I promise you, Arte Moreno and Tony Reagins are not holding me at gunpoint as write the following article. With that disclaimer out of the way, I'm going to go ahead and say something that might make some heads explode. Yes, the Angels have done pretty much nothing this off-season, but they actually might get better by, wait for it... stop cringing... you know its coming... by looking within for help.
Still with me? Nobody passed out from blind rage? I swear, I'm totally serious. We all know the Angels have several holes in their roster and that the free agent market is perilously thin, but there might actually be a chance that the Halos can improve significantly without adding a single new position player (not that I'm advising that). With the right mix of bounceback seasons and some youngsters stepping up, the Angels could be back in the playoffs in 2011.
I reiterate, this article was written under my own free will with no imminent threat on my life.
In case you have been living under a rock, the Halos have three major issues to address:
- A third baseman who can actually field AND hit. The "AND" is in capitals for a reason. The Halos need to improve their defense, but they also don't have nearly enough offense to flush another fielding position down the toilet on a good glove-no hits player. They already have Jeff Mathis playing at least part-time behind the plate and there is no guarantee that Peter Bourjos is going to produce.
- A left fielder with, what's the word? Oh yeah, range and an at least passable bat. Either that or a kick ass designated hitter that makes us forget about Bobby Abreu being a train wreck of an outfielder.
- A REAL leadoff hitter. Again, the caps are for a reason. Sticking someone in the leadoff spot does not make them a leadoff hitter, contrary to what Mike Scioscia might believe. I'm talking about a real tablesetter who can consistently get on base at a high rate and create at least a little havoc on the basepaths. The best thing about this problem is that, if properly conceived, the Angels can fill this hole and one of the others at the same time.
So now we know the problem, but what about the solutions?
Maicer Izturis - It is the same old story with Maicer, when he is healthy, he is surprisingly productive. His glove is reliable and could blossom if allowed to stay at third full-time and his patience at the plate, while not exceptional, is comparitively awesome compared to any other Angel hitter this side of Bobby Abreu. Good glove, good eye, good situational hitter, good baserunner. The adjective "great" is obviously lacking from Maicer's profile, but a good all-around third baseman and leadoff hitter is really all the Angels need.
Alberto Callaspo - In 58 games as an Angel, Callaspo hardly endeared himself to the fans, but there is plenty of reason to believe he can be useful. Alberto displayed almost no pop after his trade, but there is a bit of life in his bat based on historical performance, not to mention a lot more hits. Callaspo was a .300 hitter his last two season with the Royals, so unless he just forgot how to hit, he is due to bounceback. He is no Adrian Beltre with the bat, but a .300 hitter with 40 doubles and 10 homers is enough for the Halos, especially compared to last year. What really makes Callaspo attractive though is that he has performed well with the glove since moving to third on a full-time basis and has the potential to be a top notch defender at the position. While hardly awe-inspiring, Callaspo would be cheap and productive enough to hold down the hot corner until a more significant upgrade can be procured.
Brandon Wood - Seriously? No. He sucks and offers no hope. NEXT!!!
Reggie Willits - Anybody who thinks the Angels should sign Scott Podsednik should just shut the heck up and look to Willits instead. What does Pods that Willits doesn't? He has above average patience, no power, passable defense and good speed. I purposely used the ambiguous pronoun "he" in that last sentence to prove a point. Was I describing Willits or Podsednik? You don't know, that's my point. Actually, I was probably more describing Podsednik, because Willits has actually shown that he could have excellent patience. Throughout Willits' career, when given consistent at-bats, he has drawn a lot of walks, even posting a .391 OBP in his rookie campaign. That number was probably over his head, but if he saw that number drop a whopping 30 points. he'd have tied for the highest on-base percentage on the team last season. Willits may not look like a savior, but neither did David Eckstein when he served as the catalyst for the 2002 Angels. Did I oversell it enough yet?
Mark Trumbo - I've never been a big believer in Trumbo, but his innate power is undeniable. The guy can hit bombs, but can he hit big league pitching? There is only one way to find out. With the free agent market totally devoid of anything close to a slugger, the Angels might be best served seeing if Trumbo can make the transition to the bigs. I don't think anyone would begrudge adding a 30-homer hitter to the lineup, which seems like what Trumbo could be capable of if he exceeds expectations. The only downside with him is that he is a very poor fielder, so he'd have to DH.
Do I really believe any of these four guys are really capable of curing what ails the Angels? Yes, sort of. The Halos could gamble on an internal candidate filling one of their holes, but all three? That's almost like hoping to win the lottery. The real point here is that the Angels are not devoid of talent. They've got several players at their disposal that they have yet to fully utilize, not to mention several players who grossly underachieved last season that could really give the team a shot in the arm by merely regressing to the norm. And I haven't even brought up some of the more longshots for help this coming season like an early promotion of uber-prospect Mike Trout or even up-and-comer Jeremy Moore. And there is always a chance that maybe Erick Aybar will recapture his 2009 form or Peter Bourjos will figure out big league pitching or Howie Kendrick will finally deliver on his full potential.
I have no doubt that the Angels will add some more pieces to the roster, as well they should, but we have to accept the fact that there most likely isn't going to be multiple elite position players joining the Halos in 2011. That is going to disappoint many fans, but many of those who are disappointed could easily find themselves pleasantly surprised when multiple players already on the roster turn their game up a notch to help fill the voids that the Angels couldn't fill in free agency.