Friday, December 10, 2010

Are the Angels Smart or Stupid?

The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in California on the West Coast of the United States of America sure are taking a beating these days. Even one of their own players, Torii Hunter, is upset because the Angels whiffed on free agents Carl Crawford, Jayson Werth, etc. It is doubtful that they will be in the final bidding for Cliff Lee. That leaves Adrian Beltre as the last big ticket free agent available to them. But do the Angels deserve the pile driving they are taking?

According to this writer's scorecard, Jayson Werth was overpaid, Carl Crawford was overpaid, Cliff Lee will be overpaid and Beltre is still an unknown as to what he is asking. Is a team stupid for turning away from making foolish contracts for players that will not be worth their value at the end of the terms of their deals? There's a strong indication against this being stupid but instead it could be wise. This Fan can guarantee you that Cliff Lee may have three years of effective pitching left in him. Carl Crawford may be this good for another three or four years. Werth has been improving steadily and could have four good years in him. Can you blame the Angels for blinking when all that cost will probably be eaten at the back end of those contracts?

On the other hand, the Angels as their roster now stands is full of holes. They don't have a DH, a third baseman or a bullpen. The DH (and probably the bullpen) is easily remedied as there are still a bunch of slow footed, stone gloved sluggers out there. Bullpen arms flood the market. Beltre would be perfect for third base for the Angels. So those situations are fixable. But the Angels have little if any value to trade and their system isn't exactly teaming with prospects. Since they haven't exactly built a system capable of feeding them young talent, the only way they can quickly improve to stay up with the Rangers is to buy the talent. At this point, that isn't going so well.

Others have insisted that the Angels are poor negotiators and are inflexible in their terms. Is that true? Is it a crime to attach a value at a player they covet and stick by that value? It's not like the Red Sox just out bid the Angels by a few measly dollars. The Red Sox out bid the Angels by almost $30 million! Which team is the stupid one here? History will have to give us the answer. But for now, this Fan can't blame the Angels for picking a timeline and a price tag that makes sense based on a player's value and projected value. If you break down their offer to Crawford, it's awfully close to Baseball Prospectus projections for how much Crawford will be worth over the next six years. The Red Sox, on the other hand, overpaid those projections by nearly $15 million and with the extra year guaranteed the back end of the deal to be an extreme risk. If the Angels whiffed on free agents and the difference between the prices offered was minimal, then, yeah, you have to question their tactics. But that is not the case here. The Torii Hunter contract is a very wise and fair contract for what Hunter has given them.

Many point to the Mo Vaughn contract as the reason the Angels are gun shy about long-term megadeals. But gosh, wouldn't you be? After averaging over five wins above replacement the previous five years for Boston, the Angels signed the splashy Vaughn for huge dollars and Vaughn responded with two years of 1.5 and 1.0 WAR for the Angels. They finally unloaded him off to the Mets for Kevin Appier and ate a bunch of the contract. That would sour a lot of people. If you put your finger in a light socket and get zapped, you're not going to do it again.

But it's not like they are nickel and diming people either. Hunter got a nice deal and offering Crawford six years and $105 million isn't exactly chump change. In the end, this Fan has to give the Angels props for being fiscally intelligent in not overpaying talent. That said, the result might be another year or two of being the second best team in the AL West. But winning isn't everything if it means offering stupid contracts. Just ask the Yankees or Rangers  four years from now when Cliff Lee is just another league average pitcher.

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