Springtime Storylines: Did the Angels lose too much blood this winter?

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Between now and Opening Day, HBT will take a look at each of the 30
teams, asking the key questions, the not-so-key questions, and generally
breaking down their chances for the 2010 season.  Next up: The Los Angeles Angels

big question: Did the Angels los
e too much blood this winter?

Chone Figgins is in Seattle. John Lackey is in Boston. Vlad Guerrero is in Texas. The first two of those are more critical than the last one because, sadly, Vlad ain’t what he used to be, but they’re still significant losses. They were the kind of losses that had the chattering classes, um, chattering back in December and January about how the Angels won’t make the playoffs this year.

Since then, however, people have gotten a bit of a grip.  Even with Figgins’ OBP gone, the offense is still strong.  There are a lot of players on this team who need to hit for a high average to be truly productive, but there are fluky BA-dependent guys and legitimate BA-dependent guys, and I really don’t see a lot of flukes on this team. I expect them to regress a bit offensively, but I don’t think they’ll fall drastically off the pace that had them second in runs per game in baseball last year.

Same goes for the pitching staff.  Lackey will certainly be missed, but (a)the addition of Joel Pinero takes a lot of that sting away; and (b) it’s an open question whether Lackey’s performance in Anaheim really justified the exalted status of ace he realized as he headed into the free agent market. Good pitcher, no question, but one who missed a decent amount of time. So no, there’s no ace here, but was there really one here before? Regardless, from top-to-bottom I think the Angels rotation will be very solid, health permitting, as it must permit all teams who want to contend.

So what else is going on?

  • Adding Fernando Rodney as a setup man provides some insurance for the frequently shaky Brian Fuentes in much the same way that adding kerosene to your siding provides added fire safety to your home.  OK, that’s harsh. Rodney had a good season last year. But he really got lucky. He’s too wild to depend on consistently and I think he’s going to have a much worse 2010 than a lot of people realize. Between the uncertainly of Fuentes and Rodney and the loss of Darren Oliver, I think the bullpen will be the team’s biggest weakness. And an expensive weakness at that.
  • Something more specific on the offense: Kendry Morales, Howie Kendrick, Erick Aybar and Brandon Wood are all at
    an age where we can expect improvement or, at the very least, the
    maintenance of a solid status quo. Bobby Abreu’s primary skill —
    working the count — ages well. I think Matsui still has a solid couple
    of seasons left in the tank. After writing that intro above I stopped to ask myself if I’m being too optimistic about the offense. I really don’t think I am. If you think differently, please tell me why.
  • Deep thought: this may be
    the most disrespected three-time defending champion in baseball history. Discuss.
  • Pfun Pfact: The Angels have outperformed their Pythagorean Win Projection each of the last six
    years. Good luck? Real Angels in the outfield?  Mike Scioscia the best manager in baseball these days?  I’ll admit, I don’t know, mostly because I’ve probably seen fewer Angels games these past few years than I have seen games for any other contender. Now that I’m actually writing for a living I’m going to be (a) staying up later; and (b) watching a lot more games, so that will remedied.  I’m really looking forward to it.

are they gonna do?

Sure, Figgins is gone, but Brandon Wood could be better than many
think.  The rotation is still very strong from top to bottom.  There’s
every reason to believe that Hideki Matsui will be better in 2010 than
Vald Guerrero was in 2009.  And perhaps most importantly, the Mariners
— everyone’s offseason darlings — put off more light than heat in
their offseason moves.  I think the Angels are gonna win their fourth straight division crown.

Prediction: First place, AL West.  And yeah, they’ll probably once again match up poorly with whatever AL East team they run into, but let’s put that out of our minds until at least September, OK?

Minor league home run king Mike Hessman retires

NEW YORK - JULY 29:  Mike Hessman #19 of the New York Mets bats against the St. Louis Cardinals on July 29, 2010 at Citi Field in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City. The Mets defeated the Cardinals 4-0.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images
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Baseball America’s J.J. Cooper reports that corner infielder Mike Hessman has retired from professional baseball after 20 seasons. Hessman hit 433 home runs in the minor leagues, an all-time record. He broke Buzz Arlett’s record this past August and with style as #433 was a grand slam.

Hessman, 37, was selected in the 16th round of the 1996 draft by the Braves and remained with the organization through the 2004 season. He then went to the Tigers from 2005-09, the Mets in 2010, then drifted into the Astros and Reds’ farm systems before returning to the Tigers for the last two years.

Hessman took 250 plate appearances at the major league level, batting .188/.272/.422 with 14 home runs and 33 RBI.

Marlins announcer Tommy Hutton was let go because he was “too negative”

marlins logo wide

We heard earlier this week that Marlins television analyst Tommy Hutton was let go after 19 seasons on the job. By all accounts, he’s well-liked and respected, so it smelled a little fishy with a team that has owner Jeffrey Loria calling the shots. Well, Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald was told by a source close to the Marlins that Hutton was let go because he was “too negative.”

Jackson was also able to get in touch with Hutton, who provided some details about how things went down.

“I know there were times I was negative, but I thought those times were called for,” he said. “Ninety percent of what I said was positive. I tried not to be a homer, but you could tell I wanted the Marlins to do well.”

After being told that his salary wasn’t a factor in the decision, Hutton suspected that his candid, blunt analysis might be the impetus for his ouster.

So after learning his fate on Monday, he asked that question – whether they thought he was too negative — to both a Fox producer (at a meeting at Starbucks) and the Marlins’ vice president/communications (by phone).

He said the question was met with silence by both executives.

“I couldn’t get a yes or a no,” he said.

Hutton said there were three incident in recent years where he was told the Marlins were uncomfortable with something he said. He disclosed one example where he was exasperated at the ballpark’s dimensions after former catcher John Buck flew out to the warning track for the final out of a game. He was told by a Marlins vice president after the game that Loria prefer he not talk about the ballpark’s dimensions. Of course, the team is moving in the fences this winter.

To be clear, Hutton said he was told it was a “mutual decision” between the Marlins and FOX to let him go, but Jackson’s source hears that the concern about his “negativity” came from the team.

Hey, do you know the best way to prevent “negative” talk about your team? Fielding a winning baseball team without a dysfunctional ownership and front office. Crazy idea, I know, but it could be cool?

Report: Indians have been in touch with Shane Victorino

LOS ANGELES, CA - AUGUST 01:  Shane Victorino #18 of the Los Angeles Angels makes a catch for an out against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Dodger Stadium on August 1, 2015 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

Outfield is a glaring need for the Indians, but they aren’t expected to shop for any of the big names on the free agent market. Instead, they are looking at potential bargains on short-term deals. Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer writes that Shane Victorino falls under this classification and that the veteran outfielder is among many names the Indians have contacted.

Victorino, who turns 35 on Monday, has been limited to just 101 games over the past two seasons due to injury. Coming off back surgery, he batted just .230/.308/.292 with one home run and seven RBI over 204 plate appearances this past season between the Red Sox and Angels while battling calf and hamstring injuries. It’s hard to see the upside at this point, but the Indians could promise him regular at-bats, especially with Michael Brantley likely to miss the start of the 2016 season following shoulder surgery.

The Indians have also reportedly discussed trading either Danny Salazar or Carlos Carrasco for a bat, which represents their best chance of adding a big name to their outfield this winter.

Korean slugger Byung-ho Park is reportedly traveling to Minnesota

Byung-ho Park

Could the Twins and Korean slugger Byung-ho Park be close to finalizing a contract?

According to Naver Sports (via a translated report from Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press), Park is scheduled to travel to the United States on Sunday. The 29-year-old is expected to make a quick stop in Chicago to meet with his agent, Alan Nero, before coming to Minnesota to see Twins officials and take a physical exam. If all goes well, a contract could be finalized as soon as next week.

The Twins bid $12.85 million last month to secure exclusive negotiating rights with Park. The deadline to complete a deal is December 8. If a deal is not worked out, Park would remain with the Nexen Heroes in the KBO (Korea Baseball Organization) and the Twins would not have to pay the posting fee.

Right now, it’s unclear how far along the two sides are in negotiations. However, Berardino hears that a guarantee in the range of $20-30 million is reasonable to expect.

Park, a two-time MVP in the KBO, has amassed 105 home runs in 268 games over the past two seasons. It’s hard to tell how those numbers will translate, even after the success of Jung Ho Kang this season, but the Twins are hoping he can be a middle-of-the-order force.