Angels overtake Marlins for biggest splash
What looked as though the new-look Miami Marlins were going to make the biggest splash at the 2011 MLB Winter Meetings quickly turned to the West Coast, as the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim made it clear what the goal for 2012 is: World Series or Bust.
With the signings of Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson, the Angels have now put themselves in the drivers seat for the American League West, adding Pujols to a youthful, speedy lineup and Wilson to a rotation already spearheaded by Jered Weaver.
But as Vernon Wells said on Thursday's edition of MLB Networks Hot Stove, the Rangers are still the champs.
The Angels, under new GM Jerry DiPoto, came out of left field with these signings, appearing at the last possible moment after both free agents were courted by Miami, as well as their former squads, the Rangers and Cardinals.
To many, Pujols is the greatest player this era will ever see.
"King Albert" began his career with 10-straight seasons of 30-plus home runs, 100-plus RBIs and a batting average at .300-or-above, until his 2011 campaign, where he hit .299 and knocked in 99 runs.
But he was the driving force to the Cardinals World Series championship, defeating Wilson's Rangers in 7 games in one of the most exciting Fall Classic's in some time.
Wilson is two years removed from being a part of the Rangers bullpen, and the two years he has been in the rotation, the Rangers have won the America League pennant.
But now he joins a rotation more mature than what he had in Texas.
Combining Wilson with Cy Young candidate Jered Weaver, Ervin Santana and Dan Haren, the Angels have put together a starting rotation that mirrors the Philadelphia Phillies.
The biggest question is what will come of the Angels youth.
Mark Trumbo previously held down first base, in the absence of Kendry Morales. Trumbo has been said to play third base in 2011, but Atlanta Braves pitcher Kris Medlen said on his twitter early Thursday Trumbo can hold his own on the mound. Look for Trumbo to get his work in at either third or designated hitter, unless the Angels look to unload him for bullpen depth.
Morales missed all of 2011 and half of 2010 after landing awkwardly on his foot during a walk-off celebration at home plate. To many, he was the Angels first baseman of the future, but with the signing of Pujols, Morales will join Trumbo, as well as Bobby Abreu, as players who may all see time at DH.
With the signings, the Angels now have pieces they can trade away, possibly to dump salary, or add depth in places needed.
The organization has its hands tied with the 10-year contract given to Pujols, adding a full no-trade clause to the agreement, meaning Albert will be in Anaheim until his 40s.
But don't look at these contracts as something that will hinder the Angels from doing what they always do: put fans in the stands and compete.
It has been 10 years since the Angels defeated the San Francisco Giants in the 2002 World Series, and don't be surprised if they find themselves at the top of the pile come October.
First things first: the 162-game schedule must be played. A lot can be said about these signings, but the game still needs to be played.
This may be a "Dream Team" to many, but look at how recent teams put together like this have faired.
The Philadelphia Eagles have not played to full potential this season. The Miami Heat lost in 6 games in the NBA Finals to the Dallas Mavericks.
A lot can be said for teams going all-out and putting together a roster of studs.
But like I said, the game must still be played. And until that day we hear "Play Ball", there will be nothing but speculation as to what can, and will, happen in 2012.
Make no mistake about it though, the Cardinals and Rangers are still champions, and until they are dethroned, no other team will claim that champion right.