(Photo Credit: Yardbarker.com)
Hopefully you’re able to read this through the tears. With a swing and a jump, the Angels season may have broken as badly as Morales’ leg did yesterday. As of this morning, Morales was second on the team in both wOBA and WAR behind only Mike Napoli, and lead the team in AVG, HR, and RBI (among players with at least 100 PA). In short, he was a huge piece of our offense, and it’s hard to imagine he’s not out for the season now.
Unfortunately, this may have a big impact on 2011 as well. It depends on how bad the break is, of course, but when Juan Rivera broke his leg playing winter ball in 2007, his numbers were significantly off of their career averages in 2008 and didn’t really return to normal until 2009. If that holds true for Morales, it may be 2012 before he’s really an effective player again. This leaves the Angels in a bit of a bad position. If they give up some prospects or major league level players for a replacement this season and Morales is able to come back in 2011 full force, they could end up with more players than they have positions, and will have given up players they didn’t need to. If they do nothing, though, and Morales isn’t effective until 2012, that one awkward jump on home plate could leave the Angels on the outside looking in for two straight October’s.
We’ll take a look at the Angels’ options to replace him after the jump.
Personally, I don’t think the Angels should make a drastic move. This was not a team that was truly in contention before this happened, and while this will certainly hurt their chances, it will basically take them from slim to none. If this was a team that had looked really good, had great pitching and the offense was hitting well and this could’ve ended up derailing a potentially deep run into the playoffs then I would feel differently, but that’s just not the Angels team we’ve seen so far in 2010. Why give something up to bolster a team that was woefully incomplete before this happened? In a weird way, in fact, this could be a good thing for the Angels. If they fall far enough out of it soon enough, they could go into rebuilding mode and start working on bringing better, younger players in for the future instead of worrying about winning now.
With all of that said, someone will have to take 1B for the Angels, so let’s look at the possible internal and external replacements for Morales.
Brandon Wood – While he’s currently “injured” (who knows, maybe he really is and it’s just a coincidence that he is both out of options and currently unable to hit Major League pitching), he’s a potential candidate to replace Morales at 1B. As Angel fans are well aware of right now, Wood has excelled at not hitting thus far in 2010, currently with only 1 HR more than the great power hitter Eric Aybar. He’s also dead last on the team in AVG, BB%, ISO (Isolated Power, which is SLG-minus-AVG.. and yes, he’s even lower than Aybar), OBP, SLG, OPS, wOBA, BB/K (0.06!), and second in K%. In short, he has sucked with the bat in pretty much every way possible. Were he to be switched to 1B upon his return, he would be a replacement for Morales in position only. He’s not moving up in the lineup until he shows he can hit, and I seriously doubt his glove at 1B would be as good as Morales’ has been. I don’t think moving Wood is a smart idea, simply because he’s still adjusting to his move from SS to 3B, and another shift across the diamond is not likely to help him. And assuming he takes to 1B, it doesn’t really help the Angels, because the position clearly belongs to Morales. The best they could hope for would be to turn Wood into trade bait for someone in need of a 1B, but then that leaves them short at 3B. I just don’t see a way in which it’s a good idea.
Robb Quinlan – Probably the most likely person to replace Morales, since the Angels already have him on the 40-man roster, and he’s already spent time at 1B (182 games, in fact, his most of any position at the ML level). At no point, however, should Quinlan be mistaken for a good player. Over his 8 seasons in an Angel uniform, he’s amassed a whopping 0.6 WAR. His career wOBA is .316, which I probably don’t have to tell you is not exactly great. He’ll be another replacement for Morales in position only, but he’ll be someone that has played first and done it at the Major League level, and he’ll be someone the Angels don’t have to lose a single player to plug in. If the Angels are truly out of it at this point, and it’s hard for me to believe they’re not, then this is the single lowest-risk move they could make.
Jermaine Dye – There have been some murmurings about bringing in Dye to replace Morales, and people are pointing to an article from back in Feb. where SI.com’s Jon Heyman reported that Dye was willing to play 1B in an effort to get teams to sign him. Since then, Dye has gone on to have exactly zero Major League ABs. He could probably still hit for some power, but his slash line has left something to be desired, and the layoff makes him even less appealing. The fact that he’d be the everyday player at a position he’s spent exactly 9 innings at during his 14-year career further lessens his value to the Angels. I think, mostly, this is the fans throwing out names that have had success in the past in an attempt to grasp at straws. I’d call this very, very unlikely, at best.
Paul Konerko – Also some rumblings around the Angels fanbase are attempting to trade for Konerko, a man that’s been linked to the Angels in trade and free agent rumors numerous times over the years. Konerko is having a good year for the White Sox, already halfway to last year’s HR total, and his OBP and SLG are both well above his career averages. Of course, that’s also a reason for the Angels and their fans to be wary of him, because it greatly increases the chances that his production will fall off at some point this year and he’ll return to earth. More than any of that, though, I think the big question when it comes to Konerko is… why? At this point, what would be the reason behind sending prospects and/or ML-level players for someone that is making $12 million this season, and is a free agent at the end of next season. Again, if the Angels were a really solid team before this happened and looked prime to win the West and make a good playoff run it would be a different story, but that simply isn’t the case this year. Adding Konerko doesn’t fix the problems in the rotation or the pen (and, depending on who would have to be sent to acquire him, may make them worse), and it is only a stopgap for an offense that was already struggling before this happened. He doesn’t add anything to a team that was already clearly struggling, he just lessens the detraction some. Attempting to add Konerko makes no sense, and may only hurt us going forward.
So far, it looks like the Angels are going to call up Quinlan to replace Morales. Probably most likely for the rest of this season is a rotation at 1B, and whoever does best in that role will end up with the most playing time. I wouldn’t even be terribly shocked to see Napoli get some time there when Mathis returns, given the man crush Scioscia has on him. I think there is little else for the Angels to do than go with what they have, try to compete with it, and when/if that fails, prepare for next season. It would take career years from a lot of players that aren’t yet showing it to really expect anything more.