The near-term future of the Angels? As Bill Shaikin points out, their window might be closing quickly, and this season sure seemed like their best chance to win with the current crop of well-paid stars. So what happens next year?
It is painfully apparent, then, that the Angels are likely to go as far as Trout, Pujols and Hamilton will take them.
Trout is the best player in baseball. Pujols is not close to that level anymore, but he can hit well enough to hold down the No. 3 spot in the batting order.
What the Angels would love to see — really, what they need to see — is Trout, Pujols and Hamilton all healthy and productive for an entire season.
"We’ll see," [Hamilton] said. "It would be a good surprise for you."
It would be a first. And, for this aging band of Angels, an increasingly necessary one.
Look, this is obviously a problem for the Angels. But all that money this year went to Hamilton and Pujols and C.J. Wilson – not to mention Joe Blanton and Vernon Wells – and still the Angels won 98 games, despite their humdrum, injury-depleted pitching rotation and Raul Ibanez.
This looked like a playoff team before the season, and I suspect it’ll look like a playoff team before next season, too. Which is hardly any sort of guarantee. The run prevention will almost certainly have to improve, because the run scoring will almost certainly decline. My point is that the Angels’ fortunes do not hinge upon Josh Hamilton somehow justifying his salary, and they should be fine in 2015.
As Shaikin points out, the Angels’ bloated payroll, aging roster, and paucity of top prospects does seem potentially dangerous. In fact, I think it’s actually dangerous. With the seemingly inevitable rise of the Astros, there figures to be a lot of play in the American League West standings over the next five years. I won’t be at all surprised if nobody wins more than twice in that span, with four different clubs finishing first.