Commentary

Major roster decisions await Angels

Originally Published: November 4, 2008
By Larry Stone | Special to ESPN.com

Once again, a wildly successful regular season -- a major league leading 100 victories and the earliest clinching in American League West history -- was undone by a postseason flameout. The Angels were eliminated in the first round by old nemesis Boston in four games.

LOS ANGELES ANGELS
GM: Tony Reagins
Manager: Mike Scioscia
'08 record: 100-62, 1st AL West
Angels '08 payroll: $119.2M, 6th MLB
Runs scored: 765, 10th AL
Runs allowed: 697, 5th AL
OPS: .743, 10th AL
ERA: 3.99, 3rd AL
Fielding percentage: .985, 4th AL

Now they face some difficult roster decisions, topped by first baseman Mark Teixeira, who was acquired at the trade deadline to fuel a World Series run that fell short, and closer extraordinaire Francisco Rodriguez, who shattered the major league save record with 62. Both are potential free agents.

Primary needs

The Angels' top objective for the offseason is to re-sign Teixeira, who hit .358 with 13 homers and 43 RBIs in 54 games after coming over from the Braves on July 29. And if K-Rod leaves, they need to figure out who their closer will be -- veteran Scot Shields and rookie phenom Jose Arredondo (10-2, 1.62 ERA in 52 appearances) being the prime in-house candidates.

The Angels also need to develop some rotation depth despite having more wins from their starters (73) than any team in the AL. With Jon Garland also up for free agency, and Kelvim Escobar (shoulder) not ready until after the All-Star break, if at all, they could use another arm in the rotation.

Francisco Rodriguez

Rodriguez

Mark Teixeira

Teixeira

Free agents

1B Mark Teixeira, RHP Francisco Rodriguez, RHP Jon Garland, OF Juan Rivera, LHP Darren Oliver.

Owner Arte Moreno has shown no reluctance to open his wallet, and he'll have to dig deep to retain both Teixeira and K-Rod. More likely, he'll let K-Rod and Garland walk and use the savings to bid on Teixeira and make a possible run at CC Sabathia.

In addition, the Angels will decline a $14 million option on outfield fixture Garret Anderson, who has been in Anaheim since 1994. Considering Anderson's decline (a .335 average after the All-Star break notwithstanding) and age (he'll be 37 in June) they instead decided to exercise their $3 million buyout. Vladimir Guerrero and John Lackey will have their 2009 options exercised.

Trade bait

With a surplus of outfielders, the Angels would be happy to deal Gary Matthews Jr., if there were any takers. However, with three years remaining on his five-year, $50 million contract, don't count on it.

Reliever Justin Speier, coming off a rocky season, is very available. Chone Figgins, productive but fragile the past two years, might be used as a chip to get pitching help.

Farm aid

Nick Adenhart, their top pitching prospect, had a rough year at Triple-A, going 9-13 with a 5.76 ERA, and was hit around in three starts with the Angels (9.00 ERA).

Brandon Wood

Wood

More pleasing was the emergence of reliever Kevin Jepsen, an Olympian who showed enough in a September showcase to get placed on the Angels' playoff roster. Perennial prospect Brandon Wood is getting close to competing for an everyday job in the infield.

Outlook

The Angels will once again be the team to beat in the AL West in 2009, but since winning the World Series in 2002, they have a 5-15 record in postseason games. First-year GM Tony Reagins gambled that Teixeira would put them over the top, a decision that cost them first baseman Casey Kotchman and minor league pitcher Steve Marek.

If Teixeira walks, the Angels will need an offensive boost, especially with Guerrero not the fearsome force he once was. Guerrero's 91 RBIs were a career low when he has played 140 or more games. The Angels, however, still have a nasty rotation, topped by Lackey and All-Stars Joe Saunders and Ervin Santana, and a resourceful manager in Mike Scioscia to sort out the rest of it.

Larry Stone is the national baseball writer for The Seattle Times. Click here to visit the Times' Web site.