We grade the off-season

February, 14, 2011
2/14/11
5:39
PM PT
Near the end of their first losing season since Arte Moreno bought the team in 2003, Angels executives, scouts, coaches and manager Mike Scioscia got together in an Angel Stadium conference room for their organizational meetings.

Here were the areas they decided needed to be fortified in the winter: the bullpen, the outfield and third base.

"Probably in that order," Moreno said.

But as fall yielded to winter, the team's plans began to unravel, thread by thread. Agent Scott Boras was intent on feeling out the market for the best reliever out there, Rafael Soriano, and the Angels weren't in the mood to wait around. They grabbed the best two relievers they could find, left-handers Hasinori Takahashi and Scott Downs.

Next, the Angels turned to priority No. 2, but again Boras stymied them indirectly. He got the Washington Nationals to agree to a seven-year, $126 million contract for Jayson Werth, inflating the market for outfielders to the bursting point, at least as far as the Angels were concerned.

"I don't think anybody setting an over-under on that had Werth going for $126 million. That's a lot of cash," Moreno said.

When the Angels finally got around to Priority No. 3, the best guy still remained on the market: Adrian Beltre. But there were a couple of stumbling blocks. The first was Boras, not Moreno's favorite negotiating adversary. The owner still hasn't gotten over the acrimony from the 2008 Mark Teixeira talks and readily admits it. The bigger hurdle was that the Angels didn't think Beltre was worth the money he eventually got, a contract with the Texas Rangers that could balloon to $96 million if a vesting option kicks in.

Just when everyone began to think Moreno was bluffing when he promised to spend "whatever it takes," to fix his team, the Angels proved they aren't cheap. They took on one of the most untradeable contracts in baseball, that of Vernon Wells.

At least they didn't get shut out.

Starting pitching: B+


The one area of the team that didn't need fixing, starting pitching should lead the way in 2011. Takahashi adds depth in case Scott Kazmir continues to pitch as awfully as he did for most of 2010.

The one negative: The Angels weren't able to sign Jered Weaver to a long-term contract and beat him in arbitration, possibly alienating their best starter.

Bullpen: B-

It proved a bit foolhardy to go all of last season without a left-handed reliever, particularly when Scot Shields -- normally brutal on lefties -- struggled. The Angels fixed that problem by adding Downs and Takahashi, but was it overkill? This bullpen still needs a closer and none of the in-house candidates looks like a lock.

Lineup: C-


The Angels needed to add on-base percentage and they signed another free swinger, Wells. They needed a leadoff guy and they added a player who, at 34, is slowing down. This team might be leaning a little too heavily on a full return to health for Kendry Morales and that could be asking a lot. Once again, they figure to be plodding on the bases.

Defense: B

One of the reasons the Angels felt compelled to add an outfielder was to keep Bobby Abreu, 37, out of the field. With Wells in left, Torii Hunter in right and Peter Bourjos in center the Angels could have a solid outfield look. But Bourjos might not hit well enough to keep that group intact, forcing the team to shuffle awkwardly.

Bench: C-

The Angels sent off one of their excess parts, Mike Napoli, in part because he didn't seem to have a position to play. They're still stuck with three third basemen, Maicer Izturis, Brandon Wood and Alberto Callaspo, none of whom seem like an everyday solution.

Overall: C

The Angels might be contenders in 2011, but it will have more to do with their stout pitching than it will with anything the front office did.

Mark Saxon

ESPNLosAngeles.com
Mark Saxon is a staff writer for ESPNLosAngeles.com. He spent six years at the Orange County Register, and began his career at the Oakland Tribune, where he started an 11-year journey covering Major League Baseball. He has also covered colleges, including USC football and UCLA basketball.

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TEAM LEADERS

WINS LEADER
Jered Weaver
WINS ERA SO IP
13 3.70 126 167
OTHER LEADERS
BAM. Trout .289
HRM. Trout 28
RBIM. Trout 90
RM. Trout 85
OPSM. Trout .935
ERAG. Richards 2.61
SOG. Richards 164