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Monday, April 12, 2004

For The Angels, Is It "Wait 'Til Next Year", Already?

Over at the Long Beach Press-Telegram, columnist Bob Keisser is already thinking about next year, and in particular, the meaning of the horrible outings against Texas had by Lackey, Ortiz, and Sele:
The back of the pitching staff was ripped by Texas' lively bats and lively ball park, which just proves you can never have too much pitching. I'm confident Mike Scioscia and Bud Black will get something out of the Ramon Ortiz-John Lackey- Aaron Sele mix, and maybe add a prospect like Bobby Jenks around mid-season.

The big worry for Angel fans is the prospect of Arte Moreno having to settle on signing one of their two stars eligible for free agency next season, Troy Glaus and Garret Anderson. They're both indispensable, but having spent heavily in the offseason, he may have only enough payroll for one.

Such has been theorized previously. No matter how much of a fan an owner appears to be, they usually -- unless the owner in question is George Steinbrenner -- have limits to their spending. (Sometimes the limits are ridiculously low, as in the case of the Devil Rays.) There's no way of knowing what Arte's real payroll ceiling is, but a closer analysis certainly indicates that both Sele and Appier -- yes, Kevin Appier is still on the payroll in 2004 -- will be gone next year. That's a total of $20 million right there. Arte's already spent a lot of that money on Vlad, Colón and Escobar -- more than that, in fact. In 2004, he'll spend $14M for Vlad and Colón, and $6.25M for Escobar, or $34.25M on three players.

Sele we know is done, or likely so; it's possible we could get a final year out of him before he completely falls apart. But Ortiz has had chance after chance, and still isn't reliably producing, and of course has Agegate issues as well. Both have declining K/9 rates; both posted career lows, Sele 3.92 and Ortiz 4.70, last year. And then there's Lackey, whose excuse of having a sophomore slump ran out last year. If the team has to replace Sele, Ortiz, and possibly Lackey by the end of the year, Arte's wallet could indeed be tapped already. Combined with the near certainty of Darin Erstad having an unproductive year at the plate, and the strong possibility that Salmon will also, that's a lot of hitting to replace. If Baseball Prospectus is right and the Angels finish third, the team will have spent a lot of money for nothing -- and won't have enough in the farm to fix either the rotation or the DH position any time soon. Jenks might be able to help this year, but you certainly can't count on rookies to pull a Fernando Valenzuela.


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