Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
The Los Angeles Angels have seen better days. Unfortunately, it doesn’t look promising that things are going to get any better either. This was supposed to be the good years. The years when Albert Pujols was still effective, the years before Josh Hamilton started to break down with age, the career peaks of Weaver, Aybar, Kendrick and Trumbo.
So far, the experiment has failed. Injuries, poor pitching and under performance has plagued the Angels in 2013. Is there hope that they can turn around? There is, but barely. And this isn’t the post for it. Instead, this is the post that showcases why future years don’t look much better than now. Here are some reasons why the Angels are probably going to be absent from October baseball for quite some time.
1. Long-term Contracts
Jerry Dipoto must have really liked what he had in the 2013 Los Angeles Angels. After all, every player on the Angels 2013 opening day starting lineup is signed or under team control through 2016 with the exception of Alberto Callaspo (2015). So far, this lineup has not proven to be a winning formula. But Angels fans better get used to it because it looks like its going to be around for awhile. Here’s how long the pitching staff and the 2013 opening day lineup are signed through/under team control:
C – Chris Iannetta (2016)
1B – Albert Pujols (2022) *full no-trade clause
2B – Howie Kendrick (2016) *limited no trade clause
SS – Erick Aybar (2017)
3B – Alberto Callaspo (2015)
LF – Mike Trout (2018)
CF – Peter Bourjos (2017)
RF – Josh Hamilton (2018)
DH – Mark Trumbo (2017)
On top of that the Angels already have over $106 million dollars committed to just five players in 2016. That, of course, does not include arbitration years for players under team control.
What does that mean? That unless Arte is willing to continually open up his wallet and increase payroll, the Angels will have even less financial flexibility to sign big name free agents in the off-season or to offer extensions to players like Mike Trout or Mark Trumbo.
As mentioned above, the Angels already have $106 million dollars committed to just five players in the year 2016. Let’s take a look at what their ages will be then.
Josh Hamilton: 35
Jered Weaver: 33
Albert Pujols: 36
C.J. Wilson: 35
Erick Aybar 32
There’s been a lot of studies on the aging curve of players in regards to when they peak and when they start to decline. The general consensus is that most players tend to peak around age 26 to about age 30. Clearly, there are exceptions. That being said, no one would agree that it’s a good idea to have $106 million invested in five players over the age of 32.
The safe bet is that none of the above players will be better than they are now. And most certainly will not be as good in 2015 or 2016. The safe bet is also that all these players are slowly, gradually getting worse. Clearly, the Angels are not into safe bets, though.
3. Thin Farm System
This almost doesn’t need an explanation. The Angels farm system is thin. Very, very thin. Big off-season signings and late-season trades over the past years have left the farm system one of the worst in baseball. This will be the second year in a row the Angels go without a first-round pick (thank the Josh Hamilton signing for that). Baseball Prospectus and Baseball America both rate the Angels farm system last in all of Major League Baseball. It’s bad people, real bad.
And it can take years to change it. Until then the Angels will be forced to look outside the organization for help and in doing so, risk signing yet another free agent that will leave them without a first-round draft pick yet again. The only thing that could help the farm system more quickly would be to trade off a number of players for prospects.
4. The Constant Contender
Even when the odds of making the playoffs have seemed slim at the trade deadline in past years, the Angels refuse to become sellers. Instead, the front office has remained in “constant contender mode.” regardless of their 2013 season results, this approach seems likely to continue. A terrible win-loss record is one thing but once you start trading big name players, you’ve raised the white flag and the fans stop coming to the ballpark. Even in a lousy season, there are reasons to come the games when big name players are on your roster. Weaver can still throw a gem, Trout can still make a spectacular catch and Pujols or Trumbo can still hit a monster home run. When those players are traded, then the reasons to attend a game become few and far between. Look at the Marlins and the Astros attendance as an example.
Arte Moreno wants a championship and if the past years are any indication, he’ll continue to roll the dice at the expense of the farm system and future seasons for a ring. Angels fans can only hope that one of these gambles pays off and very soon because the future doesn’t look bright.