Angels Geared Up For More Surprises?

When the Angles pulled the Andrelton Simmons deal out of a well-concealed hat, it took a while to accept this move by a team with many more pressing needs than a slight defensive upgrade at a position that was already solid. Who will play third base in 2016? Will there again by a left field by committee of barely average journeymen? Who will be catching and who will they be catching?

A couple of deals and several rumors later, things may be a bit more in perspective, and hopefully new GM Billy Eppler and new front office addition Bud Black have a plan and will see some success in its implementation.

First and foremost on their agenda HAS to be filling that
Big Savings for Big Fans at
gaping hole at third base. After the Angels’ slow 2015 start, when they started winning, third baseman David Freese was a big part of many of those wins, and their mid-season slump coincided with the injury that sidelined him for several weeks. It was more than an interesting coincidence that they started a winning streak again once he returned to the lineup. The under-appreciated Freese has not put up great overall numbers as a member of the Angels, but he has missed a lot of time and he remains a clutch player who drives in key runs. They need him back, or a solid, everyday replacement, which appear to be few and far between as far as availability is concerned.

The left field hole also screams out for a single, solid player. Mike Joyce was a disaster for most of the season, and the committee brought in late in the season was with one exception, a fiasco. Of late season acquisitions Shane Victorino, David DeJesus and David Murphy, only Murphy resembled a major league player, and he should be the only one of the three ever again seen in an Angels’ uniform. Whether they will re-sign him and whether he is give a shot to be the 2016 regular in left field remains up for speculation, but it figures the front office has set its sights higher and that Murphy would only be a second tier choice.

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As to who else might be on their radar for the outfield, it is a total mystery to me why Jason Heyward is so universally considered to be the top outfield free agent on the market, if not the top non-pitcher on the market. I just do not see that and would be VERY upset to see either the Angels or the Dodgers sign him to the mega-contract he is assumed to be about to be offered from any number of teams.

Just look at his 2015 stats – a very mediocre line of 13 home runs, 60 runs batted in, and a .293 average, plus an ok .798 OPS, apparently all overshadowed by the new stat geek flavor of the year, the WAR, which is a good 6.5. Those real stats, the HRs, the RBI, the average, all are representative of his career, except for the batting average, which at .293 was by far his career high. Ok, he’s got speed and he is said to be a premier defensive outfielder (can’t agree with that, I’ve seen him screw up on defense too many times) but $200 Million for a guy who averages 16 home runs and less than 60 RBI per season is beyond outrageous, its disgusting.

To me there is one and only one number one outfield free agent, and that is Yoenis Cespedes. Comparing his 2015 stats, he hit more than twice as many home runs as Heyward, drove in almost twice as many, hit .002 lower, and he did it in all of five more games played than Heyward. Cespedes’ yearly averages are 26 homers and 92 RBI, dwarfing by far Heyward, and he IS a premier defensive outfielder, a star in left and more than adequate in center, unlike Heyward who has played right field almost exclusively – 795 games in right, 32 in center, and zero in left over his six year career.

Other and better than Heyward free agent outfield possibilities include Alex Gordon and Justin Upton.

As far as the Angels’ catching situation is concerned, the Chris Iannetta era is mercifully over. Following his acquisition in 2012, the Angels paid him $15 Million-[;us over the last three seasons, including 2015 during which a late-season spurt raised his average all the way up to .188. He is now the Seattle Mariners’ problem. For some unknown reason, they agreed to pay Iannetta the outlandish sum of $4.25 M for 2016.

Carlos Perez has to be the Angel’s number one catcher, and coming off a fine rookie season, he could well develop into a solid front line player. The team’s free agent signing of Geovany Soto was an excellent move. The 32-year-old veteran has has several solid seasons and should be a terrific
up to Perez and a fine mentor to him as well.

But, as is usually the case, the 2016 Angels will likely go as far as their pitching will take them. The bullpen, if healthy, is still above average, with a slew of young arms to go along with veterans Huston Street and Joe Smith. The starting staff is stronger with the elimination of C.J. Wilson, and could be significantly upgraded with the further development of Andrew Heaney, Hector Santiato and Nick Tropeano, return of a healthy Tyler Skaggs, and maybe a free agent signee.

Like usual, the Angels have tons of promise. A couple of good off season moves could return them to a great record like they had in 2014, and maybe, just maybe, a solid post season performance.

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