The last time the Angels won less than 89 games, Scott Spiezio was their starting first baseman and Jarrod Washburn led the team in innings pitched. That was 2003, and in the six years that followed, the Angels have won the AL West five times, finishing second in the only year they weren’t the champs. It was a tremendous run. But like all good things eventually do, it may be coming to an end.
The Angels aren’t a bad team, but they aren’t a great team anymore either. With John Lackey bolting for Boston, the team’s best player is now probably Kendry Morales, who has had one good major league season. While the team has quality around the diamond, there is a significant lack of star power. There’s not a single guy on the team that projects as a true talent +4 win guy. There is no franchise player.
That doesn’t mean they’re doomed, of course, because there are a lot of ways to build a roster, and you don’t have to have a superstar in order to win. But, to win without a premium player requires that you get legitimate major league production at nearly position. You don’t have the wins coming from the top to compensate for a glaring hole anywhere, so depth is crucial. The Angels certainly have that depth, but it’s not young and spry. Hunter is 34, Matsui is 35, and Abreu is 36. Even Juan Rivera is on the wrong side of 30. That outfield is long in the tooth, and they need all of those guys to play well and stay healthy.
It may work, but for the first time in a while, the Angels are clearly vulnerable. They’re no longer the clear favorites in the AL West, though they’re still certainly in the mix. But without a premium group of young players to build around and some important aging role players, the Angels are at a crossroads. If they don’t win in 2010 with this team, it might be time to look at going young for a year or two in order to rebuild the foundation of the team.
The team is well run and well financed, so the Angels will likely never be a laughing stock, but their run of owning the division appears to be nearing its end. This will be a critical year for the Angels future as they try to figure out just what they’re going to be going forward.
Dave is the Managing Editor of FanGraphs.