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Free agency not the answer for Angels

By Gary Hill

The 2013 MLB season was supposed to be all about games like Tuesday night for the Angels.

They pounded out 15 hits and went deep three times on their way to a 12-0 rout of the Mariners. Mike Trout became the youngest player in American League history to hit for the cycle. He drove in five, scored twice and added a stolen base for good measure. Angels starter Jerome Williams scattered six hits on his way to eight shutout innings.

Unfortunately for the Angles, this pristine blueprint has not been followed nearly enough during the 2013 campaign. Despite the win Tuesday night, the Angels enter play Wednesday tied for the fourth-worst record in baseball.

The expectations for the Angels were sky-high given the staggering $483 million they handed out during the last two offseasons in free agency. Their lavish spending spree has netted them Josh Hamilton, Joe Blanton, Sean Burnett, Ryan Madson, Albert Pujols, LaTroy Hawkins and C.J. Wilson. The results have not followed. They are stuck in fourth place in the AL West, 10.5 games out of first. The Angels won 89 games a year ago, but missed the postseason.

The Angels' "crosstown" rivals, the Dodgers, were the only other team in baseball to outspend them during this past winter. The Dodgers shelled out a whopping $185.85 million for Zack Greinke, J.P. Howell and Hyun-Jin Ryu. The results for the Dodgers have nearly been identical as well. They are sitting in dead last in the NL West with a record of 18-26.

It is interesting to examine to the top seven spenders from each of the past four offseasons. Not one of them has won a World Series, although two of them have made it. Fourteen of the 21 teams never appeared in the postseason at all.

Free Agency Final

Major League teams are becoming much more efficient at locking up their stars before free agency hits. Joey Votto, Justin Verlander, Buster Posey, Adam Wainwright, Felix Hernandez, Cole Hamels, Evan Longoria and Matt Kemp are a few who have signed extensions to keep them off the free-agent market for years to come.

The early signings have resulted in thin free-agent classes in recent years. It has left more teams fighting for less top-tier talent and led to teams rolling the dice with big-money deals on question marks. Looking at the upcoming free-agency class is a prime example. Here is a look at the top names:

First base

Paul Konerko
Kendrys Morales
Justin Morneau
Mike Napoli

Second base

Robinson Cano
Chase Utley

Third base

Mark Reynolds
Eric Chavez
Michael Young

Catcher

Brian McCann

Outfield

Shin-Soo Choo
Nelson Cruz
Carlos Beltran
Jacoby Ellsbury
Curtis Granderson
Michael Morse

Starting pitcher

A.J. Burnett
Matt Garza
Phil Hughes
Josh Johnson
Tim Lincecum
Paul Maholm
Ervin Santana
Jason Vargas

The list gets thin quickly and is full of question marks. Relying on free agency alone can truly be detrimental to the health of a franchise.

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