Judging the mob of angry Angel fans that seem ready to mobilize after yesterday’s events, it looks like it is going to be a rough Christmas at the Reagins house. After losing out on John Lackey, Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee all within the space of two hours, the ire of Angel fans is being squarely focused on Tony Reagins. It is only natural for to want to blame somebody for those failing but the truth of the matter is that it really isn’t his fault.
Most people want to punch this face right now, but that is just misplaced aggression. Punch John “Benedit Arnold” Lackey instead.
As the top decision maker in the Angel front office, it is easy to point the finger at Tony Reagins. What isn’t easy for people to understand is that just because Reagins calls all the shots with the Angels doesn’t mean he can just make the rest of the league bend to his will. Reagins bent over backwards to try and land Roy Halladay but it just wasn’t meant to be. The Angels didn’t have the prospects to get the job done back at the trade deadline in July and they still didn’t when the Halladay talks reopened in the winter. The Halo farm system has been thinned out over the years and Reagins has done well to rebuild the organizational depth, but what they still lack are blue chip prospects. Though the prospects in the Halladay-Lee three-way deal are still being ironed out, the names being bandied about (Kyle Drabek, Michael Taylor, Dominic Brown, J.A. Happ, Tyler d’Arnaud, Phillipe Aumont) put the Angels’ package to shame. It isn’t like Reagins was being stingy with his prospects in trade talks, he was pretty much offering up the best the system had to offer, they just weren’t good enough even if he did relent and include Erick Aybar in the deal (which he allegedly did according to many rumors). At worst, Reagins is at fault here for letting the farm system become so shallow, but that is what happens when he does what the fans wanted in previous off-season and trading prospects for established veterans and giving up high draft choices to sign big ticket free agents.
What really seems to chap everyone’s ass about losing out on Roy Halladay though is that the Angels also failed at securing their Plan B, John Lackey. It is somehow Reagins’ fault that Boston opted to overpay for Big John’s services and now the Halos have to suffer the embarrassment of losing their top pitcher and former World Series hero to one of their most hated rivals. Clearly it would have been a better option for Reagins to break the payroll structure that was instituted upon him so he could fork over $18 million each of the next five years to a 31-year old number two pitcher who has missed time each of the last two seasons with arm problems. Yup, that sounds like a great reason to be fiscally irresponsible.
Look, losing out on Lackey and Halladay clearly was not part of the Tony Reagins’ optimal off-season plans, but it wasn’t for a lack of trying. What is important now isn’t ripping him a new bunghole just because everyone is disappointed, what’s important is figuring out where to go from here and that burden is very much Reagins’ shoulders. If he reacts like most Angel fans and freaks out and demands panicky roster changes then he deserves the criticism, but if he continues to show the same level of intelligence and restraint the Angels will be just fine.
Quit smiling, jerkwad, everyone hates you now.
That tact of making sensible, non-hasty moves certainly doesn’t involve trading for Derek Lowe like so many people seem to want. The Angels didn’t restrain themselves on contract offers to John Lackey so that they could get stuck with the horrible contract ($45 million over three years) of a 36-year old middle-of-the-rotation starter coming off one of the worst years of his career, not to mention giving up actual trade assets for the privilege of getting stuck with that onerous contract. What makes real sense is taking measured gambles on pitchers like Ben Sheets or Erik Bedard, pitchers who would require only modest one-year commitments as they attempt to prove that they are healthy and capable of pitching like frontline starters once again. Better yet, Reagins could use this as an opportunity to invest in the team’s future by investing in Aroldis Chapman who has all the making of an ace in the very near future (possibly even next year). These moves can accomplish the one thing Reagins has been trying to do all along: improve the team for next year and improving their chance to remain competitive in the future. If that is something Angel fans have a problem with, then that’s just too damn bad.