Tag:Los Angeles Angels
Posted on: December 13, 2011 11:08 am

Tectonic Shifting On West Coast:

         We are used to hearing reports of earthquakes around the San Andreas Fault. Breaking news from the sports world, no matter how titanic in spectrum, usually doesn’t register on the local seismographs. What the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim just accomplished at the annual baseball winter meetings might be the first. For seemingly ever, the Angels have been frustrated in their attempts to lure marquee free agents to LA’s AL franchise. Mark Teixeira didn’t want to re-up. CC Sabathia, even after claiming a desire to be on the West Coast, spurned them for Broadway’s bright lights. Adrien Beltre frustrated the Angels not once but twice, first by signing with Boston and then with division-rival Texas. The Angels have had a hole at the hot corner since Troy Glaus left and Brandon Wood never became the player they thought he would. Carl Crawford also chose Boston over the Angels.

                The Angels have been NYY-East for a while now. Since 2004, the Angels won 5 division titles and ruled the roost in MLB’s smallest division. The Rangers stole their crown with a deep and plentiful minor league system bearing fruit and spending new ownership’s money. Like most major-market teams with annual expectations to win, Arte Morales’ money always burns a hole in the organizations’ pocket. If they can’t sign Teixeira, Sabathia, Crawford, etc., then they spend that capital on Torii Hunter, Bobby Abreu, Hideki Matsui, Gary Matthews Jr., Vernon Wells, Brian Fuentes and the like. But by signing Pujols, the Angels in one fell swoop changed their free agency pattern and jumped into the elite super-group of spenders. Pujols’s length of contract will eventually become an albatross to the organization, and his full no-trade clause will hamper any and all attempts to move him when the time comes. This was the price, literally, of getting him to leave St. Louis and turn down sumptuous offers from the Marlins, Cubs, and whoever else thought they had a shot. The addition of Pujols creates a very interesting log jam at the games’ premier power position.

                Let’s take a closer look at the LAA first base depth chart. Former Cuban defector Kendrys Morales (no relation to Arte, that we know of) burst onto the scene in 2009 after Teixeira left for the Yankees. He played in 152 games, hit 34 homers while driving in 108 runs, averaging .306 over the season. But after injuring his leg during a home plate dinger celebration, he only saw action in 51 games in 2010. Mark Trumbo stepped in at first and had a great rookie year. He is still young at age 25 and in his rookie year hit .249 with 29 home runs and 86 RBI’s in 149 games. He could plausibly play third base but his defense isn’t great over there. Mike Scioscia is known as a defensive-minded manager but Trumbo’s thump is too great to leave out of the lineup. If Morales is healthy, he can DH with Pujols at first and Trumbo at third. That’s a scary middle of the order. The odd man out would seem to be Bobby Abreu. He could fetch a little on the trade market for an AL club looking for some solid OBP from the DH spot but can’t spend a bunch. The other option would be for the Angels to move Trumbo, who would bring in a much bigger bounty given his age and early production. Mind, the Angles still have wunderkind Mike Trout and solid prospect C.J. Cron coming up. The Angels are set in the outfield with Hunter, Wells and Peter Bourjos, and seem set up the middle with Howie Kendricks, Macier Izturis and Alberto Callaspo. The Angels certainly have some trade chips to play with.

                The list of teams lining up for Trumbo would be significant. Any team with a hole at first base in need of some pop, and a cabinet full of prospects to move to the Angels would be a good fit. Money wouldn’t be of great concern because Trumbo is so young still. He is eligible to be a free agent after 2011 which would hurt his bargaining a little, but he is slated to make only $414,000 this season, which is a steal for a guy with 30-100 potential. Any team trading for Trumbo would want to ink him to a healthy extension immediately. Let’s assume that teams view Trumbo as primarily a first baseman. Teams already set at first base for the long term at present include the Angles (Pujols), Yankees (Teixiera), Red Sox (Gonzalez), Phillies (Howard), Tigers (Cabrera), Twins (Morneau/Mauer), Reds (Votto) and whichever team signs Prince Fielder. We can also assume some teams that have committed to young players at the position would be out of the running for Trumbo. That list would include the Padres (Anthony Rizzo), Braves (Freddie Freeman), Royals (Moustakas/B. Butler), Seattle (Justin Smoak). Those are elite prospects and young players whose values are arguably as high or higher than that of Trumbo. Any of the teams not listed either need immediate help at first, or have players there currently who wouldn’t stand in the way of a trade for Trumbo. A good example would be teams like the Indians with Matt LaPorta, Giants with Brandon Belt/Pablo Sandoval, the Mets with Ike Davis or the Marlins with Gaby Sanchez.

                Like the list for Fielder, potential suitors will be limited by current 1<sup>st</sup> basemen and money. The list of teams vying for Prince’s services looks like a race between the Nationals, Orioles, Cubs, Blue Jays and we could add the Cardinals now that they lost out of La Machina. I believe that money earmarked for Albert would only have gone to Albert, and the Cardinals would not be willing to go nearly as high for Prince. The Nationals/Orioles/Cubs/Blue Jays list is all teams that could plug Prince in immediately without uprooting anyone of substance. The Nats could slide Michael Morse to the outfield, and their lineup could then have Zimmerman/Fielder/Werth/Morse. Not too shabby. The Orioles have had Aubrey Huff at first and Prince would be a big upgrade there. Toronto had been using Adam Lind and Edwin Encarnacion, and just signed Mark Teahan. Prince brings more to the table than those three combined. And the Cubs would love to scoop Prince from a division rival but Theo Epstein and Co. might want to invest that money into a barren farm system and get that “player development machine” rolling instead of giving one player 8-10 years to the tune of 200+ million dollars. We will know a lot more about the future of Mark Trumbo based on the future home of Prince Fielder and the health of Kendrys Morales.

                If Morales in healthy, Bobby Abreu would likely be on the move. He must remain in the AL because he is only a DH at this point. Let’s make a new list. Teams with DH’s already in the fold include NY (Posada/A-Rod/Jeter/Swisher/etc.), Boston (Ortiz/Youkilis), Toronto (Lind), Chicago (Adam Dunn) Detroit (V-Mart, Carlos Guillen, Magglio) and K.C. (Butler, Kila Ka’aiuhe). Also Minnesota has the Mauer/Morneau/Kubel triumvirate. Tampa Bay, Oakland and Cleveland probably wouldn’t want to spend the money necessary for Abreu (9 million in 2011 and 2012). It’s apparent that Abreu would have trouble finding a home as a full-time DH anywhere, and no one would likely pay a platoon DH 9-million annually. The Angels might be forced to eat some contract in order to move Abreu (assuming Morales is healthy). They won’t allow any AB’s go to Abreu that should be going to Trumbo, Trout, Wells, Hunter, Pujols, Morales, etc. The Mariners are the only team I can think of where Abreu may fit. The Mariners have absolutely no pop outside Justin Smoak, and they need all the offensive help they can get. The Angels couldn’t ask for a whole hell of a lot in return when it comes time to trade Abreu so Seattle could hold on to all their top prospects.

                If C.J. Wilson had stayed with Rangers, Albert Pujols going to the Angels wouldn’t have bumped the Angels ahead of Texas in my mind. The Angels rotation would have been better up top (Haren, Weaver) but the Rangers would have had more solid depth with Wilson, Ogando, Lewis, Feldman, Holland, etc. The Rangers lineup with Hamilton, Beltre, Andrus, Kinsler, Cruz, Napoli, Young, etc. would be the equal of Pujols, Morales, Trumbo, Wells, Hunter. But now that the Angels hauled in Pujols AND Wilson, they add at the Rangers’ direct expense. The Rangers are another team, like the Angels, who have the trade chips to make themselves better either before spring training or at the trade deadline. Michael Young seemingly lives on the permanent trade block, and pieces like David Murphy and Mitch Moreland could be valuable if the Rangers wanted to grab a guy like say, Francisco Liriano, Edison Volquez or Jair Jurrjens. The AL West looks like a two-horse race for years to come, and Houston joining the fray in 2013 won’t pose a threat to this new two-team hegemony.


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