Angels Need to Swing For Fences at 3B
The Angels are collectively in a slump. Not one starting position player has come close to matching his output from 2009, except for Jeff Mathis and his 34 ABs. Nonetheless, established players reside at nearly every position. There is sparse room for another starting position player without subtraction. The Angels are effectively handcuffed from making a move to acquire an established bat. They boast an outfield quarter of Hunter, Abreu, Matsui, and Rivera. The DH spot is predominantly occupied by Matsui. Aybar and Kendrick have proven to be effective, yet-slumping hitters with untapped potential, while providing exemplary defense up the middle. Morales is a bona-fide star at 1B. Thus, the players are not the problem. Rather, it’s their performance.
Meanwhile, Brandon Wood continues to flounder badly at 3B. His line of .167/.180/.231 is a glaring black hole in the lineup at a position that is typically littered with premium hitters. While the Angels made the right decision in avoiding a long-term deal with 3B Chone Figgins, their lack of a backup plan (or trust in Brandon Wood) has led to dire circumstances. By not addressing the position in the off-season, the Angels will be forced to overpay for their next third baseman (via minor league talent or by taking on the contract of a financial albatross from another organization). The fact that the Angels have turned to Giants castoff Kevin Frandsen to provide depth at the position is flat-out embarrassing. However, this is the position that will determine the Angels’ fortunes in 2010. Figgins and his .390+ OBP are out of sight. Maicer Izturis will likely be given the chance to establish himself as the everyday guy once he returns from injury, but he seems better suited for the utility role.
Three teams that the Angels should be monitoring closely are the Chicago Cubs, Cincinnati Reds, and Florida Marlins. If the Cubs struggle, new ownership might be eager to dump the contract of slumping 3B Aramis Ramirez. While Ramirez is currently posting Wood-like numbers, he is only 32 and has been a consistent force at the hot corner since joining the Cubbies. Cincinnati acquired Rolen in 2009 to teach the Reds how to win now, but falling behind in the playoff race could entice the Reds into trading Rolen for a large return if he stays healthy and continues to hit. Florida, meanwhile, has multiple candidates that could appeal to the Angels in 3B Jorge Cantu and possibly 2B Dan Uggla. Florida was almost forced to keep Uggla this past off-season to maintain a big-league payroll, but if his shoddy defense could be passable at third base, he would be a big-time bat at the corner.
Who would you like to see the Angels go after at 3B?