Angels Continue to Neglect Starting Pitching

Entering the 2012-2013 offseason, the Angels’ primary target was quality starting pitching. They seemed likely to fulfill this goal, as the Free Agent market was pretty strong. The Angels were in an especially strong position to sign Zack Greinke, as he finished the 2012 season with the Angels after compiling a 1.4 bWAR through 13 starts with the Halos. The Angels instead chose to acquire less expensive starting pitchers and spend their big bucks to sign Josh Hamilton to a 5-year, $125 Million deal. Following their splurge for Hamilton, the Angels completed the 2013 season with a 78-84 record, and entered the 2013-2014 offseason with the same need for a reliable starting pitcher.
The 2012-2013 Free Agent Market for starting pitchers included Zack Greinke, Kyle Lohse, Ryan Dempster, Francisco Liriano, Brandon McCarthy, Anibal Sanchez, Joe Saunders, Jeremy Guthrie and Bartolo Colon. These solid options were seeking different tiers of contracts. Nevertheless, the Angels had the finances to sign any of these starters, even Zack Greinke, who signed with the Dodgers for $159 Million over 6 years. The Angels instead chose to allocate the majority of their funds to their offense, which was not in need of an upgrade, as it led all of the MLB in offensive fWAR in 2012. The Angels were then forced to find inexpensive starters to fill out their rotation. Those acquisitions included Joe Blanton (2-year, $15 Million), Tommy Hanson (trade with Braves), and Jason Vargas (trade with Mariners). Those three starters combined for a 14-24 record with a 4.91 ERA over the course of 333 2/3 innings. Despite their incredible need for starting pitching, the Angels actually traded away a starting pitcher, in Ervin Santana, who compiled a 3.24 ERA across 211 innings in 2013. After the 2012-2013 offseason, the Angels’ rotation finished in the bottom third of all MLB rotations in K/9, HR/9, ERA, FIP and WAR. It is also important to consider that the Angels’ home ballpark is relatively pitcher-friendly.
After choosing not to address their need for starting pitching, the Angels entered the 2013-2014 offseason with the same need. Again, the Free Agent Market is flush with quality options that span across all levels of tiers. However, the Angels have once again chosen to neglect this need. While many Free Agent options remain, the most significant moves the Angels have made include two Minor League deals with starting pitchers, a signing of RP Joe Smith, and an acquisition of David Freese via trade. While the Freese trade does address a need the Angels had on offense, their offense was actually a positive area for them. The trade also cost the Angels an estimated $4.5 Million, and more importantly a very valuable trade chip in Peter Bourjos. Bourjos may not have brought back an above average starter, but as part of a package, he could have yielded a better arm than they acquired last offseason.
There is still plenty of offseason left, but the Angels are running out of options and resources, as they continue to allocate them elsewhere. While they say that starting pitching is their primary need, the Angels refuse to make influential additions to their rotation. Until the Angels realize they must work to improve their rotation, they will not be able to move to the top of the AL West.

Anthony Cacchione

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