It was a tough season for Tony Reagins and the Angels, but before we cast too much blame on the Angels’ GM, let’s take a look back and see what he actually did right and wrong in the last year.
Don’t smile just yet, Tony.
- Signing Bobby Abreu to an extension: Tony’s first move after the 2009 season was generally regarded as a smart move. Bobby was coming off a fine season and was being lauded for the way he helped transform the Angel offense. The two-year, $19 million deal he signed was considered fair and reasonable at the time, but a down season from Abreu led to speculation that his salary might be dumped during the off-season. A year later, the move doesn’t look very smart, but a bounceback 2011 season from Abreu (a real possibility since some metrics suggest he was very unlucky in 2010) could tip the scales back in Tony’s favor.
- Replacing Vlad Guerrero with Hideki Matsui: At first blush, this seems like a colossal boner for Reagins, but I disagree. Yes, Vlad was an All-Star for Texas and helped them reach the ALCS (and maybe more), while Matsui was productive but inconsistent. However, considering that Guerrero looked pretty washed up and brittle by the end of 2009 while Matsui was winning the World Series MVP, it is hard to blame Reagins for this move. Besides, if you adjust for park factors, Matsui was nearly as productive as Vlad this season. Toss in all the added revenue Matsui’s Japanese following made for the Angels and the Halos probably came out ahead here.
- Not re-signing Darren Oliver: This one doesn’t get a lot of attention, but it really was one of the Angels’ biggest blunders of the last off-season. Oliver was indispensable for the Halos in 2009 and performed just as well for Texas this season. Meanwhile, the Angels bullpen fell flat on its face to start the season, clearly missing their veteran linchpin and lone middle relief lefty.
- Signing Fernando Rodney: What makes the Oliver non-signing even more brutal is that the money used in not signing Oliver was spent instead (plus a few million more) on Fernando Rodney. Reagins appeared to have been fooled by Rodney’s save totals in 2009 and awarded Fraudney with two-year, $11 million pact that they already regret. Rodney started strong but practically burst into flames at the end of the season. Sadly his salary still puts him prime position to still be closer next season if the Angels don’t make another signing to try and cover up this mistake.
- Not re-signing Chone Figgins: Talk about a mixed bag. Figgy was gawd awful for Seattle this season and they still owe him a ton of money, so you would think that the Angels dodged a bullet here. However, Figgins was replaced at third by Brandon Wood, and we all know how well that worked out. Furthermore, the Angels were never able to find a reliable replacement for Chone at the top of the order. The financial savings still make Tony look good here, but given the fallout effect, I wouldn’t be bragging about this decision.
- Not re-signing John Lackey: Now this decision is worth bragging about. Lackey spurned the Angels’ extension offer before 2009 and wound up getting a substantially better offer from the Red Sox. The Halos made no real effort to convince Big John to return, signaling that they knew what was in store for him. Sure enough, Lackey continued his slow decline, but did so in Boston (where he is quickly becoming maligned) rather than in Anaheim. Reagins ended up saving a boatload of cash here that would have precluded him from making the trade for Dan Haren in July, so he gets high marks across the board on this one.
- Signing Joel Pineiro: I admit it, I wasn’t a big fan of this signing at first. The contract was very reasonable, but I felt that Pineiro was going to prove to be a fluke. Turns out Tony Reagins is smarter than I am. Pineiro proved to be a real bargain for the Angels up until he strained his oblique, but that injury wasn’t enough to make the deal look bad and he now is shaping up to be one of the better fourth starters in all of baseball.
- Trading Gary Matthews for Brian Stokes: Does it really matter? Reagins did what he could to erase one of the biggest mistakes the Angels ever made and managed to save a tiny bit of money in the process. Stokes turned out to be a total bust, but nobody honestly expected anything out of him anyway, so Reagins really shouldn’t get any discredit for that.
- Re-signing Robb Quinlan: A tiny, inconsequential move, but one that exemplifies a larger problem Reagins had this last year. It became fairly evident in 2010 that the Angels weren’t nearly as deep as they thought they were. The Angels knew that they needed bench help coming into the season, but they expected that help to come from within and made no moves to make sure they had a back-up plan in case the in-house options failed (and failed the did). Quinlan, who hadn’t been any good for years, was the closest thing they came to that, which is pretty pathetic. Sadly, this is the beginning of a trend.
- Calling up Michael Ryan from the minors: Much like the failure with Q, Reagins first attempted to address the bench issue by calling up the journeyman Ryan to lend a hand. Despite a strong spring training performance, Ryan didn’t do much of anything in the majors and was replaced on the roster within weeks, just not by anybody proven
- Picked up Kevin Frandsen off waivers: Reagins didn’t totally screw up the depth thing, as he did pluck Frandsen off of waivers to help the team out. Frandsen had a few good weeks for the Halos, helping fill the third base void for a bit, though he eventually proved to be too limited to continue playing on an almost daily basis. Nonetheless, Tony deserves some props for snagging a useful bench player for free.
- Not trading for a replacement for Kendry Morales after he got hurt: This is where the depth issue really became a problem. Reagins should have known better by now than to think that they might actually be able replace Morales from within. They tried literally every in-house option at their disposal, but to no avail. Had Tony acted quickly and snagged a real replacement via trade, there is no telling how the Angels’ season could have gone.
- Calling up Paul McAnulty and Cory Aldridge: OK, seriously, this isn’t funny anymore. McAnulty was somehow considered a viable option despite the fact that he was obviously nothing more than a fat tub of lard. Paul struck out in a vast majority of his at-bats, but still stole a handful of starts. Even after these two clowns flamed out, Reagins still didn’t make a real move to fill the hole at first.
- Trading Sean O’Sullivan and Will Smith for Alberto Callaspo: FINALLY, some action. Reagins at long last jumps into the trade market, but he does so at a time where the Angels’ post-season aspirations are hanging on by a thread. Callaspo gave the Angels a full-time starter at third, a major need, but his bat was thoroughly disappointing and did nothing to help breath life into the limp Angel offense. Reagins showed some real savvy though by not trading for a rental, but rather a guy who still is under team control for three-plus years. The cost of O’Sullivan and Smith, especially Smith, seemed a little steep at the time and seems even steeper now given Callaspo’s struggles, but there is still time to redeem the value. However, the move has now created a roster logjam of light-hitting infielders that the Halos are probably going to have to thin out this summer, so we almost have to reserve judgment on this trade until the final dominoes fall this winter.
- Acquiring Dan Haren for Joe Saunders, Rafael Rodriguez, Patrick Corbin and Tyler Skaggs: Despite a few ill-informed attempts to bash this trade, I don’t see how anyone can consider this deal anything but a stroke of genius for Reagins. In Haren, he acquires an ace-caliber pitcher (that he had coveted for years) with years left on his contract in exchange for an overrated veteran with no upside who is due for a raise in arbitration, a mediocre relief prospect and two high-potential, but low-level pitching prospects. In other words, Tony the Trader robbed Arizona blind. Skaggs could turn out to be something special for Arizona, but he is so far from the majors that it was a risk worth taking, especially given how imposing a rotation duo Weaver and Haren could be.
- Making a failed trade for Derrek Lee: Thought this one would slip under the radar, eh, Tony? Yes, that’s right, late in July the Halos actually had a trade lined up to bring Derrek Lee to Anaheim before Lee vetoed it himself with his no-trade rights. Had this trade happened in May or June, I would have had no problem with it. But by late-July, the damage had already been done and adding Lee would have been too little too late. The Angels wouldn’t have given up much in a trade, but whatever it was, it would have been too much. Tony should consider himself lucky that Lee’s personal issue prevented him from accepting this trade.
- Trading Brian Fuentes to the Twins for Loek Van Mil: Reagins was definitely smart here to finally admit defeat and sell off some veteran free agents-to-be. Fuentes was a great candidate to jettison and by moving him in August, we all got to see what a disaster Fernando Rodney was as a closer, something that may not have happened had the Halos held onto Tito. My only gripe here is that Reagins should have raised the white flag sooner and dealt Brian before the deadline and possibly bringing back a better prospect than Van Mil, who seems like a longshot to be a quality major leaguer.
- Calling Peter Bourjos up from the minors: So begins the youngster brigade. Bourjos was red hot in the minors, so calling him up to try and spark the Angels in their futile attempt to chase down the Rangers seemed pretty smart. While Peter never clicked offensively, he showed what his defense could do and seems locked in as the starting center fielder for next season, saving Reagins from one more tough decision this winter. Bourjos’ arrival also helped remind the Angel coaching staff and front office just how important defense really is, something they had somehow forgotten about.
- Calling Jordan Walden up from the minors: A bold move from Reagins since Walden had barely logged any time above Triple-A. However, Walden was more than up to the task of jumping to the majors, using his prolific heater to blow away the competition. Walden led a group of rookie relievers that helped plug up a leaky Angel bullpen and maybe even turned it into a strength of the team by the end of the season. Jordan has all the makings of a future closer, but at a minimum, Reagins knows that he has one more quality reliever on the roster, shortening his off-season shopping list by one item.
- Calling Hank Conger up from the minors: The Angels could easily have chosen not to call up Conger, but opting to do so was smart. The Miff Matholi catcher tandem seems destined to be broken up this winter, so getting a preview of what Conger could do was rather important if only because it gave the team a headstart on the evaluation process.
- Finally calling Mark Trumbo up from the minors: Trumbo destroyed the Pacific Coast League this season, piling up big power numbers. Did I mention he is a first baseman? Hmmm, seems to me like the Angels could’ve used one of those back when Morales down. Personally, I think Trumbo isn’t going to be a quality big league hitter, but the Angels never really gave themselves a chance to find out. Trumbo didn’t get promoted to the majors until September, and then he barely played once he arrived. If Trumbo breaks through to the bigs in 2011 and looks good, Reagins is going to look dumb. If he makes the jump but falls on his face (for another team after he gets traded), then Reagins looks smart. Only time will tell on this one, but the true measure of this move might be based on what Reagins is able to trade Trumbo for (since that appears to be Trumbo’s likely fate with the Angels).
All in all, it is a decidedly mixed bag of moves for Reagins. The quantity of questionable moves outnumbers the smart moves, but the Haren trade was so good that the overall quality of smart moves arguably makes up for the mistakes. One thing is certain though, Reagins needs to enter this coming off-season with a much more realistic and comprehensive grasp on his team’s true strengths and weaknesses. Tony simply overestimated the roster last year and if he makes that same mistake again this season, the Angels could take years to recover.