The Angels took an unexpected approach to breaking that pattern of regular-season success and postseason disappointment; they spent most of the offseason watching key players leave by free agency while adding only one significant part (LHP Brian Fuentes). OF Bobby Abreu also was added on the eve of spring training.
In-Coming: LHP Brian Fuentes (free agent from Rockies), OF Bobby Abreu (free agent from Yankees).
Out-Going: RHP Francisco Rodriguez (free agent, signed with Mets), RHP Jon Garland (free agent, signed with Diamondbacks), 1B Mark Teixeira (free agent, signed with Yankees), OF Garret Anderson (free agent, signed with Braves).
SPRING FOCUS: Replacing the offense lost with the departures of Teixeira and Anderson will be key. But the Angels will also audition several young pitchers to replace Garland as the fifth starter.
Once again, the strength of the Angels will be their pitching staff, led by a homegrown rotation. However, the elbow injury suffered by RHP Ervin Santana and RHP Kelvim Escobar's rehab from shoulder surgery have opened up two spots, and at this point Moseley and Adenhart are the favorites. Saunders will be looking to follow up on his breakout seasons in 2008, while Lackey will be pitching for a new contract and could be one of the most highly coveted free agents on next winter's market.
Rather than replace record-setting closer Francisco Rodriguez with one of their setup men, the Angels opted to sign Fuentes as a free agent. The move allows Shields and Arredondo to stay in their roles (though Arredondo has the look of a future closer) and deepens the Angels' bullpen.
The Angels finished 10th in the American League in runs scored last season and finished with the lowest run differential (plus-68) for any 100-win team in history. They hope Abreu can offset some of the production Mark Teixeira and Garret Anderson provided, and they will be relying on the further development of young players Kendrick, Aybar and Napoli and the emergence of Morales and, possibly, 3B Brandon Wood. Wood will get a chance in the spring to win the third base job, pushing Figgins into the left field mix or into a roving utility role. After the worst two-month start in his career last year, the Angels are looking for Guerrero to rebound with a healthier knee and the motivation of playing in the final year of his contract.
The Angels figure to alternate at two positions again this year - shortstop and catcher. The time-share arrangement at shortstop proved necessary last season as neither Erick Aybar nor Izturis could avoid the injury bug for the second consecutive season. With Kendrick also prone to hamstring pulls, Rodriguez could be an important reserve. At catcher, Mathis has proved to be the more dynamic defender. But Napoli's pop (20 home runs in only 227 at-bats) will be impossible for an offense-starved Angels team to ignore.
TOP ROOKIES: The organization's Minor League Pitcher of the Year in 2008, RHP Anthony Ortega has risen quickly on the Angels' organizational depth chart (9-7 at Class AA last season plus 5-0 with a 2.52 ERA in six starts at Class AAA). He will be in the competition for the fifth starter's spot. RHP Nick Adenhart (a disappointing 9-13, 5.76 ERA at Class AAA last year) also will be in the mix.
-- RHP Ervin Santana (sprained elbow ligament) will not start the season on time and could be out until May.
-- LHP Brian Fuentes (back spasms) decided not to join Team USA for the World Baseball Classic. Instead, he is rehabbing at the Angels' camp.
-- OF Vladimir Guerrero (knee surgery) is expected to be at full strength by the start of the regular season.
-- OF Gary Matthews Jr. (knee surgery) is expected to miss the first month of the season while recovering from surgery to repair a torn patellar tendon.
-- C Mike Napoli (shoulder surgery) had minor arthroscopic surgery on his throwing shoulder, which is not expected to affect his readiness for the 2009 season.
-- INF Maicer Izturis (thumb surgery) returned from August surgery to play during the winter ball season in his native Venezuela.
-- RHP Kelvim Escobar (strained calf) had to limit his activity early in spring training, but it was not considered serious. He was making good progress toward a return.
RHP Jose Arredondo (strained left hip flexor) pulled out of the World Baseball Classic because of the injury, which wasn't considered serious.