Since the Angels will be seeing former ace John Lackey tonight for the third time this season, I thought it might be interesting to look at players that left the Angels this season for greener, or not-so-greener pastures. The list of names is a bit of a long one, including the former ace and World Series Game Seven Winner, the person most considered the Face of the Franchise in recent years, as well as the Halo’s 2009 MVP and one of the best arms in the pen. Mixed into that group were people that had some potential but never seemed to realize it during their time in Anaheim, making it quite a varied group from many different positions. Given that, we’ll look at the offensive side of things first, and in the next part we’ll jump into the pitchers. After the jump, we’ll take a look at those that carry the lumber for new teams this season.
It’s hard to believe Guerrero was only with the Angels for six years. Somehow, at least to me, it seemed like he’d been around for a long time, along with guys like Lackey and Figgins. As far as a six year stretch goes, though, it would’ve been hard for the Angels to find someone that would give them a better one. His time with the Angels were not his peak years – those clearly happened in near obscurity with Montreal, where he was able to put together a .323/.390/.588 slash line and an OPS 51 points better than the one he posted with the Angels – but for a guy that was off his peak years, he still destroyed the ball with the best of them.
In a move that was met with mixed reaction from the fanbase (though as you can see from the very first post here at Halo Hangout, it was an unquestionably negative reaction from me), the Angels’ Front Office let Vladimir Guerrero walk, though he didn’t go far. The Texas Rangers, thinking Guerrero still had something left in the tank, snatched him up from their AL West rivals, and only paying $6.5MM in
2010, plus a mutual $9MM option in 2011 to do it. It was a move that proved to be nearly brilliant, as Guerrero went on to completely destroy American League pitching in the first half of this season. In March/April, June, and July he put up wOBA’s of .374, .405, and .437 respectively, and he was a large part of the offense that helped put space between the Rangers and Angels as the season made its way towards the middle of summer. He has since scuffled some, his wOBA in July and August falling to .275 and .230 respectively. There could be a couple of reasons for this, including Guerrero tiring due to already surpassing his games played total from 2009. I think the largest part of it, however, is due to the sharp drop in his BABIP, which fell from .338 in June to .212 in July, and so it’s quite possible that Guerrero has just run into some bad luck. Either way, he’s already been worth nearly 2 WAR and $7.5MM for the Rangers this season, making his contract more than worth it. A comparison between Guerrero and Matsui, the man who replaced him in Anaheim, would seem to me to only be adding salt to the wounds that Guerrero’s bat opened against us this season. Suffice it to say 92 additional points of OPS from the DH spot would have been a big help to the Angels this season. Let’s hope this one was a learning experience for the front office.
Figgins was only the second of three big-name free agents that left the Angels for more money, and found it at yet another rival. Unlike Guerrero, who went south to the potent lineup of the Rangers, Figgins went north to Seattle, where a new GM was putting a new philosophy in place. As part of that philosophy – one of run prevention due to pitching and defense helping to pick up a less than stellar offense – Figgins and his fantastic glove were given four years and $36MM. At the time, the deal seemed like a pretty solid one given Figgins’ glove (in 2009 he was only behind Evan Longoria in UZR totals for 3B), and his surprisingly solid bat to go along with it (posting a .358 wOBA in 2009, and a .371 wOBA only two seasons before that). Unfortunately for both Figgins and the Mariners, things haven’t gone quite as they expected upon the signing. For starters, the Mariners moved Figgins to 2B, where he’s played all 1038 of his defensive innings this season. The problem with this is, Figgins has always been a better defender at 3B than 2B, and his -9.1 UZR at the position this season only helps to reinforce that
fact. Contrast that with his 10.6 and 16.6 UZR in 2008 and 2009, respectively, at 3B, and you see just how much better his defense is at the hot corner. Jose Lopez, who had previously spent the majority of his time at 2B, moved to 3B to make room for Figgins, though I don’t think the move has been a net gain for Seattle. Lopez was a slightly below average defender at 2B, but his worst season at the position, a -3.6 in 2008, was still better than what Figgins’ has given them this season. Outside of that, he’s only been able to put together a 2.5 UZR at 3B this season, which is clearly a far cry from Figgins’ sparkling 16.6 UZR last season. I wouldn’t be entirely shocked to see Figgins shift back to 3B in 2011, but that is 100% speculation on my part. It’s the move I’d make, though.
Figgins’ bat also seemed to forget to take the trip north with him, and unless his recent improvements continue he’ll finish with his first sub-.300 wOBA season since he became a full-time starter. A large part of Figgins’ struggles seem to be related to luck, with his BABIP dropping 53 points from last season, all the way to the .303 it’s currently sitting at. Even that .303 is an improvement over what he’s seen for most of this season, when his BABIP for three of the five months of baseball in 2010 have seen Figgins’ with numbers at .292 or below. Each of those months saw Chone with a vastly sub-par wOBA, ranging only between .283-.288. August, however, has been a bit of a resurgence for Figgins’ bat, his BABIP climbing to .378 and his wOBA jumping right along with it, to a season-high of .328. I think it’s pretty much a given that Figgins’ punchless bat is due almost entirely to bad luck, something much of the Mariners team seems to have suffered from this season, and I expected it to rebound in 2011.
In his time with the Angels, Figgins was a bit of an unsung hero. He was the single most valuable player on the team in 2009, outpacing even Kendry Morales by more than 1.5 WAR. The problem with that is, Morales had the HR and RBI, and that’s what people love. So, Figgins was quietly awesome last season, and far too few Angels fans even knew it. It’s interesting to me the way guys like David Eckstein are practically buried under the praise they get for being “gritty little guys,” but Eckstein has yet in his career to come close to the production Figgins was able to provide us. This is, I suppose, the sort of thing that the “stat geeks” get annoyed by the most, watching great players get much less attention for their ability and production than less talented, less productive players get, almost precisely because they’re less talented and less productive. I know he plays for our rivals now, but it will always be hard for me to root against Figgins succeeding.
There are few people that have worn an Angels uniform that I actively disliked. In fact, unlike many fellow fans I know that openly dislike people like K-Rod and John Lackey, the list of past and present Angels I truly didn’t like contains only one name: Gary Matthews Jr. A couple years back I made this image, using my rather pedestrian Photoshop skills, but I think it explains my feelings pretty clearly.
GMJ is, without question, the worst signing of Bill Stoneman’s tenure as Angels’ GM. In fact, eight months after sending him to the New York Mets in exchange for Brian Stokes, the Angels are still paying Matthews $10.5MM this season, along with another $11MM next season. When all is said and done, the Angels will end up paying $48.5MM for a .248/.325/.383 over 1416 PA in three seasons with the Angels. On top of that, GMJ added a -24.4 UZR in CF, -7.9 UZR in LF, and a -4.0 UZR in RF. In short, he sucked defensively. Add all this together, and the Angels ended up with a grand total of a -1.1 WAR in three seasons from GMJ. If you factor in the negative value he provided while on the team, the Angels ended up losing a total of $53.5MM in the deal. What a depressing thing to type.
As Matthews’ playing time evaporated on the Angels, he began to rumble a bit about wanting a trade, apparently thinking he could still be a productive player. In short, he was wrong. While only playing 36 games for the Mets this season, he posted a .233 wOBA in 65 PA, which was a new career low for him. He only started 10 games in the field for New York, making his UZR all but irrelevant in his time with them. The Mets, finally getting to see live the incompetence that is Gary Matthews Jr., released him almost five months to the day after acquiring him from the Angels. The Reds decided to pick him up, and in 23 games for their AAA affiliate he’s put up a .317/.361/.495 line. As good as that is, it’s not something I would remotely expect to carry over to the Majors, and I seriously doubt we see GMJ before September, if even then. Either way, the demise of Gary Matthews Jr. is clearly proceeding on schedule, and it’s hard to imagine anyone else giving him any significant amount of money once the Angels are done giving him a barge full or money in exchange for literally nothing.Player photos courtesy of YardBarker.com (Nate Proctor is the lead writer for Halo Hangout. You can stay up to date on all of Nate’s work by following him on Twitter, Facebook, or by way of the Halo Hangout RSS feed.)