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Angels Making News

Torii HunterI am not a fan of the Angels, but I cannot accuse them of resting on their laurels. Despite being a new GM taking over a team that had a very successful 2007 campaign, Tony Reagins has made a couple surprising moves that have re-shaped the Angels' roster. To start with, he traded away Gold Glove shortstop Orlando Cabrera (79) to the White Sox for starting pitcher Jon Garland (78). Cabrera was a key piece to the top of the Angels order, as well as the anchor of the infield defense, and in return the Angels received a decent number three starter, who will likely be the fourth starter on their strong staff. This is a great deal for the White Sox, but I probably would not have done it if I were in charge of the Angels. Garland's contract is bigger than Cabrera's, and I do not think he improves their staff much, since it was already strong. However, Maicer Izuris (79) could replace Cabrera surprisingly well if given the chance, so it is hardly a bad trade.

However, the Angels made a much bigger splash late Wednesday night when they signed Torii Hunter (81) to a 5-year, $90 million deal. This is the reported value, and if it is correct the deal is ludicrous. My pay projector had Hunter valued at $9.3 million per season in this market, which suggests a 5-year contract for him should have been worth a total of around $46.5 million. Admittedly, my ranking system does not account for defense, and Hunter's is spectacular, so paying more than my projection is well within reason. However, there is no way Hunter's defense is worth an extra $43.5 million. Torii Hunter ended up with a deal as big as Ichiro's, and I'll take Ichiro any day. This deal apparently fell into place after only about a day of negotiations, and I can see why. There's no way Torii Hunter is worth $18 million a year, and I am sure Torii (or at least his agent) knows that.

What makes the Hunter deal even more perplexing to me is that it does not improve the Angels very much. Hunter will be the new starting center fielder, and Garret Anderson (81), Vladimir Guerrero (91), and Gary Matthews Jr. (75) will slide around the corner outfield slots and DH. Without a doubt, Torii is a noticable upgrade over Matthews, both offensively and defensively, but where does Reggie Willits (79) fit in now? I cannot believe that the Angels are not in love with Willits. He slaps the ball all over the ballpark with virtually no power, and then steals bases at will. He is only 26 years old too, 6 years younger than Hunter. Reggie was almost as good of an offensive player as Torii last year; does it not seem plausible that he could be as good as Hunter this year, or maybe even better?

As a Mariners fan, it is unnerving watching the Angels sign one of the best free agents available to a massive contract, but really they are not that much better of a team today than they were a week ago. They clearly have a surplus of outfielders now, and given how aggressive Reagins has been in the offseason thus far, I doubt the Angels are done. I still think they have their eyes on Miguel Cabrera (88). With the addition of Hunter, Willits is expendable, and with the additon of Garland, guys like Joe Saunders (72) and Nick Adenhart (58/83) should be easier to part with as well. If I were the Angels, I would offer Erick Aybar, Reggie Willits, and Nick Adenhart to the Marlins for Miguel Cabrera and see what they would say. All of those guys are young, Aybar could immediately replace Cabrera, Willits could immediately fill their gaping hole in center field, and Adenhart is considered one of the brighter pitching prospects in the game (though I'm not quite as sold on him as most are). If that's not enough, I would switch in Maicer Izturis for Aybar, and would be willing to add Ervin Santana (67) if needed.

I really hope that my theoretical trade between the Angels and Marlins does not happen, because all of a sudden the Angels would be monsters. Their lineup would look something like this (at least if I put it together):
  1. Chone Figgins
  2. Howie Kendrick
  3. Vladimir Guerrero
  4. Miguel Cabrera
  5. Casey Kotchman
  6. Torii Hunter
  7. Garret Anderson
  8. Gary Matthews Jr.
  9. Mike Napoli
That would be one of the best lineups in baseball. There is good power, speed, and average throughout, with two superstars in the middle. It is not far-fetched that all of the top six in that lineup could be all-stars. If that was not enough, here is their starting staff:
  1. John Lackey
  2. Kelvim Escobar
  3. Jered Weaver
  4. Jon Garland
  5. Joe Saunders
Their bullpen would be awfully strong too, with Justin Speier, Scot Shields, and Francisco Rodriguez anchoring the final couple innings. All in all, the Angels are pretty good right now, but it is frightening how close they may be to domination. The theoretical trade with the Marlins is not outlandish, and it looks like Reagins has the guts and tenacity needed to make such a deal. For now, I think the Angels have spent a bunch of money unnecessarily for a marginal gain. But, they have set themselves up to make an epic deal that could catapult them to World Series favorite.