Tempe, Ariz. -- The Angels didn't "win the offseason" this time around. After consecutive winters in which they signed first baseman Albert Pujols and outfielder Josh Hamilton -- deals that cost a combined $365 million and so far netted them two third-place finishes -- they tried something different this winter.
"We've actually had a fairly active offseason," general manager Jerry Dipoto said. "It just hasn't drummed up a lot of attention, which is not such a bad thing."
Instead of adding marquee stars, the Angels simply filled up the bottom half of the roster with more depth than they've had in years.
Whether that depth proves to be productive is one of the big questions that will begin to be answered in the spring.
The most important question is whether their starting rotation has enough depth. Last year, they couldn't replace right-hander Jered Weaver and left-hander Jason Vargas when they were injured, and there were few bright spots for the future on the pitching staff.
Now, the Angels go into the spring with righty Garrett Richards and newly acquired Hector Santiago and Tyler Skaggs at the back of the rotation. None of the three has been through a full season as a major league starter, so how they progress will be a major factor in how well the Angels do.
The Angels also hope to have a deeper bullpen, with depth added by having a healthy Sean Burnett and Kevin Jepsen, to go with free-agent addition Joe Smith.
Offensively, the Angels will be looking to see if Pujols (now recovered from the knee and foot problems that slowed him last year) and Hamilton (now more than 20 pounds heavier and perhaps more comfortable in his new surroundings) can return to form.
Beyond that, the story of the spring among position players will be fierce competition for jobs on the bench. The Angels signed infielders John McDonald, Ian Stewart and Chad Tracy, first baseman Carlos Pena, outfielder Brennan Boesch and catcher Yorvit Torrealba to minor league deals. They will push incumbents Collin Cowgill, Grant Green, Andrew Romine and J.B. Shuck for bench jobs.
--OF Josh Hamilton has gained about 20 pounds over the winter in an effort to get back to the form that earned him an MVP in 2010 and a $125 million deal from the Angels prior to the 2013 season. Hamilton had a disappointing first year with the Angels, so he and the club are hoping that added weight can help him rebound.
--1B Albert Pujols is looking for a bounce-back season after he struggled with plantar fasciitis in 2013. Pujols missed the last two months of the season. The time off seems to have helped him get back to 100 percent, though, so the Angels are expecting a much better season.
--RHP Joe Blanton is facing an important spring. Blanton has a year left on his contract, but no apparent place on the Angels staff. If he doesn't pitch well, he could be released. If he does, he could be an option for the Angels or for a trade.
--LHP Mark Mulder will be an intriguing pitcher to follow this spring. Mulder hasn't pitched in the big leagues since 2008, but he's attempting a comeback. The Angels were impressed enough with him in workouts over the winter that they are giving him a shot.
--SS John McDonald probably has the best chance of making the Angels' Opening Day roster among the seven major league veterans signed to minor league deals in January. McDonald is a defensive whiz who can play shortstop, which makes him a good candidate to back up Erick Aybar.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "It was like having a flat tire and a broken rim." -- 1B Albert Pujols, on playing in 2013 with knee and foot problems.
RHP Jered Weaver
LHP C.J. Wilson
LHP Hector Santiago
RHP Garrett Richards
LHP Tyler Skaggs
The rotation is strong at the top, but after Weaver and Wilson, it is full of question marks. Santiago, Richards and Skaggs each have potential to be solid major league starters, but none has made 30 starts in a single season yet.
If one or more of them fails, the Angels could be in trouble. They don't have much depth behind them. The best-case scenario for the Angels is LHP Mark Mulder surprises and pitches well enough to make the rotation.