2009 Regular Season Record: 97-65
Rank: First in the West - Lost in the ALCS to NY Yankees
Home Park: Angels Stadium
OF/DH - Hideki Matsui (Free Agent from Yankees)
RHP - Fernando Rodney (Free Agent from Tigers)
RHP - Brian Stokes (Trade with Mets)
RHP - Joel Pineiro (Free agent from Cardinals)
C - Adam Melhuse* (Free agent, signed with Rangers)
3B - Chone Figgins (Free agent, signed with Mariners)
OF - Vladimir Guerrero (Free agent, signed with Rangers)
OF - Gary Matthews Jr (Traded to Mets)
LHP - Darren Oliver (Free Agent, signed with Rangers)
RHP - Kelvim Escobar (Free agent, signed with Mets)
RHP - Jose Arredondo* (Free agent, signed with Reds)
RHP - Shane Loux* (Free agent, signed with Astros)
RHP - John Lackey (Free agent, signed with Red Sox)
* Signed minor league deal
Bobby Abreu, who made the Angels a more patient team last year, returns to Anaheim.
The Angels are in the reloading process and while it appears that they've spent the offseason dumping salary, mainly by not re-signing Vlad Guerrero, Chone Figgins and John Lackey, the truth is that they've actually slightly increased payroll, but have gotten younger and will be counting a lot more on unproven, or less proven, commodities.
Strengths: Pitching, balance, youth, upside
Even without John Lackey the Angels are stacked in the starting rotation with a starting five of Jered Weaver, Scott Kazmir, Joel Pineiro, Joe Saunders and Ervin Santana - all of who, save Pineiro, still have a tremendous amount of upside. That provides a balance in terms of starting pitching that no other team in the west can come close to approaching. That could make up for a multitude of offensive growing pains if it has to pitch its way to victory.
The bullpen is a little less proven but features Brian Fuentes, Fernando Rodney, Scot Shields ahead of the lesser known Matt Palmer and Trevor Bell. They should prove as reliable as any similar pen in the west.
Offensively you have to like the upside of this team for a number of reasons. Kendry Morales is moving into his prime and is coming off a career season, Maicer Izturis hit .300 last year, Howie Kendrick came close to that with a .291 average and ten homers, while Erick Aybar has shown flashes of talent that makes you believe he could prove a serviceable leadoff hitter. Throw in veterans Bobby Abreu, the master of plate discipline, the power of Hideki Matsui (which should offset the loss of Vlad) and the consistency of Torii Hunter and the youngsters have some role models, and a core that can lift the pressure from lying entirely on their inexperienced shoulders.
There is a lot of youth in this lineup, and even with a single great season under most of their belts, they aren't proven commodities. Regressions among young players are far from uncommon. It wouldn't be surprising to see a couple of these guys struggle down the road. That might open the door for even more youngsters to get a chance.
SS -Erick Aybar
RF - Bobby Abreu
1B - Kendry Morales
DH - Hideki Matsui
CF - Torii Hunter
LF - Juan Rivera
2B - Howie Kendrick
3B - Maicer Izturis/Brandon Wood
C - Mike Napoli
One Question which Needs Answering:
How will the young Angels step into their new roles? This is a major retooling of one of the most successful franchises of the last decade in the game. They've walked away from a lot of stars, now it's all about seeing if the youngsters can step forward seamlessly or at least without too many bumps.
Until things start to unravel it's hard to second guess general manager Tony Reagins or skipper Mike Scioscia. After all they've squeezed more than expected out of this team for neigh on a decade. That being said, while the Angels may not have taken a big step backwards, some of their competitors have stepped forward. While it will be close, the Angels probably will be able to claw their way to another division title.