and trades) really heat up for all teams.
If you’re like me, it’s hard to figure out what’s going to happen. That being said, it doesn’t necessarily stop us from trying. Depending on who you read and when you read them, you could believe just about any number of scenarios taking place. Even still, if history repeats itself, the Angels will do something unpredictable.
If John Lackey resigns, the rotation will be set with Saunders, Kazmir, Weaver and Santana filling out the rest of the rotation. If Lackey departs, the Angels will either look internally to one of Dustin Moseley, Sean O’Sullivan or Trevor Bell. Trevor Reckling is a remote possibility as well – but he’s only pitched as high as AA ball. The other option would be for the Angels to either sign a free agent (possibly Randy Wolf) or make a trade (the Roy Halladay rumors are still out there). If I’m the Angels I have to believe the best route to take is to simply resign Lackey (even though that may not be all that simple).
If Chone Figgins returns, it will mean that Brandon Wood will either be traded (which could be a more distinct possibility if Lackey doesn’t return and the Angels need chips to trade), relegated to the a utility role of some sort or we could possibly see Figgins moved to the outfield, Abreu moved to a DH role and Wood given a shot at third base.
There is also the curious predicament of Gary Matthews, Jr. and the $23 million owed him over the next two years. He will be difficult to trade. Perhaps the Angels should make him the every day left fielder, move Rivera to right and have Abreu DH. Stranger things have happened and this scenario could play out should the Angels not resign Figgins.
If neither Lackey nor Figgins return – any number of things could happen. The Angels could make a serious play for Jason Bay, but are more likely to focus on pitching. In my mind they have to maintain a rotation that is solid 1-5 and they also need to replace what Vlad Guerrero used to provide them. Kendry Morales had a great year in 2009 and Hunter was on his way to doing the same, but they are not enough.
And…. what about the bull pen? Brian Fuentes, Jason Bulger and Kevin Jepsen appear to be locks. Matt Palmer most likely has a role as well. Scot Shields will be back. The rest will depend on whether or not Jose Arredondo can rebound from a sub par 2009 and whether or not Darren Oliver will be back. That’s seven names in the mix as of now. If the Angels add some bull pen help – someone would have to be moved or demoted to the minors.
Changes aren’t likely at center field (Torii Hunter), first base (Kendry Morales), second base (Howie Kendrick), shortstop (Erick Aybar), catcher (Mike Napoli and Jeff Mathis) and Maicer Izturis is sure to serve in his super utility role again. Also - Juan Rivera is a pretty solid bet to be in one of the corner outfield spots.
The 2010 Angels have the potential to look very much like the 2009 version on one hand and on the other, look like a very different team. Other than Brandon Wood there isn’t anyone looming to make an impact from within.
Terry Evans is the only other possibility and he’s likely to become the 4th or 5th outfielder. The Angels are out of option on Evans and he will either occupy a 25 man roster spot or take his talent elsewhere. Evans is an interesting prospect. He has tons of speed and the ability to hit the long ball, but for whatever reason doesn’t appear to be high on anyone’s list. A former 47th round draft choice of the St. Louis Cardinals, he came to the Angels for Jeff Weaver in 2006. When Spring Training camps open in 2010 he will 28, which is considered "old" for players still trying to find their way on to big league rosters.
In 2009, Evans put up monster numbers in Salt Lake City; hitting .291 while belting 26 homers and driving in 90 runs. He also had 33 doubles and stole 28 bases. He had a .860 OPS, but struck out a whopping 146 times and that last stat may be the one thing that has the experts limiting his potential.
Hot Stove Update... Elsewhere:
You know it’s a slow day when the biggest Hot Stove news includes the Mets interest in Henry Blanco per Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports, the Mets signing Alex Cora, the Pirates signing Will Ledesma and the Cardinals resigning Jason LaRue.
Andruw Jones signed with the Chicago White Sox last week. I had predicted the Cubs.... so I had the right city, but the wrong team. Jones signed for $500,000 despite hitting just .214 last year. Just for the sake of fun, let's say Jones has now set the market for outfielders.
If you believe Jason Bay is 50 times better than Jones (Of course you do), it would mean that Bay will receive a contract for $25 million a year. Shazam!
Elsewhere, Alex Gonzalez signed with the Toronto Blue Jays (I had predicted the Houston Astros); possibly signaling the end of any speculation that Marco Scutaro stays in Toronto. The rumors of him going to Boston still seem to be "hot;" although, it appears the Dodgers are also a possibility.