Happy Thanksgiving everybody and you know what that means; turkey, mashed potatoes, bread rolls, candied yams and Black Friday shopping. If Black Friday hasn’t earned its capitalization yet, chances are it will soon.Luckily, I will have to work, which means I won’t have to go shopping, which in turn means neener neener neener to any of you poor saps who will be stuck in mall parking lots or worse yet, will actually have to go shopping and eventually will be forced into defending your significant others honor when the last Tickle Me Elmo gets snagged from the shelf leaving you to challenge some burly character to a duel at dawn (I suggest pistols, swords can get dicey). You have my sympathies I assure you as well as my wishes for good luck. Just remember, “Aim small, miss small.” “Squeeze, Don’t pull.” Or my personal favorite, “Honey, I am too sick to go shopping. I would love to go, but you go have fun without me.”
Unfortunately, a holiday week is also code for “almost no baseball news week.” There has been some news. Chone Figgins finally got designated for assignment (We love you Figgy, please don’t come back). A couple of our top minor leaguers have expressed through different planes of media their eagerness to get out into the woods and take down Bambi. The Rule 5 Draft is coming up which some of our recent minor league signees will be exposed too (Even if we did add a few to the 40-man roster). And a couple of pitchers got signed this week. One you probably don’t care about, but his contract you should care about. The other, you should definitely care about because there is no such thing as a bad one-year deal, and that is exactly what he wanted. That’s a General Managers dream come true. Sorry Dipoto, but you whiffed on that one. So here you go Jerry, I’ve double and triple checked this Black Friday shopping list for you. I don’t expect you to come away with all of it, but at least feign like you are trying to maneuver your way into some of these guys’ living rooms. Even if it is just for a cup of tea and a discussion over the latest CIA scandal, get in there Jerry.
Bullpen should be at the top of this list, but underperforming guys with big contracts and a big trade last year subsequently torpedoed our starting rotation. Now we fans are staring at a lineup of pitchers that doesn’t actually fill out an entire five man rotation. Teh suck indeed.
Zack Greinke. Yes, he is still at the top of the list. Like it or not (Sorry Scott) he is the best pitcher on the market. Better than Anibal Sanchez, Better than Daisuke Matsuzaka (who, when on, is unstoppable), etcetera and so forth. But thanks to the Royals and their harebrained idea to sign Jeremy Guthrie to a three year $25MM deal (are you KIDDING me), Zack’s price just skyrocketed. Two people smiled the day that contract was signed, Guthrie, and Zack’s agent. If the Angels sign him will I love the deal? Probably not. Will I hate the deal? Not necessarily. He’s the best pitcher in a weak market that just got weaker. Awesome.
Now that we have gotten the obligatory “Zack Greinke for the Angels Rotation” paragraph out of the way, let’s do something crazy. Let’s talk about Joe Saunders. Yes, that Joe Saunders. We all know how his tenure ended with the Angels, and everyone hates his win-loss record, and his ERA. But I love that his WHIP has gone down since he was traded to Arizona. I love that his BB/9 has gone down since he was traded to Arizona. Saunders was never a big strikeout guy, but he is a smart pitcher kind of guy. I would absolutely take him on a one year deal with an option for 2014. I’d throw a price tag out there, but the Royals were this year’s Nationals and blew the market all to hell. Thanks again Kansas City.
Snap back to reality, Dan Haren is still a name that is not tied to, well, anyone actually. The Angels know his medical history best, and subsequently, would know how to best utilize him within the rotation. For all of his struggles last year (Including my wondering whether or not he was heading into decline), his peripherals were almost right in line with his career norms. Thank you to facing Seattle three times down the stretch? Possibly. But he still ended the season with a 3.74 K/BB and had a WHIP that was only 0.090 higher than his career average. All Dan did wrong last year was go from being an elite starting pitcher, to a good starting pitcher. Not a bad option to have in the three or four spot in the rotation. Just sayin’.
After that, the starting pitcher market is a total mess with guys like Francisco Liriano, Carlos Zambrano and
Fausto Carmona Roberto Hernandez being the big names. And just because our rotation took a hit, doesn’t diminish how much more important it is to tweak up the bullpen. The back end is fine. Ernesto Frieri is not to be blamed for the bullpens failures. Kevin Jepsen might possibly have become the pitcher we have been waiting for him to become. Or he is just playing a trick on us again. Scott Downs has one more year on his deal, and despite a bad month this past season, was once again a solid cog in the pen.
It’s the middle relief that needs fixed. We have some options on the farm in the new newly acquired Brandon Sisk and Mitch Stetter. We have Michael Kohn coming back from TJS. And of course, the curious case of Jordan Walden. But what about, oh I don’t know, going out and taking a good long look at Jamie Moyer for a middle relief spot? He got lit up like a pinball machine last year while pitching for the Rockies. But that’s Colorado; it’s almost to be expected. And he is not too far removed from posting a 1.101 WHIP in 19 starts for the Phillies. If Moyer still wants to play in professional baseball, he might as well walk around with a sign that says “LOOGY for hire.” And for that spot, I’d hire him.
My new favorite lefty on the market however is Sean Burnett. Burnett last year held lefties to a .211/.245/.289 slash line. He walked 12 batters total and only one of them was a lefty. Against righties he is very pedestrian, but I’m not looking at him for his work against the righties, I’m looking at him for his dominance against lefties.
For the flipside of the platoon reliever coin, Mark Lowe, come on down. Lowe was very meh against left handers in 2012, but he held righties to a .240/.330/.333 slasher flick line. He kept the ball in the ball park, in Texas. He also did this really crazy thing where he struck out twice as many guys as he walked. Crazy right?
With Jason Isringhausen and Latroy Hawkins both departing in free agency (good riddance), two spots in the pen have opened up. They can either fill those spots up with career minor leaguers who have been not very impressive in the brief major league stints (Sisk, Stetter). They can go with what they had already in guys like Walden or Kohn and continue to lean heavily to the right hand side. Or, they can dive into the market and beef up those middle innings that absolutely killed us last year. Our lineup is fine. Our starting rotation needs one piece. Probably just a starter to slide into the three or four spot with “Bone Spur-Gate” being the culprit behind C.J. Wilson’s utter collapse down the stretch. But, if Jerry Dipoto can pick up two specialty guys who have the ability to work multiple innings and have had some success at the big league level, it is my opinion that he will have done us all a great service. And regardless of how many fat wads of cash he was throwing around last winter trying to buy Arte a championship, two simple, indiscreet signings (much like the ones I suggested above) could be the difference in 2013. Hell, they could have been the difference last year.