Welcom to the doldrums of the offseason. Angels fans have precious little to do outside of wondering which one of the several uninspiring starting pitchers they are going to pull out of the free agent rubbish bin to round out their rotation and then trying to figure out how to talk themselves into supporting the signing of said pitcher. At the risk of disrupting all the painstaking research you have done into convincing yourself that Jason Hammel is a diamond in the rough, allow me to add another layer to this already perplexing yet mindnumbingly boring problem. That complication would be the year 2015.
Oh, right. That. How quickly we forget about the fact that the world isn't ending in October. As much as the Angels are trying to be in "win now" mode, they still need to worry about winning a few years from now. Forgetting about that tiny aspect of life is how the Angels farm system ended up in its current state of decay.
What they need to make sure that whoever they sign for 2014 doesn't inadvertently hurt their chances to get better in 2015. Yes, the rotation needs to get better, but the Chris Capuanos of the world aren't going to push the Angels over the top this year so much as keep them from going under. In 2015 they need to be renew their effort to find that difference maker. It turns out that they could actually find him.
Max Scherzer, James Shields, Homer Bailey, Jon Lester and Justin Masterson could all hit the open market next winter and they should all be of keen interest to the Angels. To a lesser extent, Chad Billingsley, Yovani Gallardo, Brett Anderson, Jorge De La Rosa and Brandon McCarthy figure to be available too. They just need to make sure they are in a position to actually land one of them.
As we've seen this offseason, the luxury tax has been hanging over the front office's head. They've had to trade popular players and forego making bids at expensive players because of the luxury tax threat. They've manage to upgrade the roster despite that, but it has required a lot of moving parts. Even the most adept GM can only pull that off for so long before a wrench gets thrown into the gears.
One such wrench that Dipoto could inflict upon himself would be signing that last back-of-the-rotation starter for 2014. Signing Paul Maholm to a one-year, $10 million deal would be perfectly fine. But signing Paul Maholm to a three-year, $24 million suddenly becomes a big problem. Not only is one rotation spot now spoken for through 2016, but so is an $8 million chunk of luxury tax space and the Angels don't have much to spare. Heaven forbid they make a run at James Shields next winter only to come up short due to financial limitations thanks to Bronson Arroyo sucking up a big chunk of payroll.
Yes, we all want the Angels to win now, but let's be realistic. This probably isn't a championship roster and adding a veteran re-tread #4 starter isn't going to change that. But conserving resources, and landing Shields, Scherzer, Bailey or Masterson next offseason could. So, just sign Hammel or whoever to a one-year deal, hope everything breaks right in 2014 and then head into the offseason with a more aggressive plan of attack and more payroll space in free agency to make a real World Series run in 2015 and beyond.