I’m calling these crazy suggestions, because they’re things I’ve only been thinking about for a couple hours, and I don’t know how willing the front office will be to do most, if any of them. Still, at least at the moment, I think they’re a few moves we could make that could go some distance towards improving the team. Some of it will be contingent on the front office opening their wallets, which they haven’t always been willing to do, and some of it will demand a little creative thinking on the part of Scioscia and the front office, but with a couple trades and acquisitions, I think this team can take a big step forward, at least offensively. After the jump, we’ll take a look at the crazy early morning ramblings of a disappointed Angels fan.
Sign Adam Dunn to Play 1B
Dunn has made it pretty clear he has utterly no desire to DH. This is frustrating for a couple of reasons, most important being the fact that he is one of the single worst fielders the UZR stat has ever tracked. While only at a -0.6 this season, he somehow managed to post a -14.3 last season… AT FIRST BASE! Yikes. Still, he stubbornly has decided he wants nothing to do with only
DHing, a position that would do wonders for his value since his defense is going to drag his value down more than the DH positional adjustment ever would, and so we have to begrudgingly accept that. Even with his terrible defense, sticking him at 1B limits the defensive damage he can do, and he still brings his utterly thunderous bat to an Angels lineup that has lacked one like it for a couple years now. Even as good as Morales’ 2009 was, it wasn’t as good offensively as Dunn is season after season. Speaking of Morales, people are going to wonder what that would mean for our own 1B. I haven’t forgotten about Morales, and in fact far from it.
Move Morales to 3B
The Angels clearly think the Brandon Wood Experiment is a failure. Even if they haven’t said as much, their actions speak loudly enough on this matter. Between April 5th and his trip to the DL on May 25th, Wood never missed more than a single game out of the Angels’ lineup, and even then it only happened seven times. Since returning from the DL, Wood has been held out seven more times already, with four of those occasions being at least two games without Wood. Even with the
chances of reaching the playoffs moving further away with each passing game, the Angels are playing Wood less and less, coming to the conclusion (whether they realize it or not) that Wood is not going to be what they hoped he would. We can lament all the potential trades he could’ve been involved in, players that would be helping us to this day while we watched him struggle with another team (Miguel Cabrera anyone?), but that’s not what this is about right now.
Instead, I think Morales can move to 3B, where he has played some (though only 3 games at Single-A Rancho Cucamonga), and provide us with a consistent quality bat at the position. He isn’t going to be in any danger of repeating Figgins’ 2009 fielding levels at the position, which were simply fantastic, but he is athletic and I think he’ll be able to adapt to the position. To his credit, Wood has thus far been able to put up a pretty positive UZR at the position (currently a 4.6 UZR), but it’s about the only thing he’s done well there, and the complete vacuum that is hit bat just isn’t off-set by his defense enough to justify keeping him in the lineup.
Having Morales and Dunn at the corner infield spots may be a step backwards defensively, but offensively we’ll have two different people that are all but guaranteed to hit 25+ (or in Dunn’s case, nearly 40) HR’s a season. This would go a long way to solving the “big bat” problems the Angels have had for years, and would solidify a 3B position that is clearly in some turmoil after the departure of Figgins and the failure of Wood.
As for what you do with Wood, there are only two real options. First, you keep him around on the bench, keep him working with Hatcher and see if you can still get some value out of him. If he can somehow find the ability to turn into a viable Major League hitter, you either look to trade him for some prospects of some bullpen help, or you try him out at DH or a corner OF spot. If he doesn’t turn it around, then trying to trade him to a team that thinks they might be able to catch that lightning in a bottle with him seems to me the only other option. Handicapping the team for the foreseeable future so they can wait on his bat to maybe, perhaps, someday, hopefully come around just doesn’t seem to me to be a viable option.
This is sort of a two- or even three-parter, that would also include:
Both Rivera and Abreu become free agents after the 2011 season (Abreu has a $1MM buyout if his 2012 option is not picked up), and with salaries of $4.25MM and $9MM next season, respectively, I don’t think they should be too terribly hard to move. I wouldn’t expect to get more than a couple prospects or perhaps a decent arm for the pen from trading them, but doing so would free up at least one, if not two OF spots, which the signings of both Crawford and Werth would take care of. Signing both, or either of them, is far from a guarantee, but if this team truly wants to compete with the Yankees and Red Sox of the world, I think it’s something that needs to happen. We opened our wallets wide once before, signing Vladimir Guerrero, Bartolo Colon, and Jose Guillen in one off-season, and were rewarded with an AL MVP and AL Cy Young Award for our troubles. We also got a mountain of production out of Guerrero, and Colon was a very solid pitcher for us for the majority of his contract. As I’ve said before on here, spending money wisely is a very good thing, and something this team hasn’t always excelled at (one need only to look at the truckloads of money we’re giving to Scott Kazmir and Gary Matthews Jr, still, to see that). This is one instance where we can do that very thing, and it will vastly improve this team.
Assuming we live in a world where the Angels can trade Abreu and Rivera, and sign Crawford and Werth, then our new OF should be Crawford in LF, Bourjos in CF, and Werth in RF. Werth, while a pretty average defensive CFer, is actually quite good with the glove in RF, as shown by his 10.7, 12.6, and 7.1 UZR in 2007, ’08, and ’09 respectively. He completely destroys Abreu at the position, which is something we’ve been dealing with for two seasons now, and would be an enormous upgrade in that respect. He also has been hitting better than Abreu over the last 3+ season, putting up a slash line of .280/.378/.500 from 2007 to today, compared to Abreu’s .284/.372/.444. He’s also five years younger than Abreu, who isn’t exactly a youngster anymore.
Crawford, of course, is quite well known. Not only is he a defensive rock in LF (16.4, 17.5, and 19.1 UZR in each of the last three seasons) compared to the rather average Rivera, but his bat is clearly better, with a 2007-to-today slash line of .301/.351/.452, against Rivera’s .270/.313/.454. I realize some of that includes Rivera’s injured time with the broken leg, but even on a single-season comparison level, it doesn’t work out well in Rivera’s favor.
The only real question mark, offensively, in this equation is Bourjos, who is clearly unproven at the Major League level, and who I’ve already expressed concerns about offensively. Still, Bourjos is clearly a very solid fielder, as we’ve already gone over as well, and an OF consisting of Crawford, Bourjos, and Werth would take us from one of the single worst defensively, to one of the best. Between the runs we’d be creating with the improved bats at the corner infield and outfield positions and the runs we’d be saving with the much improved outfield defense and our newly improved rotation, we would not only be back to favorites in the AL West, we’d also be able to compete with the big names in the AL East.
No, I Didn’t Forget About Hunter
Some of you have probably noticed I haven’t yet mentioned Torii Hunter. This wasn’t an oversight by me, but instead by design. Initially, my thoughts were on acquiring only Crawford, leaving Hunter in RF, and hoping the Rangers are unable to pick up Guerrero’s option for next season so our front office can go back to him, hat in hand, to try and pick
him up as our everyday DH. It was only later I realized Werth would be a free agent as well, and the plan sort of changed. As good as Hunter’s defense once was, it has clearly been on the decline recently, as the switch to RF last night clearly illustrates. I think Hunter’s defense has a chance of moving back into the positive category in RF, but I don’t think it’ll reach the level that Werth’s is already at, meaning Werth would provide us with the most value at the position. On top of that, Matsui will be leaving after this season (I can’t imagine any world in which the Angels actually try to resign him), leaving us without a DH. Hunter fills that position perfectly.
Not only does Hunter provide us with a very good bat at the DH spot, something we’ve lacked for a while now, but he is also someone that can still give all three OFers an occasional rest, allowing Scioscia to pencil in any of our three full-time OFers into the DH spot, and giving Hunter a chance to still play the field some. Before last night I wouldn’t have even thought an arrangement like this was possible, but with the grace and class Hunter showed in making his move to the RF, I think this might actually be possible. Giving Hunter 40 or 50 games spread out between the three OF spots wouldn’t negatively affect the defense significantly, and it would probably help lessen the blow to Hunter’s ego and make the transition a little easier for him. It might also improve his defense a bit, since his legs will be more fresh each time he’s out in the field.
All About the Benjamin’s
I am under no allusions that this will be a cheap remake of the Angels. Signing someone like Crawford alone is going to cost money, but adding Werth and Dunn on top of it is going to be a hell of an increase. I’m also aware that it doesn’t address our wreck of a bullpen or the 5th spot in the rotation, which is currently held by Scott Kazmir, but could probably be held equally as well by Yoko Ono. Looking beyond 2011, we’ll have Kazmir and Gary Matthews Jr both coming off the books at the end of that season, which will be over $23MM right there (that even hurts to type) that will be free. Making moves like these may stretch the budget to the max for the 2011 season, but losing Kazmir and Matthews off the payroll will free up a lot of money that will make paying Crawford, Werth, and Dunn a little easier. We’ll also lose anything we’d have to pay from trading Abreu and Rivera, as they’re both free agents after 2011, and that could potentially free up another $10MM or more. The chances of any of this happening are, I realize, pretty slim, but were the front office to ask me how to remake the team, this is exactly what I’d lay out for them. An increase in our OF run prevention, a huge increase in our overall run production, coupled with the fantastic move for Dan Haren, and the Angels are a powerhouse for at least a handful of years. As we’ve seen from this season, relying on guys to repeat career years while letting players with a clear and proven track record of performance walk has not and will not work. Going after expensive free agents, while painful on the surface, can end up saving money in the long run, and makes winning so much easier. It’s not a perfect plan, and there are still some question marks, but it’s the best plan I’ve seen that I think is actually possible. It’s just up to Reagins and company to make it happen.All photographs property and courtesy of Yardbarker.com