5 Questions Los Angeles Angels Must Answer This Offseason
Los Angeles Angels Face Uncertainty in Offseason
At 48-55, the Los Angeles Angels' season is effectively over. Albert Pujols will likely take the rest of the year to recover from a partially torn plantar fascia, and Joe Blanton has been removed from the starting rotation due to poor performance.
In fact, it appears that the Angels can count on only two things heading into next season: Mike Trout will continue to be the best five-tool player in all of baseball, and Jered Weaver will most likely continue to be one of the best starting right-handers in the AL. Those are really the only two certainties the Halos have had this season, despite what was supposed to have been the deepest, most devastating roster in baseball. Perhaps Los Angeles can ask a certain local basketball team what it's like to fail to live up to preseason expectations.
Their position is even more problematic because the Angels will almost certainly be unable to make meaningful transactions before the trade deadline. They've done what they can by adding minor leaguers who may one day improve Los Angeles' woeful farm system, but other than that, no team will buy what the Angels are selling. Who would have guessed three years ago that no team would ever consider trading for Pujols? Nope, the Halos are stuck with the balance of his $240 million contract over the next eight seasons.
Since they won't be able to solve their problems by the trade deadline, let's look instead at what questions the Angels will face this offseason. How they answer these questions will determine whether Los Angeles emerges as a legitimate, playoff contender or a perennial bastion of mediocrity weighed down by outrageous contracts.
Tony Baker is a Los Angeles Angels writer for Rant Sports. You can follow him on Twitter at @tonloc_baker.
5. Will the Defense Improve?
I've already written about how unusually bad the Angels' defense has been this year. Errors are even more costly with a thin rotation, and with 75 of them, the Halos have committed more than just about every other team in baseball. Hopefully, the especially egregious mistakes of Josh Hamilton, Albert Callaspo and Howie Kendrick were an anomaly this year, and the Halos defense won't be quite so porous next year.
4. Will Peter Bourjos Be Healthy?
Bourjos just can't win this year. He's hit a very solid .333 in the 40 games he's managed to play this season, but he's missed 63 and counting. Given how much he impacts the game on both offense and defense, his healthy presence alone should help the Angels win more games next year. The $1 million question is whether or not he's capable of staying healthy. Should he return to full-time duty in center field along with Pujols' return to first base, the Angels will likely have to demote J.B. Shuck due to a glut of outfielders.
3. Will Mike Scioscia Be Fired?
It may be unfair to blame Scioscia for the Halos' struggles, but to many observers, the writing's been on the wall for quite some time. The longest-tenured manager in baseball may have to be sacrificed by management to signal a new direction for this stagnant franchise. Anaheim fans may remember Scioscia fondly for leading the 2002 team to a World Series, but baseball is a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately kind of business, and 11-year-old accomplishments tend to gather dust and look far less shiny when the team is struggling.
2. Will Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton Get Back on Track?
Put it this way — it can't possibly get any worse. Pujols' need to get surgery on his plantar fascia is a blessing for Los Angeles. It's been painful watching him hobble around this year, and surgery is his only shot of being healthy and becoming the fearsome hitter we once knew. Then we will truly see whether his three-year statistical decline can be chalked up to a nagging foot injury or an actual decline in skills.
As for Hamilton, fans will gladly forget his embarrassment of a season this year if he comes out firing next year. Otherwise, the four years left on his untradable contract will seem very long indeed.
1. Where Will Pitching Come From?
Here is where the Angels might face an unsolvable challenge. They've already removed Blanton from the rotation, meaning that they don't really have a third starter after Weaver and C.J. Wilson. One can hope for the best when Jason Vargas returns to the roster, but even so the Angels are still grasping for straws here. Maybe they can still win a lot of games next year so long as Trout, Bourjos, Pujols and Hamilton all have good years, but playoff teams need to have pitching, and the Angels don't have it right now.