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Fantasies fulfilled in LA
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - The shocking news Thursday that former Texas Rangers slugger Josh Hamilton has signed with the Los Angeles Angels for five years and $125 million is the latest in a long line of developments in the City of Angels that have rocked the fantasy landscape the past 12 months.

With money flowing freely for both Southern California franchises, the Los Angels Dodgers and Angels have embarked on an arms race that seemingly won't end until one of them hits $300 million in payroll.

Neither made the playoffs last season and both watched division rivals make postseason waves -- the San Francisco Giants won their second World Series title in three years and both the Rangers and Oakland Athletics (with $59.5 million payroll) reached the tournament.

Here are the major fantasy events of the past 12 months involving these two teams.

Dec. 8, 2011 - The Angels sign first baseman Albert Pujols and left-hander C.J. Wilson to big money contracts, giving Pujols $254 million over 10 years and Wilson $77.5 million over five years.

Fantasy impact: For NL-only owners, Pujols leaving the St. Louis Cardinals left the Senior Circuit with one elite first baseman: Joey Votto. If you need proof, just look at the 2012 NL All-Star team, on which Votto was backed up by Bryan LaHair of the Chicago Cubs. LaHair played 970 minor league games prior to 2012, was replaced by prospect Anthony Rizzo in the second half and will play 2013 in Japan.

Pujols registered a career-low .285 batting average, .859 OPS and 30 homers after hitting .217 with zero homers in April, but I predict he'll return to elite form in 2013. Pujols hit .305/.365/.569 in his final 127 games. Compare that to what Tigers third baseman Miguel Cabrera did in 2008, his first year with Detroit after coming over in a trade from Miami. Cabrera only batted .278/.347/.453 with 11 home runs in his first 83 games, but launched 26 homers with a slash of .306/.352/.622 in his final 77. Cabrera has hit .324 or better his last four season and won the Triple Crown in 2012. Point is, switching leagues takes an adjustment period.

Wilson had his worst stats in his three years as a full-time starter, posting a 13-10 record with a 3.83 ERA, 1.34 WHIP and 173 Ks in 202 1/3 innings. The problem? The lefty had to face his former ballclub. Wilson posted a 7.65 ERA and 2.00 WHIP in five starts against Texas. He had a 3.40 ERA and 1.27 WHIP against everyone else.

April 28, 2012 - Angels outfielder Mike Trout (20 years old at the time) makes his season debut.

Fantasy impact: Trout had one of the most dominant all-around fantasy seasons ever, hitting .326 with 30 homers, 83 RBIs, 49 steals, 129 runs and a .963 OPS in 139 games. He should be a top-five draft pick in 2013.

May 13, 2012 - Dodgers outfielder Matt Kemp strains his hamstring and spent 58 of the next 60 days on the DL (Kemp returned in late May but aggravated the injury after two games).

Fantasy impact: Kemp was hitting .359 with 12 homers and 28 RBIs in 34 games at the time of his injury. The balky hammy cost fantasy owners 50 or so games of that type of production.

July 28, 2012 - The Milwaukee Brewers trade right-hander Zack Greinke to the Angels for prospects.

Fantasy impact: In another move that crushed the dreams of NL-only fantasy owners, Greinke jumped back to the league where he won a Cy Young Award in 2009. The right-hander didn't fare well initially, going 1-2 with a 6.19 ERA in his first five starts with the Angels, but he was a major force in the fantasy playoffs, going 5-0 with a 2.04 ERA in his last eight starts.

Aug. 25, 2012 - The Dodgers accept several albatross contracts in a trade with the Boston Red Sox, including first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, right-hander Josh Beckett, and injured outfielder Carl Crawford (elbow).

Fantasy impact: The move cost AL-only owners Gonzalez, who was batting .350 with 10 homers, 50 RBIs and a .936 OPS in his last 56 games prior to the trade. The first baseman was a lemon in Los Angeles, hitting .297 with three homers and 22 RBIs in 36 games with the team.

Owners likely moved on from Red Sox scapegoat Josh Beckett long before the trade but those who stuck with him were provided with a 2.93 ERA in 43 innings down the stretch compared to a 5.23 mark in 127 1/3 innings before the deal.

Dec. 8-9, 2012 - Greinke signs with the Dodgers for six years, $147 million. Los Angeles also beats the deadline and signs South Korean lefty Ryu Hyun-jin for $36 million over six years.

Fantasy impact: Greinke gets to move back to the National League, where he owns a 25-9 record, 3.66 ERA and 9.9 K/9 in 49 starts compared to 45-34, 3.28 and 8.3 in his last 111 starts in the American League. He likely won't stray much from his 15-5 record or 3.48 ERA from 2010 but should increase his strikeout total with an improved K/9.

Ryu brings a top-notch changeup to the majors but there are differing reports on his fastball velocity, according to fangraphs.com. Plus, Los Angeles now has eight starters, with Clayton Kershaw, Greinke, Beckett and Chad Billingsley locked into the top four spots. The Dodgers might decide to give Ryu some minor league seasoning while Aaron Harang, Chris Capuano or Ted Lilly handle fifth- starter duties.

Dec. 13, 2012 - Hamilton signs with the Angels

Fantasy impact: Hamilton owns a career .315 average and .965 OPS in 332 games at Rangers Ballpark, a stadium he'll get to visit plenty of times in 2013. However, he only has a .260 average and .765 OPS in 38 games at Angel Stadium, and I think that has more to do with the ballpark than the Angels' pitching staff since he possesses a .303 average and .903 OPS in 74 career games against the team. Angel Stadium ranked 27th in the majors with a park factor of 0.812 this season, while Rangers Ballpark placed fourth with a 1.183 mark. However, with Trout, Pujols and Hamilton, this lineup should put up plenty of eye- popping numbers and help Angels pitchers to gaudy win totals in 2013.




Comments? Criticism? Applause? Contact Thomas Harrigan at tharrigan@sportsnetwork.com.


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