Over the past few seasons, in an effort to keep pace with the Texas Rangers and the Oakland A’s, the Los Angeles Angels have thrown money at their holes in the lineup. They have signed such high profile names as Albert Pujols, Josh Hamilton and C.J. Wilson, not including the money they have spent acquiring relievers in an attempt to shore up a bullpen that has ranked amongst the worst in baseball over the past couple of years. Yet, aside from Wilson, few of those investments have actually worked out. The Angels roster is littered with question marks as the team heads to Spring Training.
Even with all those questions on the roster, General Manager Jerry DiPoto has not opened Arte Moreno’s vaults in an attempt to throw money at the problems. Perhaps this is due to a depleted minor league system that lacks any real elite talent, with the Angels top prospect, Taylor Lindsey, being compared to Todd Walker. While Walker was a solid player, he was no one’s idea of what a top prospect should project as.
This past offseason, Moreno’s acquisitions have been more about building depth than anything else. Raul Ibanez is likely to be the primary designated hitter, and cost under $3 Million. The Angels biggest acquisition, Joe Smith, is likely to serve as one of the primary setup men. Instead of the splashes made in free agency over the past few seasons, the Angels have merely been a ripple on the surface.
As such, it appears as though the 2014 season may be rough for the Angels, barring a dramatic return to form by Pujols and Hamilton, along with several players having much better than anticipated seasons. Yet, by taking a step back, the Angels may put themselves in better position for the future. The Angels would be able to reload their farm system, and may be able to fill their problems from within.
Much like the Yankees learned in the 1980′s through the mid 1990′s, the Angels may be realizing that simply signing the top free agents does not automatically translate to success. Of course, the Yankees needed to have George Steinbrenner be suspended for a couple of years for that lesson to sink in, but that may still apply here. DiPoto has stated that he wants to rebuild the farm system, and part of that philosophy has been to shy away from free agents attached to draft pick compensation.
It may take a few seasons for this change in philosophy to produce results. In between, the Angels may have to suffer through a losing stretch the likes of which they have not had to since Mike Scioscia took over. Yet, the Angels may well come out on the other side in far better shape than they had been for a long time.
Free agency is intended to be a way to supplement a roster, not a way to purchase a championship or a winning team. The Angels may well be learning that lesson.