The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim are trying to bounce back from a 3rd place finish in the AL West from a year ago. Though General Manager Jerry Dipoto has only had two seasons on the job going into 2014, it may be time to scrutinize his moves. The Angels have not made the postseason since 2009. It’s hard to go wrong with the two time defending division champion Oakland Athletics. Not to mention the Texas Rangers narrowly missed the playoffs last year. With the additions of Shin-Soo Choo and Prince Fielder, a return to playing meaningful games in October very well could happen in Texas. The Seattle Mariners have gotten better, too, signing Robinson Cano and Corey Hart and trading for Logan Morrison. Dipoto has made moves, but the Angels haven’t gotten better. If anything, they’ve gotten worse.
Dipoto made a splash in December 2011 when he inked Albert Pujols to a 10-year, $254 million contract. Pujols had to be one of, if not the greatest to ever hit the open market. After a slow start to the season in April 2012, he was able to pick himself up. Last year, though, he played in only 99 games and is now 34 years old. He’s enjoyed a good Spring. Now Pujols has to keep it going once Opening Day hits. A bunch of trips to the disabled list is probably not what Dipoto had in mind when the team signed the future Hall of Famer, but if his injuries keep piling up, it may seem like a long time for Angels fans until his contract expires after the 2021 season.
Another Dipoto signing was Josh Hamilton, who got late to the party this Spring after battling an injury. Hamilton is looking to redeem himself after having the worst season of his career in 2013. The man was a superstar in Texas. With his Angel merits, however, he has yet to earn that $133 million contract he is signed for thru 2017. If Hamilton doesn’t improve from a season ago, it’s not going to bode well for Dipoto.
The Joe Blanton experiment has not worked well at all for the Halos. Old school critics may point to his 2-14 record from 2013, but one can easily be a good pitcher despite a losing record. The problem is, the other numbers aren’t too appealing either. A 62 ERA+ and 1.613 WHIP are not too pleasing to the eye for a pitcher. He helped the Philadelphia Phillies win the World Series in 2008. That same Blanton has yet to appear with the Angels, be it in the regular season or even Spring Training, in which he has looked anything but impressive on the mound out there.
Dipoto has also made some trades he probably would like to have back if given the chance. The major one was in July 2012 when the team acquired Zack Greinke from the Milwaukee Brewers. Greinke wasn’t exactly his Cy Young self like he was with the Kansas City Royals in 2009, but he hardly struggled the way Blanton has for this team. That said, he traded away someone who, in 2013, made his first of what could be many All Star appearances and that’s Jean Segura. He’s a pretty good hitting speedster who improved on his defense from 2012. At only 24 years old, he is so good, and with no disrespect to J.J. Hardy, Segura may end up being the best shortstop the Brewers have had since Robin Yount. One has to ask themselves what could’ve been if he stayed a Halo and if Dipoto didn’t deal him away.
In fairness to Dipoto, there are some things to point out. One, it’s obviously way too early to judge the Mark Trumbo trade, although it may turn out to be another strike against him if Trumbo produces really well in 2014. It’s hard to criticize the Ervin Santana trade to the Royals, since Santana was a good, but inconsistent pitcher with the Angels and therefore even though he had a terrific season in 2013, Dipoto gets a pass on this one since Santana has had good seasons and has had not-so-good seasons. It’s fair for one to think CJ Wilson is on the overpaid side of things, but he showed improvement last year as opposed to his first season in an Angels uniform. Wilson could certainly be better, as people should know what he’s capable of based on his 6th place AL Cy Young finish in 2011, but there’s no way his signing could be grouped with that of Pujols, Hamilton and Blanton.
Dipoto has signed players to expensive contracts. However, he hasn’t really gotten that much bang for the buck. He traded away a shortstop who was probably the number one bright spot on a 2013 club which went 74-88 and saw its superstar player suspended. It goes to show that a team can offer mammoth contracts to highly touted names but it may not get them that World Series title all 30 teams in Major League Baseball crave. If the Angels want to relive 2002, they need to start winning and the acquisitions in recent years need to be a big part of that, or Dipoto may not be the right person for the team going forward.