When the Angels signed Albert Pujols, it created the “problem” of too many bats for too few spots in the lineup.
Because they had a first baseman that hit for power in Mark Trumbo; another first baseman that hit for power still trying to come back from injury in Kendrys Morales; and veteran Bobby Abreu as the DH, it’s considered too many players to keep and keep happy.
The player most frequently discussed in trade suggestions has been Abreu.
GM Jerry DiPoto was probably speaking out of pragmatism rather than playing his cards close to the vest when he said they weren’t looking to trade Abreu.
Abreu is coming off a subpar season considering the consistent offensive numbers he’s posted in his career. In 2011, he batted .253 with 8 homers and a .717 OPS.
Abreu will be 38 in March, but he’s only being paid $9 million in 2012 and even if he repeats the production from last season, is a .353 OBP with 30 doubles and 21 stolen bases that bad? If he’s hitting in front of Pujols, he’ll score plenty of runs getting on base and advancing without giving up an out. The biggest difference between Abreu’s 2010 season and 2011 was the decline in home runs; other than that, the numbers were almost identical.
For the Angels, there isn’t an ironclad solution for the glut of bats.
Trumbo has tremendous power and hits tape measure home runs, but he strikes out a lot, doesn’t walk at all and is returning from a foot injury. Trumbo is preparing for a shift to third base, but manager Mike Scioscia likes defense and Trumbo has never played third as a professional—Scioscia won’t play Trumbo at third if he can’t handle the position defensively.
In spite of the Angels playing up how great Morales looks, he had an injury that, in years past, would only have happened to someone playing for the Mets when he broke his ankle jumping on home plate after hitting a game-winning grand slam in May of 2010.
That’s almost two years and multiple false starts ago. He can’t be counted on until he proves he can play again and stay healthy.
The biggest variable as to what the Angels do with Abreu might be Vernon Wells.
Wells was so horrible last season at the plate (.218/.248/.412 slash line with 25 homers) that they wouldn’t be crazy to accept that the $63 million remaining on his contract is gone and release him if he’s not hitting by May. The GM who traded for Wells, Tony Reagins, was fired and the Wells trade was a major factor in his dismissal.
Releasing Wells would be costly, but he’s untradeable, they have two young outfielders in Peter Bourjos and Mike Trout to play center and left and the bats to account for the one thing Wells has done: hit the ball out of the park.
But they only have the bats if they keep Abreu until they see what they have with the other players.
And that’s what they should do.