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Monday, October 09, 2006

THE OUTFIELD
A couple of weeks ago I discussed the Angel infield; let's look to the outfield and designated hitter.

What was supposed to happen: Garret would stay healthy and bounce back a bit, Darin Erstad would play great defense and ground out to second for a few weeks before getting injured and being replaced by Legs Figgins, and Vlad would be Vlad. Juan Rivera would see time at DH and covering the corners, and even fill in some in center against lefty pitchers.

What happened: Garret stayed dinged up and mediocre, Figgins hit 30 points less than his career average, Vlad did his Vlad thing, and Rivera had a career year.

Where we go from here: Look, we're basically stuck with Garret in left field and/or DH. Mike Scioscia finally began to warm up to the idea that Juan Rivera is a better defender than Garret, and has a better arm. Sure, Garret is more surehanded (he didn't make an error last year), but Rivera gets to more balls (.854 to .844 in zone rating last year, .917 to .864 the year before) and has a better arm (Rivera had 7 assists from left last year to Garret's 1, playing in only around 60% of the innings of his senior). Garret's contract will preclude him from being moved anywhere, to he's all ours.

You're also going to have to get used to having Vlad in the lineup. I know that will be hard for us, but such is life. The only real flaw in his game, last year, anyway, was his defense; Vlad committed 11 errors, mostly the result of lapses of concentration. Mike Scioscia believes that he was dropping balls because of gimpy knees, making it hard to see the ball well while running. There is probably truth to this, and Vlad should be seeing more time at DH to give his body a break. Despite his bad instincts, his athleticism has made him average defender in years past, so I would expect something of a bounce-back in this regard in 2007.

Center field, of course, brings us big questions, and is intimately tied to the third base situation. It doesn't seem unlikely that the Angels will get either a third baseman or center fielder and install The Legs at the complementary position.

The options at center field, at this time, are questionable. Torii Hunter has a good shot at being a free agent, but he's on the wrong side of 30, is starting to suffer the attendant decline in defense, and his offense is solid but unspectacular. He's coming off his best offensive season since 2002, but there is little reason to believe his next four years will be as good as his last four. He'll likely demand a contract in the $10M per year range, which may be too much.

There is, theoretically, the possibility of trading for Vernon Wells. Wells has one year left on his contract with Toronto, so is financially cheap. He's a solid defensive player, though his offense is also something of a question mark; he was terrific in 2003 and 2006, but just a bit above average in the two years in between.

Of course, the Blue Jays, coming off a second-place finish and looking at two perennial giants who seem to be teetering on chaos in New York and Boston, may not be too thrilled with the idea of trading one of their key players. However, Alexis Rios, who had a breakthrough season with the bat last season, could be a candidate to be moved to center if Wells were dispatched. Juan Rivera might be an essential piece of such a trade so as to replace Rios, though the Jays would likely require a prospect as well. Their middle infield situation is a bit sticky (Aaron Hill can play second or short), so maybe Erick Aybar would sweeten the pot, though I worry that might be too much, so perhaps the Jays would throw in a lower-level prospect to even things up.

Otherwise, we may see Aramis Ramirez signed at third base. Other alleged third base candidates would come via trade, such as Joe Crede (pass), Mark Teahen (intriguing), Miguel Tejada (any talk of moving The OC to third to accommodate him, however, is utter madness), and even A-Rod (a great idea, in a vacuum).

It's difficult to evaluate any potential move without knowing the costs, so I will not do so here. Alex Rodriguez, for example, would be a great addition, but with his salary and the players that might be demanded of us to get him, would he be a good acquisition? That's an entirely different question.

If the Jays are willing to move him, I think the most exciting possibility is Vernon Wells. If not, I think we'd be best-served to upgrade the third base position. Of course, things will change as the off-season progresses.

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Comments:
If the Angels acquired a center fielder, would you play Izturis or Figgins at third?
 
Figgins has a better track record, with both bat and glove, I'd say.
 
It seems obvious GA and Vladdy are gonna need more DH time.... The two obvious moves

Sign A-Ram.... turn Izzy into a supersub lefty bat at 3rd, short and 2nds againts super tough righty pithcers and to give OC more more rest this year

Trade Aybar and Figgins for Vernon Wells.....

A-Ram and Wells are more than enough bat protection for Vladdy.

Line-up
Catcher (3 way battle, Nappy, Molina and Mathis)
1b - Morales/Quinlan... Kotchman?
2b - Kendrick
SS - OC
3b - A-Ram
Super sub Izturus
LF - Rivera
CF - Wells
RF - Gurerro
DH- GA
(subs WIllits & Murphy)

Rotation
Bartolo
Weaver
Lackey
Santana
Escobar

Middle relief Saunders/Donnelly
Set-up - SHields
Closer - K-Rod

Saunders will be perfect 6 through 7th inning guy, 5 righty starters with good fastballs, then hit them with a crafty lefty, then SHiled and K-Rod.... Keeps Saunders around for when Bartolo goes down.
 
More than anything, set an infield and stick with it... our defense sucked early, and that killed us... need continuity there, especially 3b.
 
I agree with anon. that a Aybar-Figgins move for Wells would be ideal, and might actually be a do-able (for both teams) trade.

But to say that Wells and the overrated A. Ramirez are sufficient protection ... well, that's a bunch of hooey.

Some loser here scoffed at this before, but I think making a run at Gary Sheffield makes a lot of sense as a short-term 1B solution, since neither Kotch nor Kendry are certainties -- one should be traded anyway. The deal I'd like to see: Santana and more pitching to the Rockies for 3B Garrett Atkins.
 
As a Jays fan, I'll chime in and say the Jays want a shortstop and a starting pitcher for Wells. The Jays need a shortstop and at least one starter, Aybar might do it at short, but Figgins...meh, keep him. I'd be a really pissed off Jays fan if we only got a SS prospect and a mediocre hitter with no place to play for Wells.
 
As a Jays fan, I'd love to see the Halos and Blue birds make a deal. Unfortunately (?) for Angels fans, it will cost you prospects.

Rivera needn't be part of any trade. With Adam Lind establishing himself in the bigs this September, and Travis Snyder mashing in the minors, the Jays are pretty set for corner outfielders. (I also don't know what Toronto would want with Figgins, to be honest.)

Assuming Wood, Weaver, and Kendrick are untouchable, I'd seriously consider the Aybar and Santana deal that was apparently on the table for Tejada. Still interested?
 
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