With the World Series on the verge of beginning, that means we are mere days away from the free agency market opening for business and the Angels sure have themselves some business to get done if they want to end their playoff drought. To prep you for the ensuing craziness, we're previewing how the market could unfold for the Halos, position-by-position.
Up next, we try and figure out what the hell the Angels are going to do with their crowded outfield. Who will stay? Who will go? Will anyone new be brought in? Inquiring minds wants to know! All we can do is guess and speculate, so you'll have to settle for that.
Who we got?
There's that Mike Trout guy. I'm pretty sure he's not going anywhere. The question is who the Angels will keep around him.
Torii Hunter is still their property for a few more days, but that might be the end of his Angel tenure. He had a fantastic season, especially compared to what everyone was expecting from him and now the fans are clamoring for him to come back. I'm sure nobody would have a problem with that if he could guarantee a .389 BABIP again, but he can't and that is why recent reports suggest that Torii is probably going to be allowed to walk away.
If Torii comes back, his starting spot is assured, if he doesn't, Peter Bourjos figures to be given his spot even though he didn't do much to inspire confidence last season. The optimist can write off Peter's struggles to sporadic playing time and wrist and hip injuries. The pessimist can point out Bourjos' struggles as a sign that his bat can't hold up as so many fear prior to 2011. Of course, we may never find out, at least with the Angels because if Hunter does come back, Bourjos becomes prime trade bait. In fact, there is a school of though (mostly taught by me) that Bourjos could be traded regardless.
Finally, we have Mark Trumbo. He was awesome for half a season and then horrible for half a season. That will surely result in him getting another season in the outfield unless the Angels move Morales and slide Trumbo to DH. There is that whole third base experiment thing still, but it is hard to think they'd want to revisit that disaster.
What's that? I forgot someone? Alright, fine. Let's talk about Vernon Wells, even though it goes against my better judgment. Fans want him gone, the front office probably wants him gone and he probably wants to be gone, but he won't admit it. Dumping Wells would be nice, but it isn't as necessary as everyone thinks. So long as he serves as strictly a back-up, he really does no harm once you accept the fact that his contract is a sunk cost because there is no way any team is going to take a noticeable amount of the money he is owed off the Angels' hands. And just to twist the knife a little bit, keep in mind that Vernon has a no-trade clause. This should be fun.
Who we want?
Honestly, we have no idea who the Angels might want. The assumption all along is that oufield would be handled in house seeing how they have so many options. However, there is a domino effect that begins if Hunter is cut loose. The Halos have about $40 million in spending money for 2013. Had they kept both Hunter and Greinke, that amount would have been almost all used up. But if Hunter isn't part of the equation, the Halos could afford another top tier free agent in addition to Greinke and still have just enough cash laying around to address the bullpen.
If that is the case, suddenly several big names come into play. Josh Hamilton? The Angels sure could use a left-handed slugger and Mike Scioscia certainly seems like the kind of manager that is capable of handling a personality like Hamilton. Maybe Nick Swisher? He wouldn't cost as much, but he could have perhaps a bigger impact with his switch-hitting, power and, most of all, patience. He could easily slot into Hunter's vacated two-hole and provide another great table-setter for Pujols. There is also the possibility that the Halos could use their payroll and roster assets to instead jump into the Justin Upton sweepstakes. If any GM knows the best route to acquiring Upton, it is Dipoto.
Theoretically, the Angels could pursue big, expensive bats at other positions, but that would require that they exist, so the outfield is certainly the best option for them to pursue.
Why we care?
We care mostly because so many Angel fans yearn so strongly for Hunter to return because he played well and because he is such a likable character. Unfortunately, being likable is a really bad reason for a team to sign someone. Ability is the best reason and Hunter may not have the best ability available at the price he wants.
We also care because Bourjos did become a fan favorite in his own right during 2011 and has been left in limbo for a season. On sheer torture factor alone, the team has to do something with him, be it play him or move him, something needs to happen.
Finally, we care because another element of toruture factor, Vernon Wells. Not to belabor the point, but so long as he is Anaheim, he is going to draw the ire of the local fans and the ridicule of all other fans. If he stays, so be it. But if the Angels are finally going to cut bait on him, we'll all want it to happen as soon as possible.
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My dream outfield: Trout, Bourjos, Trumbo; L to R. With Wells backing up. No point in dumping a guy with experience in all positions since you can't get anything for him or get any salary relief. This gives Calhoun (my family clan leader name!) a chance to play everyday in the minors so if there is an injury he'll be ready to come up and take over for a short (we'd hope) while and Wells can continue to back up.
Is every red cent of value wrung out of Trout by moving him to left? No. So what? He's replaced by a guy just as good in the field (with a better arm) and he gets a little less wear and tear over the course of a full season. He was wearing out toward the end of last year. He'll adapt and overcome for a few years during his prime and then start to wear down again. Avoid the problem and make the shift now. It will have to be left, he doesn't have the arm for right and Trumbo, at least, has that. Also, I'd rather he not become the same health liability that, say, Josh Hamilton is in center due to his exuberant style of play. Reduce the fatigue level and the chance of injury (I fully realize there's no way to quantify that), I'd rather have the maximum offensive level for 155 games than keep him in center for two extra catches (maybe; this is Peter Bourjos, after all) over the course of a season.
There. All changes are in-house and at a savings. No muss, no fuss. Get pitching, those 200 inning guys sound pretty good if Greinke can't be bought. Or use those (that?) savings to lock up Trout for a while. Or something. And trade Morales for something useful, please.