Baseball BeatMay 29, 2011
Letter to Tony Reagins
By Rich Lederer

May 29, 2011

Mr. Tony Reagins
General Manager
Los Angeles Angels
2000 Gene Autry Way
Anaheim, CA 92806

Dear Tony,

At the one-third point in the season, I thought it would be instructive to check how you and your team are doing.

The Angels are 27-27 thus far. That's right, your $142 million payroll has produced mediocrity for the second year in a row.

Looking forward to next season, I see where you have already committed $80M to seven players. This group includes two starting pitchers, two relievers, two outfielders, and a utility infielder. Unfortunately, you still need to come to terms with three members of your core roster: Jered Weaver, Howie Kendrick, and Kendrys Morales. These arbitration-eligible players will probably cost $10-12M, $6-8M, and perhaps $5M, respectively, next year. Add 'em all up and you've topped $100M for just 10 players, three of whom will do little other than pitch the middle innings out of the bullpen and provide insurance at 3B, SS, and 2B.

I understand Vernon Wells has an opt out after 2011. As such, you may be able to reduce your payroll by more than $21M should he exercise it. Do you think the left fielder who is "hitting" .183 and will turn 33 in December will seek greener pastures? I didn't think so. Enough said!

What were you thinking when you guaranteed Bobby Abreu's option for 2012 at a cost of $9M in the event he accumulated 1,100 plate appearances in 2010-2011? With just 200 to go to qualify, I suggest you order Mike Scioscia to use him sparingly the rest of the way. You're already on the hook for $39M for two aging outfielders next season. No reason to make it $48M by adding Abreu to the mix unless you're happy with a combined 12 HR in 609 PA this season from these free agent signings of yours.

How's that Hisanori Takahashi contract working out? Only 1 2/3 years to go at an average of $4M per! While the 36-year-old reliever with an ERA over 5.00 is neither the worst contract (that honor would go to Vernon Wells), reliever (tie between Brian Fuentes and Fernando Rodney), or lefty (hello, Scott Kazmir) you have signed or acquired, can we agree that it made no sense to ink *two* aging southpaws in Takahashi and Scott Downs to multi-year deals last off-season?

Turning to your contract, the Angels signed you to a long-term extension in November 2009. While no terms of the agreement were reported, would you care to at least divulge the length of this arrangement? If not, can you give us a hint? I mean, is it shorter or longer than Wells' contract (through 2014)?

Maybe you're just in a slump like Wells, Abreu, Hunter, Takahashi, Rodney, and Kazmir, and will work your way out of it like ... umm ... let me think about that and get back to you.

Until then,

Rich Lederer
Baseball Analysts


Rich thank you for writing this letter, now could you write another one to the other GM in Los Angeles.

OUCH! You definitely have a point though, I'm not sure what message Reagins is trying to send when you claim you were priced out on crawford/werth/beltre then go out and trade away someone for Vernon Wells other than "I'm completely incompetent"

Some good points execpt for the Bobby Abreu bit, you don't want to pay 9 million for a guy who gets on base consistantly 40% of the time? A guy who challenges every pitcher he faces. A guy who still has home run and extra base power and is great in rbi situations? Oh wait, yes you do.

You are actually too kind to Reagins in this letter.

If Trout is the real deal where does he fit in on a team with Hunter, Wells, Abreu and Bourjos next year? Wouldn't Beltran have been a better fit for this team last offseason than Wells?

No backup plan for Kendrys Morales when the team suspected he might miss the season?

His failure to produce any All-Star positional players since 2002 when he was in charge of the farm system? Not one Angel positional player called up since 2002 has made an All-Star game.

The failure of Wood, Kotchman and others when he was in charge of the farm system.

His alleged refusal to deal with Boras after being slighted after Teixeira walked?

Shall I continue? With Minaya gone Reagins is by far the worst GM in baseball... or is Scioscia really in charge and Reagins is just following orders?

Abreu wouldn't have received anything near $9million if he was a FA this upcoming offseason.

Rich, well done as usual. I realize this is a public forum, so you are being as polite to Tony as possible. However, all of your points are glaring, and would be obvious in any other profession where performance is easily measured on an objective basis.

As you point out, Reagins' record is nearly perfect. Perfectly bad. It is alarming that he is still in position to make more personnel decisions of the kind and quality that he has made to date.

Which leads to the following two questions: Would you allow this man to shepherd the assets or your baseball team? Would you extend his contract to do so if you had already made the mistake of hiring him in the first place?

The most polite answers I could summon would be, "No." And, "HELL no!"

Of course there will be no letter to Theo Epstein over the ridiculous contracts of Lackey, Dice K, and Crawford. We all know that the Red Sox can do no wrong.

bottom line:
Reagins is an idiot and Arte needs to show him the door so he can follow Wells, Abreu, Mathis, Takahashi, Rodney, and Kazmir.

His signing deals would be circumspect of corporate kickbacks in the real world. "Here, take this crap player, give us these 2 great players and we'll give you a percentage of our profits"

Wimbo: I made my feelings known on the Dodgers GM in Weekend at Colletti's and Making Ned Resign. He is equally bad with more than his fair share of bad signings.

Kevin: The Wells trade was as if the Angels had money to burn and decided to take on a $20+ million dollar contract irrespective of the talent, position, and age of the player. The average annual salary coupled with the length made it the worst contract in all of baseball. I'm quite certain the Blue Jays still haven't quit celebrating the unloading of that liability.

Kevin Brown: I don't mean to split hairs but Abreu no longer gets on base at a 40% clip. In fact, over the past 365 days, he has put up a line of .250/.361/.403. Not only has his OBP been a far cry from .400 but his slugging leaves a lot to be desired, especially from a DH. Abreu is 37 now. A 38-year-old DH with a .764 OPS wouldn't be worth anywhere close to $9 million as a free agent. Put him on the open market and I believe he would be lucky to get half of that next season.

RockGate: I agree with you. With those players already in the fold and Trout a year away, Reagins should have been content with a stop gap solution this season rather than committing over $80M for four years to an aging outfielder who has never hit all that well outside Toronto and has been a disaster in Angel Stadium.

Glen: Thanks. I was trying to be pointed and polite at the same time. No need for ad hominem attacks or demagoguery when the facts will do the trick.

Duncan: Theo has two World Series rings (more than any other GM during his tenure), Boston is atop the toughest division in baseball, and the Red Sox have beaten the Angels like a drum aside from one postseason series during the Epstein and Reagins years. Has Theo made mistakes? Sure. Name me one GM who hasn't. But he has made many more right than wrong decisions during his 8 1/2 years as GM. I can only wish the Angels were fortunate enough to have him instead of Reagins.

I think that you need to view mistakes at the time of the signing - not how they look today.

In that case, Tak was a fine signing. The Angels desperately needed bullpen help and Tak was great last year. $4m isn't going to hurt the club. Didn't cost us a pick either.

Same goes with Kazmir. The trade was routinely praised at the time and Kazmir proved Reagins right with his dominance in August/Sept when the Angels were in the middle of a playoff hunt. Hard to blame Reagins for the fact that Kazmir has completely fallen apart now.

Downs was a questionable signing for one reason alone, costing a draft pick. I wasn't horribly upset at the time because I assumed we would sign at least one more type A (Beltre or Crawford). As it stands now, $15m over 3 years PLUS our #2 pick hurts. That said, Downs has been solid so far (crosses fingers).

Wells ... no excuse.

Abreu ... should have stuck to his guns at 2/$16m. The extra million and year really, really hurt. That money could have been spent so much better.

But then you have the positive side of the ledger. Haren might have been the 2nd best trade in baseball over the past 3 years. Pineiro was a good signing. Instead of panicking over losing Teixeira he put his trust in Morales and was rewarded.

At this stage there is more wrong than right. On the Wells deal alone, Reagins AND EVERY PERSON IN THE FRONT OFFICE should have been fired. If my 10 team fantasy league is smart enough to block similar trades (and assume collusion), how was nobody concerned with Wells? Had the Jays kicked in $40m it still would have been a bad deal but the fact they paid nothing (or $5m depending on your source) makes this move criminal.

BJ, the kazmir trade was only routinely praised by morons. He has a mid 5s ERA and $25m left on the contract at the time. That he pitched well for 6 games after the trade doesn't make it smart, especially since he has returned to his awful pre-trade Tampa Bay form.

I hope Vernon Wells dies so we can get out of his contract.

Wow, the above comment is a bit harsh. I mean, Wells has been AWFUL, but still...

Forget the financials...the mishandling of talent during the Reagin era continues. Just take this year for example:

1. Sure, Mark Trumbo has a big, ugly wart (his lack of being able to draw a walk), but he he's a young slugger (and cheap, too!) who's best tool is what the Angels need most. But hey, let's bring Russell Branyan aboard!

2. Mike Scioscia's insane love-affair with Jeff Mathis has allowed Hank Conger only 100 or so at-bats this far. Call me crazy, but I think the only way for someone to learn how to handle a major league pitching staff (and major league pitching when batting) is thru experience, not playing Words With Friends again Bobby Wilson in the dugout. Oh, and has anyone noticed Mike Napoli is hitting .229/.364/.571?

I could praise the organization for throwing Tyler Chatwood and Jordan Walden into the fire but it was more than anything due to the lack of depth of starting pitching in AAA and the awful make-up of the bullpen left them with really no other choices.

Hey Rich,

Great column. Thanks for exposing these bozos. The Halos are an utter disaster. On that note, the Blue Crew are no better and some of us are upset also and we could really use an update to the fire Ned column. Keep up the great work!

Thumbs down on the "hoping Vernon Wells" dies comment. That's either rude or creepy depending on how seriously it was meant.

BJ: I believe your comments are generally fair and balanced. However, I don't recall the Kazmir trade as being "routinely praised" at all. In fact, I remember it as a risky move given his arm troubles, performance with TB that season, and contract. Yes, he performed well down the stretch in 2009 but was terrible in 2010 and completely worthless in 2011. Rather than signing Takahashi and Downs, maybe the Angels should have bitten the bullet and made Kazmir a LOOGY as it seems his health and two-pitch repertoire would fare better as a reliever. Haren was an excellent acquisition. I thought it was at the time and continue to believe so today. If anything, I would have preferred extending Haren rather than throwing away money in these other deals.

JD: Your comment was neither funny nor appropriate.

Joe: Over the past half dozen years, the Angels prospects have either been overhyped or under utilized. I don't blame Scioscia for the former but his fondness for veterans may have contributed to one or more of these disastrous trades. If so, then he is to blame as well.

Jason: Thanks. The Dodgers are in worse shape than the Angels. Colletti was responsible for signing, among others, Schmidt, Jones, and Pierre, and got totally played by Boras when he extended Manny. Other than acquiring Ethier, I can't think of too many positive deals that had anything more than a short-term impact.

Angels position players learn to hit in the high-altitude parks of the PCL. But this is why you have minor league hitting coaches. Somebody needs to fix the problems there. I seem to remember the Dodgers had similar issues with AAA Albuquerque back in the day (and probably again going forward, too).

I agree with Rich, I don't think the Kazmir trade was viewed as a win at the time it was executed, more of a high-stakes gamble. The Angels have plain and simple lost that bet.

Reagins' real problem is the failure of any of the Angels' high-profile position players to develop as expected (with the major exception being Kendrys Morales). Kendrick's leg woes (and bizarre inability to hit as advertised in the majors), Jeff Mathis' conversion to a pumpkin, and nobody who can function as a leadoff hitter in the post Chone Figgins teams.

The Angels' offensive strategy is too fixed on slap-and-dash, relying on RISP and especially RISP2 hitting. Neither of these are really demonstrable skills, yet the front office seems to cling to them as shibboleths.

What I really fear is that Reagins is merely a titular GM while Mike Scioscia holds the title in fact.

Angels are still paying Gary Mathews Jr as well right? Another good move by Reagins.

GMJ is on Stoneman and may have ironically hastened Reagins' arrival as the Angels GM.

Hey Rich. The Vernon Wells comment was obviously meant as a joke but in the spirit of this being a rationale discussion can you just take it down? Hate the GM - to a point - not the player.

There are two thoughts that occur to me with respect to Tony Reagins. The first is that he is in well over his head; he has made a shocking number of bad trades, the Kazmir and Wells trades being the capping disasters of his short career. Yes, he gets props for the Dan Haren acquisition, but he's been more miss than hit.

The other is that it's worthwhile to note that Mike Scioscia's contract -- which we do know the length of (it's a 10-year deal through 2018) -- is perhaps an indicator of who Moreno trusts, and moreover, who is actually running the team as the shadow GM. If, in complaining about Tony Reagins, we are merely criticizing a figurehead's performance, it seems equally likely that we need to acknowledge the depth of housecleaning necessary to right the ship. Bill Stoneman was never a flawless judge of talent, and as you say above, the Gary Matthews, Jr. misfire may have hastened him out the door. Frying pan, meet fire.

fire Tony Reagins and Mickey Hatcher. No and, ifs or buts about it. Batting average in the tank and GM leadership is awful. I am sick and tired of this team being sunk for another 5-8 years from now. We need to be smarter with our payroll and not spend and thats the GM's job!