Washington had the best record in the
For a team that lavished nearly $500 million on
Their biggest expenditure was $15 million on 20-year-old Cuban infielder Roberto Baldoquin, who will be in minor league camp. They start
But General Manager
He infused a weak farm system with some young talent and gained enough payroll flexibility to add a key player for a mid-summer playoff push.
How the moves play out on the field will begin to unfold when pitchers and catchers report to spring training Thursday and hold their first workout Friday, the start of a camp with a number of intriguing story lines:
On second thought
For the first time since 2006, the Angels will open a season without second baseman
Four players — Grant Green; Josh Rutledge, acquired from Colorado;
Not since 1996, when George Arias and Tim Wallach went head to head for the third base job, have the Angels had such a wide open spring battle for an infield or outfield spot.
Green, a .259 hitter in 88 big league games, and Rutledge, a .259 hitter in 266 games, hold a slight edge over Giavotella, a .238 hitter in 125 games, and Featherston, who hasn't played above double A. None of the four is a defensive whiz. All bat right-handed, eliminating any platoon options.
"Three of the four have between one and two-plus years of major league service time," Dipoto said, "so we're not talking about three absolute unknowns."
Richards suffered a torn patellar tendon in his left knee Aug 20, ending a breakout season in which he was 13-4 with a 2.61 earned-run average. He began jogging on his full body weight last week and threw off a mound for the first time Monday. If he's not activated for the season opener, he should be ready shortly after.
Hamilton is a bigger question. He sat out most of September because of a right-shoulder injury, thought he would heal with rest, aggravated the injury in late January and had surgery on a shoulder joint Feb. 4.
Hamilton hit .263 with 10 home runs and 44 runs batted in during an injury-plagued 2014 and the Angels hoped a bounce-back season from him would ease the loss of Kendrick. Now, it appears Hamilton will open on the disabled list.
Taking the fifth
Last season the Angels were so thin in starting pitching that they filled Richards' rotation spot for six weeks by shuttling in relief pitchers.
They shouldn't have to do that this season, with three viable candidates — Heaney,
Heaney, 23, was Miami's top prospect last season, a left-hander with a 93-mph fastball, strong slider and an improved changeup. Tropeano, a 24-year-old right-hander acquired from Houston for catcher
Santiago split 2014 between the rotation and bullpen, finishing 6-9 with a 3.75 ERA. He will be a long-relief candidate if he doesn't win a rotation spot.
But with Hamilton hurting, and providing little production when healthy, Scioscia may have no choice but to drop AL most valuable player Mike Trout from second to third and move Pujols to cleanup.
New designated hitter
"If we had a guy like Mike that would hit in front of Mike, I think you'd really see some opportunities," Scioscia said. "I'm sounding greedy. You want two Mikes."
The back of the bullpen, with closer
There is no shortage of candidates, with Mike Morin,
Once a pecking order is determined, the bullpen should be a strength.
"We've had our ups and downs," Dipoto said, "but we've progressively gotten better."