01/25/10 5:30 PM EST
Inbox: Assessing the offseason so far
Beat reporter Lyle Spencer answers Halos fans' questions
By Lyle Spencer / MLB.com
-- Jeremy O., Riverside, Calif. Now that the dust has settled, yes, I think the front office accomplished what it set out to do. The Angels remain a contender, one of the Majors' most talented clubs, and they didn't have to empty the vault (and raise ticket and concession prices significantly) to get there. With the addition of a solid starter in Joel Pineiro -- at two years and $16 million costing $66.2 million across three years less than what Boston paid for John Lackey -- the Angels have assembled a deep a talented rotation, with only Pineiro older than 30. The bullpen also is deep with the return of Scot Shields and additions of Fernando Rodney and Brian Stokes. There is depth everywhere on the field, with power, speed and quality defense. The offense loses some juice with the departure of Chone Figgins to Seattle, but Brandon Wood's intriguing potential and Maicer Izturis' proven range of talents ease the blow. Waiting in the wings is Freddy Sandoval, a quality hitter from the left side. Hideki Matsui should produce numbers comparable to those of Vladimir Guerrero in Texas. While Pineiro might not be on Lackey's level, he's not far off if he's healthy. Pineiro will love throwing ground balls with this acrobatic infield behind him. Now that the Angels got Pineiro and traded Gary Matthews Jr. to the Mets for reliever Brian Stokes, are they done for the offseason?
-- Aaron S., Ogden, Utah
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They appear to have stretched the salary budget to its limit, and their roster is deep and talented. So I'd be surprised if they do anything else now. With Matthews' departure to New York, where I think he'll flourish in center field if given a fair shot, a spot has popped open for the versatile Reggie Willits or the talented Terry Evans. That will be one of several interesting developments to follow this spring, along with competition and positioning in a loaded bullpen.What's up with Scot Shields? Is he coming back? Is he going to be a middle reliever? What are the Angels doing with him? Why no mention of him in pitching scenarios?
-- Frank C., Costa Mesa, Calif. I mention Shields at every opportunity, but you must have skipped over those sentences. He's expected to come back from knee surgery and be a force at the back end of the bullpen, as always. Manager Mike Scioscia has a number of viable options from the seventh through the ninth innings, and Shields is one of them. Taking into consideration Bobby Abreu's high on-base percentage, will he take the leadoff spot or will Erick Aybar still be expected to take the role?
-- Richard M., Los Angeles Abreu will hit second or third, where his run-producing ability comes into play. This is a guy with seven consecutive 100-plus-RBI seasons. Aybar and Maicer Izturis figure to share the leadoff spot. Both should benefit from another season in the company of Abreu, a master of plate discipline. Do you think the Angels can get a better third baseman then Brandon Wood?
-- Connor D., Coronado, Calif. I think Wood deserves half of a season of steady work to prove he can handle the job. If he settles in, finds his stroke and plays with confidence, Wood will become a big fan favorite at Angel Stadium. His power is stunning. I know he hasn't shown yet he can hit, but guess who batted .196 with a .326 on-base percentage in 367 at-bats in his first full seasons as a big league third baseman? Mike Schmidt, arguably the best ever at the position. Patience is a virtue, Connor, not some tired expression thrown out by old guys like me. Why did the Angels sign Matsui and not Jason Bay?
-- Michael W., Los Angeles By signing Matsui for $6 million and not Bay -- who got $66 million for four years from the Mets with a $17 million option and $3 million buyout for 2014 -- the Angels could afford to also land Pineiro. Bay is the big bat everyone seems to long for, but I'd take Matsui and Pineiro over Bay any day. Kelvim Escobar signed a $1.5 million deal to be a reliever for the Mets. I always felt that Escobar should have done short relief recovering from his labrum surgery. I know the Angels signed Rodney, but I feel that Escobar could use the versatility of his five pitches to go two or three innings, like Matt Palmer. Do you know why Angels didn't give Escobar a shot?
-- Vijay R., Scottsdale, Ariz. Having nursed Escobar through two seasons of shoulder issues, the Angels know his condition and situation better than anybody. They plainly reached the conclusion that they were better off looking in another direction. Kelvim is a wonderful pitcher when he's healthy, but nobody knows if he'll be able to sustain a workload even if he does come back. If he can, the Mets have struck a great deal. Any chance that the Angels would include Mike Napoli in a trade? He has lost the daily DH possibility with Matsui arriving, and his catcher's ERA is second to Jeff Mathis. Napoli deserves to play every day, and with a club where his talents can flourish.
-- Dwayne N., Bellflower, Calif. It clearly is Scioscia's intention to use Napoli and Mathis as he has the past three seasons, basically sharing the load. Nobody knows better than Scioscia how vulnerable catchers are to a wide range of injuries and ailments, and that it is always wise to have several quality receivers. My question involves Bobby Wilson, who is out of Minor League options. Can the Angels afford to carry three catchers if Napoli spends some time at first and in the DH role? That remains to be seen. If not, Wilson will end up with a Major League club somewhere, because he's a big league talent. I noticed beer pricing went up last season, the Angels lost two great players, and to some degree, are picking up the Yankees' crumbs. Are the Angels in trouble financially?
-- Randy G., Duarte, Calif. You have incredibly extravagant tastes if "Yankees' crumbs" is how you regard Matsui, a World Series MVP and one of the most respected left-handed hitters in the game. True, the Angels didn't invest multi-millions in big names. Had they done that, the price of beer and everything else would have gone through the roof. I've heard nothing suggesting the club is in financial trouble. The idea is to be fiscally responsible, it appears to me. We'll have to wait and see how successful the plan is, but I like what I see. Will the Angels go after any big names next winter?
-- Austin B., Irvine, Calif. It's going to be a potentially loaded free-agent class, but let's all catch our collective breath and let at least part of the season play out before we start thinking about 2011.