In order for the Angels to compete in the improved American League West, they are going to need several things to happen. Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton will need to perform at a level similar to how they played prior to coming to Los Angeles. The bullpen, and Ernesto Frieri in particular, will need to perform at a much higher level. And someone will need to step up behind Jered Weaver and C.J. Wilson and become a reliable option in the rotation.
As it stands, the Angels are going into the 2014 season with Garrett Richards, Hector Santiago and Tyler Skaggs likely to fill out the rotation. Of those three, Santiago has had the most major league success. Skaggs and Richards are both expected to become solid starting pitchers, but neither has gotten to that point yet. Should either not be ready, the backup plan presently is Joe Blanton, who was atrocious last year.
With the Angels presently stuck in the no-man’s land of not being one of the ten worst teams, yet not quite being good enough to contend for a playoff berth, it might make sense for Jerry DiPoto to look for ways to upgrade the roster. Unfortunately, at this point in free agency, there really are not any difference makers left. That is, aside from former Angel Ervin Santana.
While Angels fans know full well that Santana is a roller coaster ride, having three seasons with an ERA over 5.00 in his last seven years, he could well be an upgrade over what is presently filling out the rotation. If Santana is able to provide another solid season, pairing him with Wilson and Weaver may be enough to bring the Angels back to the playoffs, especially if Hamilton and Pujols are healthy.
The biggest problem, and likewise the reason why he is probably still on the market, is that Ervin Santana is tied to draft pick compensation, having received a qualifying offer from the Kansas City Royals. The Angels, stuck between the playoffs and being one of the worst teams in baseball, would have to forfeit their first round pick if they were to sign him. Since DiPoto has made it clear that restocking the Angels farm system is a priority, the cost of a first round pick may be too much.
However, the Angels need to pick a direction to head in. If they are still looking to compete, then forfeiting that first round pick for the pitching upgrade that is Ervin Santana may well be worth it. Add in his decreased demands, and Santana could actually be a bargain in free agency at this point. If not, the Angels could look to trade players for prospects at the deadline.
Ervin Santana could certainly help the Angels this season. They just need to determine which direction they want to head in.