The Los Angeles Angels made a huge splash in the offseason, acquiring one of the biggest names in baseball and the top free agent available when new general manager Jerry Dipoto signed first baseman Albert Pujols. Dipoto wasn't finished, as he added former Texas Rangers ace C.J. Wilson and upgraded the Halos' catcher situation by acquiring Chris Iannetta.
The Angels will have a much-improved offense this season, from the addition of Pujols alone, while the already-formidable pitching rotation receives a big boost with Wilson coming aboard. The Angels became a much larger threat to take the AL West with those two signings, but the rest of the offseason moves have made Los Angeles look like a more complete team.
Gone is Jeff Mathis, who was always a threat to drag down an entire lineup. While first base is crowded following the acquisition of Pujols, the still-improving Mark Trumbo will be shifting to third base, where he is likely to receive playing time over Alberto Callaspo.
Kendrys Morales will be fighting for at-bats for, but if the Angels can find a suitor for Bobby Abreu, both he and the team can give him the freedom he desires to pursue playing time elsewhere, allowing Morales to slide right in as everyday DH.
The infield offers all solid bats and the only real question marks where run production is concerned comes from the corner outfield positions. Peter Bourjos' speed and defense alone make him invaluable to the team and in 2012 he may just end up being the best No. 9 hitter in the American League. Vernon Wells' offensive abilities will always be in question and Torii Hunter, three years older than Wells, is a prime candidate to fall off a cliff at a moment's notice. The good news for the Angels is that if either right or left field becomes a liability, Mike Trout is waiting in the minors, getting ready for another shot at the show.
1. SS - Erick Aybar
2. 2B - Howie Kendrick
3. 1B - Albert Pujols
4. RF - Torii Hunter
5. LF - Vernon Wells
6. DH - Bobby Abreu/Kendrys Morales
7. 3B - Mark Trumbo
8. C - Chris Ianetta
9. CF - Peter Bourjos
A much better-looking configuration than in 2011, certainly. But then again, that's one side-effect of being able to write in "Albert Pujols" and not just be looking at your own personal fan fiction.
The Angels very quietly had one of the very best rotations in the majors last year. With the addition of Wilson, it only gets better. The fact that Wilson comes over from what is likely their stiffest in-division competition for the postseason, the two-time defending American League champions the Rangers, only makes it that much better.
With the starting four pitchers in the rotation being Wilson, Jered Weaver, Dan Haren and Ervin Santana, it's not much of an issue that the fifth starter slot is still in play. Jerome Williams seems to be the leading candidate for the job, but Garrett Richards remains in the conversation. It's still great to have the extra options available just in case one of the front four should happen to get sidelined with an injury.
The bullpen looks to be solid once again, but those starters will be gobbling up a lot of innings. The extra addition of Jason Isringhausen provides some extra support and a battle-proven arm for potential tight spots. Jordan Walden will remain a top-level closer and may be even better in year age-24 season.
All around, the Angels are a much better team than last year. How that improvement translates into regular-season wins remains to be seen. While they may not have the potential to run away with the AL West, it will be considered a shock if they fail to be in the playoff mix right down to the wire -- especially as there will be two wild card teams in each division for the first time in 2012.
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