Last night, shit got real in the Hot Stove League and the AL West when the Texas Rangers and Detroit Tigers pulled off a "bloickbuster" swap of Ian Kinsler and Prince Fielder, seemingly out of thin air. Not only was it the first big move of the offseason, but it might well be the biggest move of the offseason and the Angels weren't involved at all. But an AL West foe was, something the Arte Moreno might have to get used to this winter, something that might present a multi-fronted problem for the Angels.
The most obvious problem here is that the AL West just got better. The Rangers were already a pretty good team, but they just solved one of their biggest problems by bringing Fielder in to give their team a big bat in the middle of the lineup. Sure, he is coming off a down season and it might very well turn out that the drop off from Kinsler to Profar at second base offsets a lot of the gain from bringing in Fielder, but on paper at least, the Rangers are better, more balanced team.
But that may not be the last blockbuster we see from the AL West in the coming weeks. There has been plenty of speculation that the Seattle Mariners are going to throw a lot of cash around this winter in an attempt to lure at least one legitimate high quality hitter. Such additions, if done properly, could propel Seattle into contention in the crowded AL West. Even if it doesn't they figure to be more competitive… assuming they don't strike out on all the big free agents again and settle for James Loney and Delmon Young like they settled for Mike Morse and Kendrys Morales when they tried this same plan last winter.
What's more is that there is even rumors that the Astros might spend a bit of money this offseason to bring in some reliable veteran talent for their youngsters to learn from. There is no way the Astros will be a winning team, but they could at least get to a point that they aren't pushover (and the Angels really had a hard time pushing them over as it was last season).
And we haven't even mentioned the A's yet. Though they don't have much money, Billy Beane is always a threat to do something impactful. Perhaps he'll find a way to flip Brett Anderson for ?
The gravest concern of all though is what Arte Moreno is going to think of all this. We all remember far too well how the infamous Vernon Wells trade materialized out of thin air after the Rangers beat out the Halos for Adrian Beltre. Then last year Moreno ordered the signing of Josh Hamilton in a move that reeked of Arte just wanting to stick it to Texas. Even as I write this, the Angels are "suddenly" mentioned in a trade rumor for David Freese. That isn't nearly on the same scale as the Fielder move, but the timing of the rumor smacks of the Angels trying to remind everyone that they exist and are relevant.
The Angels finally seemed to be entering an off-season with at least a tenuous grasp on their spending sanity. They wanted to avoid big signings and instead pursue trades to get cheap, young pitching and shed salary. But will that still be the plan now that the Rangers just threw their dick down on the table?
I'd like to think that we can give a literal billionaire businessman more credit than to think that he would react like an impetuous teenager and overreact to this, but unfortunately, Arte's history hasn't really earned him the benefit of the doubt. Perhaps the financial implications of making another "big splash" move to show that the Angels are just as well hung as the Rangers will snap Moreno out of whatever emotional rage this trade throws him into.
Then again, maybe that isn't a bad thing. The fear is that Moreno will try to trump Texas by making the biggest move of the winter, giving Robinson Cano the $300 million he wants. But maybe his anger manifests itself in a smarter way and Moreno will instead agree to bankroll a massive, unbeatable bid to land the negotiating rights to Japanese ace Masahiro Tanaka. That will still cost him a lot of money, but at least it is a smarter investment in that it will be for a shorter contract with a much smaller impact on the team's luxury tax situation. Anger can be a good thing so long as it is channeled appropriately.
Even if Angel management reacts like actual mature professional businessmen who make rational, pensive decisions, the fact remains that this trade can't help but influence them. This does make the AL West tougher. It was already going to be tough, but now the Halos know exactly what they are going to be dealing with. This just turns up the already present pressure to properly execute their offseason plan.