We are a fantasy baseball league whose draft is scheduled for April 23. That's a little late, even for us. But given the spate of players going on the DL...

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

BP on the Angels

Baseball Prospectus
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Anaheim Angels
Saying Goodbye: An organization that had been characterized by its roster stability and its loyalty--some would argue excessive--to the pillars of its success has undergone significant change in the past three months. The Angels have watched three players who have never played a game for any other team, and who were all key parts of the 2002 championship team, leave via free agency. In all three cases, the Halos made virtually no attempt to keep the players.
First to go was nominal closer Troy Percival. Percival hadn't been the Angels' best reliever since '02, and the emeregence of not only Francisco Rodriguez as a shutdown pitcher, but also Scot Shields behind him, made it easy to let Percival walk away. Percival signed a surprising two-year deal with the Tigers for $12 million.
The Angels declined to offer arbitration to third baseman/DH Troy Glaus, whose Festivus-worthy feats of strength in October of 2002 were a huge part in the Angels' title that year. As with Percival, the organization can let Glaus leave because it has been able to develop an adequate replacement, in this case, slugger Dallas McPherson. McPherson destroyed Double- and Triple-A this year, and should provide Glaus-like power in short order, although his defense won't be up to the same standard. At $10-11 million less per year over the next three seasons--Glaus signed a four-year, $45-million deal with the Diamondbacks--they'll learn to do without.
Finally, the Angels chose to make a change at shortstop, signing free agent Orlando Cabrera to a four-year contract worth $32 million. This meant the end of fan favorite David Eckstein's tenure in Anaheim after four years as the starter. Cabrera, who received a disproportionate amount of credit for the Red Sox late-season run and eventual championship, is the same age as Eckstein and, at least according to our metrics, outplayed him just once over the past three seasons. Per Wins Above Replacement Player:
Eckstein Cabrera
2001 2.7 8.2
2002 5.6 4.9
2003 3.3 6.1
2004 2.8 2.1
Of course, the statement above is misleading. Cabrera was much more productive in '03, and within one win of Eckstein in '02 and '04. Given that some of the statistical proximity is defense, with Eckstein showing as better than Cabrera in our metrics, it's fair to say that Cabrera is likely the better player. Is he $5 million a year--the difference between his salary and Eckstein's after Eckstein signed a contract with the Cardinals--better over the next three seasons? Quite possibly, given the trend in Eckstein's performance and the possibility that Cabrera, who likes to swing the bat, will thrive with the Angels.
How much these changes will help the Angels remains to be seen. Much depends on whether McPherson can sustain his offense in the majors. If he can, the overall output from the left side of the infield should remain stable at lower price than what last year's combination will make.
Some of the savings has been invested in the outfield, from which Jose Guillen was dispatched to make room for free agent Steve Finley on a two-year contract. Projecting continued production from a 40-year-old is risky, but Finley should at least be an average hitter, and even though he's lost a big step defensively, having him in center field pushed Garret Anderson back to left, which should keep him in the lineup and hopefully allow him to return to his 2000-03 production level.

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