Jerry Dipoto and the Los Angeles Angels are up to their old tricks.
On December 8, 2011, the Angels agreed to terms with Albert Pujols -- the same Albert Pujols who was an icon in St. Louis, after putting together perhaps the best 11-year start to a career in history.
On December 13, 2012, the Angels agreed to terms with Josh Hamilton -- the same Josh Hamilton who helped lead the Rangers to back-to-back World Series appearances in 2010 and 2011.
No, Hamilton and Pujols aren't in the same stratosphere as baseball players. Pujols could retire tomorrow and he's almost certainly going to be inducted into the baseball Hall of Fame. Hamilton likely will never enter the Hall of Fame discussion.
Though Pujols and Hamilton have completely dissimilar careers and are two very, very, different hitters, the decisions by Jerry Dipoto and Angels owner Arte Moreno to sign both are born of the same cloth -- desperation.
In 2011, the Angels watched the Rangers celebrate a second consecutive American League pennant, and watched the Rangers come a strike away from winning the World Series. For a team that had made the playoffs five of the previous six seasons prior to 2010, that's a tough pill to swallow.
Moreno essentially handed Dipoto a blank check last offseason, and told his general manager to sign whatever players he could to make the Angels better. Enter C.J. Wilson. Enter Pujols. All of a sudden, the Angels were the hot pick to win the 2012 World Series.
2012 didn't go according to plan. Mike Trout carried the Angels while Pujols struggled out of the gate. The Angels traded their top prospect along with two other highly regarded prospects to acquire Zack Greinke, to bolster Los Angeles' playoff chances.
And then the Angels finished third in the division, and watched the Oakland A's, miniscule payroll and all, win the AL West, and watched the Rangers qualify for the playoffs with a wild card spot.
Dipoto traded Ervin Santana, opted aganst making a qualifying offer to Torii Hunter, and then declined Dan Haren's option -- all in efforts to re-sign Greinke, and make Greinke's tenure in Anaheim longer than two months. Greinke spurned the Angels, and ultimately decided between the Rangers and Dodgers -- and decided to sign with the Dodgers, leaving the Angels holding the proverbial bag.
In 2012, Los Angeles had a rotation featuring Jered Weaver, C.J. Wilson, Zack Greinke, Dan Haren and Ervin Santana. In 2013, the Angels will have Weaver, Wilson, whatever is left of Tommy Hanson's arm, Joe Blanton, and either Garrett Richards or Jerome Williams.
That's some serious downgrading in the rotation for the Angels.
So, Moreno and Dipoto cleared out nearly $40 million in salary after getting rid of Hunter, Santana and Haren -- money they thought they'd use on Greinke. The duo likely realized that Los Angeles' farm is perhaps the worst in baseball, especially after dealing Jean Segura and others to Milwaukee for a failed rental.
With all the money to spend, and a very small window to win in (let's face it, Pujols won't be Pujols much longer, and the decline already started three years ago), Moreno and Dipoto decided that they had to do something, anything to make the Angels better in 2013.
Enter Josh Hamilton.
Not only are the Angels adding an incredible* bat to their lineup, but they're also taking him away from the Rangers. How much better can it get?
Well, it can get a lot better -- you could be the Rangers, or a Rangers fan.
Los Angeles now has a lineup that features Mike Trout, Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton. That's great. Trout is great, and should have been the AL MVP. Pujols has been declining each year since 2010. Hamilton can be great, but he can also be wheels-off. There's no telling how living in Southern California will treat him, and no telling how Angels fans will receive him if things start to go poorly. Hamilton's off-the-field issues cannot be discounted.
Aside from Trout, maybe Pujols and maybe Hamilton, who else is there to fear in Los Angeles' lineup? Howie Kendrick? Chris Iannetta? Erick Aybar? Mark Trumbo? They're all fine players, but none of them are players you'd consider pitching around in any important circumstance.
Signing Hamilton makes perfect sense for the Angels. It really does. The Angels need to win now. The Angels know the future is bleak beyond Trout. They know the farm system is empty. They know their window to win a World Series is in the next two seasons, before Pujols continues to break, and before Weaver begins his decline.
Come 2016, Hamilton, Pujols, Wilson and Weaver will cost the Angels over $90 million dollars. For four players, all well past their primes. Think about that.
No, this isn't about the future at all in Los Angeles. Moreno doesn't care if the Rally Monkey is long dead and buried in 2016 or 2017; he only cares about winning in 2013 and 2014 -- and for that, this move makes sense.
Will the Rangers regress in 2013 without Hamilton, Mike Napoli, Koji Uehara and Michael Young? Yeah, it's definitely possible, if not likely. Losing Young is addition by subtraction, so let's throw him out right away. There's still plenty of time for Daniels and the Rangers to replace Hamilton and Napoli in the lineup, and you have to figure he will.
Instead of an aging Hamilton, Rangers fans will get to watch Jurickson Profar blossom into a superstar. It'll take time, but it'll be worth it. Rangers fans might get to witness something special -- a middle infield of Elvis Andrus and Profar, and they might get to see it for a long time.
It'll be difficult for the casual fan to realize Daniels made the right decision in letting Hamilton go to the Angels, but the Texas Rangers franchise is much better off for it. Like without Hamilton in Arlington might sting for the first year, but the Rangers will be just fine.
Just ask the Cardinals how life without Pujols is.