The “trip to the mall” date that every man inevitably succumbs to when courting a woman can be a very, umm, well, how do I say, BORING.  I mean, it’s a completely normal and necessary step in the evolution of a relationship, but it’s about as boring as Mike Trout’s tweets (WOW!!!!!).  No matter how boring the mall date is, though, it is important. The man is able to extract important information about the woman that he can use later to earn “brownie” points.  Points that will hopefully soften the blow when he inevitably says something he shouldn’t say about that birth mark on her left hip to her father.  Yes, I speak from experience.  No, I don’t want to talk about it.

            I digress.  Between the always awful food court food and the never making a pit stop in GameStop no matter how many times she promises (#bitter), the mall can be a nightmare.  Yet it gives you insight.  Every time she OMGthat’ssuchakewtdress!’s at a store, the forward thinking man jots that store down in his brain and hopes the circumstance where he can say, “Oh hey yea uh isn’t this the place where you liked that one dress?” arises many months later.  Her heart instantly melts, her eyes gaze at you like you’re her hero, her pants immediately fall off, and you’re in for an awesome two and a half minutes later that night.

            This situation happened to me the other day.  Well, I should clarify.  Not the awesome two and a half minute part, but the boring part where I remembered something.  While on a mall outing with my then date a few months ago, she mentioned that she wished she had the opportunity to shop at a Frederick’s of Hollywood but couldn’t, because there wasn’t any near her house.  Well, that date is now my girlfriend, and there’s a Frederick’s going out of business right near my new job.  BINGOOOOOOOOOOOO.  Let the brownie points shower all over my body.

            So I went into Frederick’s.  First mistake.  To those that don’t know, Frederick’s is a lingerie/women’s intimates specialty store that specializes in employing women who glare at solo men when they venture inside.  The aroma reeked of perfume and cattiness, and you could almost taste amount of gobbed-on eye shadow present within the premise.  But, being the brave soul that I am, I explored further, in pursuit of those ever elusive brownie points.

            That was my second mistake.  I incredibly overestimated my knowledge of women’s intimates.  I thought it would be like an I’ll-go-in-and-pick-out-a-pink-something-or-other-and get-out-of-there visit. Wrong.  I stopped at the first wall of what seemed to be just lace and strings intertwined (I’m never having a daughter) and was confused/frustrated/embarrassed all at the same time.  I had no idea what I was looking for, where to start, or which ones were better than the other.  In addition to my altogether befuddlement, I live a humble life and don’t make a noteworthy amount of money, so my options were already limited. 

            I felt hopeless and lost.  Like Torii Hunter in a West Hollywood nightclub.  I had nobody to turn to, nowhere to go, and not a clue in the world at what I was bestowing upon.  Every option seemed so similar to the last one, yet they all claimed to be different.  Padding?  Extra padding?  Removable padding?  No padding?  WHAT IS A MAN TO DO?  I was panicking and under duress.  This was all for brownie points that would hopefully help me in the future.  This is what us guys do for you ladies.  Throw us a bone every now and then. 

            To make an even longer story just long, I ended up getting something purple and calling it a day.  As it turns out, it wasn’t her size, and it wasn’t all that “kewt” of a purple thing. Yet I miraculously managed to convince my girlfriend that it was the thought that counts, and it worked.  I was still a hero, her heart still melted and I reaped the rewards of my mall date.

            Looking back on this story, I imagine that Jerry DiPoto is feeling pretty similar to how I did in Frederick’s.  Disclaimer:  I cannot speculate on DiPoto’s bra choosing strategy.  But I can speculate that, after the debacle that was 2013, he is currently looking to earn brownie points with Angels fans by making this team better. But all he sees is a free agent market that he has no idea what to do with because of its near complete dearth of talent.  He hardly has any money to work with, if any, and is looking at pretty much the same player over and over again.  Is there really that much of a difference between the padded bra that is Kyle Farnsworth and the slightly more padded Chad Gaudin?  This is the challenge that DiPoto faces.  He has to pick the padded bra that the Angels fanbase likes more than the rest of the bras.  I’ve said bra a lot of times during this blog about baseball.

            Last year, it looked like DiPoto got lost in the panty section.  Sean Burnett pitched all of 9.2 innings, which is 9.2 more than DiPoto’s other free agent bullpen acquisition, Ryan Madson.  Joe Blanton and Tommy Hanson proved to be nothing more than high school batting practice pitchers.  Josh Hamilton, well, um, let’s just say he was overpaid last year based on production.  I think that’s the nicest way I can put it.  The only offseason acquisition that did anything positive at all was Jason Vargas, who now sports a Kansas City Royals jersey (I wonder if it’s a lace jersey?). 

None of these moves seemed to be particularly poor decisions by DiPoto.  Blaton’s peripherals seemed to suggest he was a buy-low opportunity.  Hanson had been great before, and acquiring him only came at the cost of a middle reliever.  Ryan Madson wanted to prove he could close, and was reportedly ready to pitch approximately 1293048320958 times during the year.  Jason Vargas came at the expense of an extra, nearly non-value player in Kendrys Morales.  Even though some of us were wary of a Josh Hamilton drop-off based on his whiff rate from 2012, I don’t think anybody predicted him jumping off a cliff.  On paper, especially with the bullpen, it looked as though DiPoto had done a good job getting decent value for relatively cheap (aside from Hamilton).  And then the Angels finished third.

So, what to do this year?  At the onset of the offseason, the Angels had a glaring hole at third base, along with obvious holes in the bullpen and starting rotation.  DiPoto has already addressed the hole at third base while simultaneously clearing the logjam in the outfield by acquiring David Freese at the expense of our beloved Peter Bourjos.

We’ll leave the Salas for Grichuk part of the trade alone, because it’s basically a nothing reliever for a nothing prospect.  In acquiring Freese, the Angels acquired a major league caliber third baseman that is now on the wrong side of thirty.  That’s about it.  He experienced a significant decrease in batted ball distance from 2012 (279 feet in 2012 to 271 feet in 2013 per baseballheatmaps.com).  Freese also brings his career .141 isolated slugging (lower than Bourjos) to right handed power suppressing Anaheim.  David, meet the Marine Layer.  Marine Layer, this is David.  Freese’s best year was about half a win better than former Angel fan not-so-favorite Alberto Callaspo’s best season.  To boot, Callaspo was more consistent and has accrued three 2 WAR seasons compared to Freese’s two.  It seems as though Freese’s performance in Game Six has given his popularity a disproportionate boost among the fanbase.  He has the potential to be a very slight upgrade over Callaspo with a bit more power and a bit less defense.   

Bourjos was just unlucky in his time with the Angels.  The often fluke injured defensive wizard never had the chance to repeat his breakout four win season of 2011.  If both players stay healthy, the Cardinals will probably end up shaming the Angels with this trade.  To put the swap in context, Bourjos hit a disgusting .204/.237/.381 in 2010 and was a two win player in 193 plate appearances.  A healthy Freese had to hit .297/.350/.441 just to be a two and half win player in 2011 with 363 plate appearances.  Bourjos will provide the Cardinals value, even if he is a zero at the plate.  Freese will need to hit, and hit well, in an awful hitting environment, in order to provide the Angels with any positive value.  There’s a chance that Bourjos flames out too much at the plate to where this trade could work out; I just didn’t see the need to take the risk.

This trade left the Angels with a bit more clarity on their daily lineup, however.  Kole Calhoun was, almost immediately, named the starting right fielder. Mike Trout can comfortably rest assured knowing he’s the man-in-charge in the outfield. Finally, the Angels have somebody named Not Chris Nelson at third base every day.  Even with the trade, and the acquisition of Salas, the Angels had not addressed their one most pressing need: pitching.

That’s when they signed Joe Smith.  One of the most generic names in the history of the world has been an average to solid-average reliever for three years.  He’s consistently posted FIPs and xFIPs in the mid 3’s to complement an ERA under 3 since 2011.  He will be hard pressed to repeat his 86.3% strand rate that aided his barely 2 ERA in 2013, so some regression is to be expected.  In short, he is not going to be the answer to the bullpen problems that Angels’ fans are lamenting for, but he could definitely be a useful piece in a decently constructed bullpen.

Another piece of the puzzle that I feel is being overlooked is the inevitable return of Sean Burnett.  I understand that it is hard to trust and count on a reliever who was hurt during his debut with the club, but Burnett is worthy of that shot-in-the-dark.  He’s one year removed from being a 2.92/4.31/2.84 xFIP guy from 2010/2011/2012 in Washington when healthy.  Simply with the addition of Smith and the return of Burnett, the bullpen can now redistribute about 130 innings of relief pitching into quality arms, rather than arms that were tenderly nicknamed the “Blowpen.”  This means pitchers like Buddy Boshers, Cory Rasmus, Mark Lowe, Billy Buckner, Ryan Brasier, and Juan Gutierrez may never have to see a high leverage situation again.  This, by default, is good for the Angels.  These relievers were the rejected and returned lingerie items from Frederick’s.  They had to be used delicately, or they weren’t going to work.  And they didn’t. 

That’s what the Angels have done thus far.  Now, as a blogger, I’m determined to deliver completely idiotic and irrationally constructed offseason moves for the Angels to hypothetically make in order to win the 2014 World Series.  And it’ll be my pleasure to do so.  I just hope they aren’t ridiculous enough to make a BleacherReport.com slideshow.  Let’s get creative.  Here we go!

1)  Trade Howie Kendrick to the Royals for a young pitcher

            I’m going to completely ignore a Twitter conversation I had last week with the Orange County Register’s Jeff Fletcher when he said, “I have it on good authority that right now the Royals do not want Kendrick.”  Yea, I’m going to ignore that because that’s what bloggers do.  That tweet was also before the Royals lost out on Carlos Beltran so now they have a whole bunch of money they were going to spend just laying around.  With Kendrick being a three to four win second baseman, he’ll net a decent return.  There’s four young pitchers who could be moved by Kansas City: Kyle Zimmer, Yordano Ventura, Danny Duffy, and Justin Marks.  Zimmer is the new prize of the organization now that Wil Myers has been freed, so I doubt he’d be available for Kendrick.  Ventura is the second best Royals prospect and the pitcher that I’ve been selfishly pining over for a while.  He and Danny Duffy would be ready for immediate insertion (hehe) into the rotation in 2014, which is exactly what the Halos need.  Marks would be the consolation prize, and probably wouldn’t be enough for the Halos to pull the trigger. Both Duffy and Ventura would immediately slot into the rotation for 2014. 

2)  Trade Erick Aybar and Nick Maronde  to the Mets for RHP Rafael Montero

            The Mets have, for some odd reason, remained steadfast on their annoying insistence on not trading Noah Syndergaard.  That could be GM speak, or it could be the cold, hard, truth.  Either way, Aybar probably wouldn’t warrant that return either way.  The Mets have about $15 million to spend for the remainder of the offseason to address a few holes, so Aybar’s eight and a half million would cut into that substantially.  However, that would be the price that Sandy Alderson would have to pay to not have Ruben Tejada be his opening day shortstop.  Aybar has three years (including 2014) at 8.5 million per year each remaining on his contract and could be a staple in the Mets’ rebuilding process that was accelerated by their signings of Chris Young and Curtis Granderson.  To go along with Wright, Wheeler, and Gee, the Mets could be a surprise Wild Card contender in 2014, even without Matt Harvey.

            For the Angels, Aybar’s absence would definitely present a gaping hole in the lineup and on the field.  Something that can be remedied with the defensive prowess of Andrew Romine and is also addressed with the next trade.  Montero most likely, whether for service time reasons or just not being ready, wouldn’t break camp with the club.  Joe Blanton would be the fifth starter until Montero’s debut.

3)  Trade Mark Trumbo to the Indians for Asdrubal Cabrera

            Now the Angels have to fill the Aybar hole.  The Indians have both previously expressed interest in trading Cabrera and his ten million dollar 2014 price tag and have inquired about Trumbo.  With Nick Swisher playing first and Ryan Raburn playing in the outfield, the Indians could choose to send either one out to Raburn’s spot and keep the other at first.  The Indians are about a half a year to a year away from promoting Francisco Lindor to the major leagues, so this way they could make room for him while adding the power bat they’ve longed for.

            Cabrera has created a reputation as a strong defender by his spectacular plays seen nightly on Web Gems, but that’s about the only defense he brings.  He’s probably one or two years away from being moved to third base, and his shortstop defense in 2014 will be passable at best.  The Grant Green/Asdrubal Cabrera up-the-middle defense will be one of the worst combos in the major leagues, but hopefully the presence of fly ball pitchers like Weaver can minimize that damage.

            Cabrera would be a free agent after the 2014 season, which would leave the Angels with the prospects of signing one next offseason again, or promoting defensive wizard Eric Stamets for next year.

4)  Trade CJ Cron and Alex Yarbrough to the Marlins for Logan Morrison and AJ Ramos

            With Trumbo in Cleveland, the Angels need to fill their vacancy at DH. Conveniently enough, Logan Morrison has been on the trading block since his first tweet.  The Marlins were rumored to be interested in Mark Trumbo earlier in the offseason, but with Trumbo out of town, the Angels can perhaps dangle another power-hitting right handed first baseman type in Cron. 

Morrison will be arbitration eligible for the first time after the 2014 season and will cost less than Trumbo.  His production has always been tied to his health, but perhaps keeping him out of the field for the majority of the time will keep his injury risk low.  Furthermore, he can be a part time designated hitter do to fact that he is a borderline platoon player.  His 2013 line of .183/.266/.225 in 79 plate appearances against lefties a possible fluctuation due to small sample size.  For his career, his .244/.329/.378 line versus lefties doesn’t look all that different from his .251/.340/.446 line against righties, until you look deeper.  Against right handed pitching, Morrison’s walk rate rises to 11.7%, his strikeout rate drops to 16%, and his ISO improves to an impressive .195. 

            One-for-one trades of the same position are rare and risky, so that’s why throwing in a decent second base prospect for Ramos is part of the trade.  The presence of both Green and Taylor Lindsey makes Yarbrough expendable.  The addition of Ramos would solidify the back end of the bullpen by adding a fastball, slider, changeup guy who struck out a quarter of the batters he faced last year.  The Frieri, Burnett, Smith and Ramos back end could be pretty fierce.

5)  Sign Corey Hart

            To complement the platoon-y Morrison, the Angels signing Hart would give them an effective DH pairing.  Hart presents the same type of splits that Morrison does, in that he is useable against right handers (.267/.321/.478) but is simply better (.300/.369/.526) against southpaws.  Furthermore, the same type of spikes and dips in strikeout and walk rate with Morrison are evident with Hart.  Hart’s walk rate rises to 8.2% and strikeout rate dips to 16.9% versus lefties.  The move to Anaheim probably won’t be kind to his right handed power stroke, which means giving him the best opportunity to do some damage (batting him versus lefties) would maximize his ability.  Having missed all of 2012 due to injury, Hart would cost significantly less than his last paycheck of ten million dollars. 

            Both Morrison and Hart aren’t your typical platoon players in that they show dramatic splits.  But they can both play the outfield and first base when Hamilton, Trout or Pujols need a breather from the field.  They would get their platoon designated hitter at bats, but their flexibility would allow them to get extra at bats as well. 

 

 

2014 Lineup

1.  RF Kole Calhoun (L)

2.  CF Mike Trout (R)

3.  1B Albert Pujols (R)

4.  LF Josh Hamilton (L)

5.  DH Corey Hart (R) / Logan Morrison (L)

6.  3B David Freese (R)

7.  SS Asdrubal Cabrera (S)

8.  2B Grant Green (R)

9.  C Chris Iannetta (R)

BENCH

C Hank Conger (S)

INF Andrew Romine (R)

OF JB Shuck (L)

 

2014 Rotation

1.  RHP Jered Weaver

2.  LHP CJ Wilson

3.  RHP Garret Richards

4.  LHP Danny Duffy/ RHP Yordano Ventura

5.  RHP Joe Blanton/ RHP Rafael Montero

2014 Bullpen

1.  RHP Ernesto Frieri

2.  RHP Joe Smith

3.  RHP AJ Ramos

4.   LHP Sean Burnett

5.  RHP Dane de la Rosa

6.  RHP Kevin Jepsen (replaced by Joe Blanton upon Montero’s call up)

7.  RHP Fernando Salas