Results tagged ‘ Alex Rodriguez ’

‘Wake Me Up When September Ends’ …

Josh Hamilton, Mike TroutThe Angels’ impressive four-game sweep of the A’s put them 30 games above .500, five games up in the American League West and 3 1/2 up (on the Orioles) for the best record in baseball. They’ll start September with five more wins than they had all of last year and a realistic chance of capturing the franchise record in wins. They’d have to play .692 ball over the season’s final month; they’ve played .610 ball through the season’s first five months.

Here’s a look at how the Angels have to fare in September for certain milestones.

90 wins: 7-19
95 wins: 12-14
100 wins: 17-9
101 wins (club record): 18-8

This is the ninth time the Angels have held sole possession of first place in the AL West to start September. On five of the previous eight occasions, they went on to win the division. They blew 2 1/2-game leads in 1985 and ’98, and epically blew a 7 1/2-game lead with one month left in ’95.

So Angels manager Mike Scioscia has good reason to not look ahead.

“I know a lot of people are counting down, under 30 games — not us,” he said. “We know we have a long way to go. You want to ask me [about the standings] in about three weeks, we’ll sit down and talk. Right now, we are still in the heart of the pennant race. We need to chew this off one inning, one pitch, one game at a time.”

The Angels are off on Monday, then start a bizarre 10-game, four-city road trip through Houston (two games), Minnesota (four games), Cleveland (one game) and Arlington (three games). The Angels’ bullpen will continue to do some heavy lifting in September.

Some additional tidbits from Sunday …

  • Angels pitchers had a streak of 29 consecutive scoreless innings snapped in the eighth inning. It was tied for the longest in team history. … Sunday marked the fourth four-game sweep by the Angels this season, the most in their history. … Nineteen wins in August matched a franchise best (also done in 1986 and 2004). … This is the Angels’ largest division lead and their most games above .500 since the end of the 2009 season (10 games up, 32 games over). … At 83-53, the Angels have matched the best pace in club history after 136 games.
  • Mike Trout hit his 31st homer on Sunday and drove in three runs, giving him 97 on the year. All of those home runs and all but two of those RBIs have come from the No. 2 spot in the lineup. Among No. 2 hitters throughout history, the 23-year-old center fielder heads into September tied for ninth in homers (Eddie Mathews leads with 46 in 1959) and 10th in RBIs (Mathews and Alex Rodriguez in 1998 each had 114).
  • Matt Shoemaker is the first rookie with 14-plus wins and 115-plus strikeouts before September since CC Sabathia in 2001. He’s been a great story.
  • Chris Iannetta now leads the Angels in on-base percentage at .380 — six points higher than Trout.
  • Erick Aybar‘s hitting streak is now at a career-high 16 games. The veteran shortstop is batting .458 (27-for-59) during that span.

Alden

Where will Albert Pujols end up? …

Albert Pujols,

Albert Pujols hit home run Nos. 499 and 500 last night, as you know by now. He’s the 26th member of the 500-home run club, the third-youngest player to reach the milestone and the first to hit 499 and 500 in the same game. And he called his shot, too. Pujols’ homers came in a win, and he got the balls back from a couple of classy Angels fans. Perhaps the best part is that it comes as he’s proving to the world that he’s got a lot of game left, with a Major League-leading eight home runs to go along with a .274/.337/.619 slash line.

Pujols is signed for eight more years (including this one), through 2021. Here’s a look at where he’d finish up, if he plays through that contract, given certain home-run averages …

30-homer average: 732
25-homer average: 692
20-homer average: 652
15-homer average: 612

That’s pretty impressive, that Pujols could average a mere 15 homers for the life of his contract and still become only the ninth player ever to reach the 600-homer milestone. To catch Willie Mays‘ 660, he’d have to average 21 homers from 2014-21; to catch Babe Ruth‘s 714, he’d have to average nearly 28 homers; to catch Hank Aaron‘s 755, he’d have to average nearly 33 homers; to catch Barry Bonds‘ 762, he’d have to average nearly 34 homers.

But the most impressive thing about Pujols is that he isn’t defined by the home run.

He’s simply been a great hitter.

Consider: Pujols is only the ninth member of the 500-home run club with a career batting average of at least .300. And only three members have a higher one than Pujols’ current .321 clip — Ted Williams (.344), Babe Ruth (.342) and Jimmie Foxx (.325).

Yes, the general public has soured a bit on 500 homers, with Pujols becoming the 10th new member of the club in the last 15 years. But power numbers have gone down considerably in recent years, thanks in large part to tougher testing for performance-enhancing substances, and the 500-homer club — almost like the 300-win club, but not as drastic — could go a long time without a new member.

Here’s a look at the active home run leaders, beyond Alex Rodriguez (654) and Pujols, with their ages in parenthesis …

Adam Dunn (34): 444
Jason Giambi (43): 438
David Ortiz (38): 435
Paul Konerko (38): 434
Alfonso Soriano (38): 410
Adrian Beltre (35): 376
Carlos Beltran (37): 363
Aramis Ramirez (36): 357
Mark Teixeira (34): 341
Torii Hunter (38): 317

Besides maybe Dunn — and that’s still a big “maybe” — I don’t see anyone on that list who stands a chance at reaching 500. We may have to wait on the likes of Miguel Cabrera (367 at age 31) or Prince Fielder (287 at 29), or perhaps even Mike Trout (67 at 22) or Giancarlo Stanton (123 at 24).

And after Pujols — if he gets there — when’s the next time we’ll see 600?

“When you look at how great he’s been for the last 14 years, and you start averaging out what that meant to hit 500 home runs, it’s just an incredible feat,” Raul Ibanez said of Pujols. “Combine that with the lifetime batting average, the on-base percentage, it’s just extraordinary.”

Alden

Angels fall short (OK, way short) on Tanaka …

MasahiroTanakaThe Masahiro Tanaka sweepstakes are over, and after all the speculation and all the anticipation, he wound up with the team that seemed to make the most sense from the onset: The Yankees, who badly need pitching, can spend with the best of them, will hardly have to pay Alex Rodriguez in 2014 and have now abandoned any faint hopes to get under the $189 million luxury tax.

The Angels still hold on to those expectations.

They have roughly $15 million of wiggle room before surpassing that tax threshold, which is enough money to sign a free-agent starting pitcher but ultimately wasn’t enough to even compete for Tanaka. The Yankees got him on a seven-year, $155 million contract, with an opt-out after the fourth year, according to Ken Rosenthal.

The Angels knew Tanaka well and liked him a lot, but for them, any deal in excess of $100 million meant going over the tax. With Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton combining to make $196 million over the next four years, and Mike Trout one year away from making major dollars, another mega contract was just too much of a gamble for them. That’s probably why they didn’t bother to meet with him in California two weeks ago, or why they weren’t among the five teams to reportedly submit an offer; the chances were too slim.

So, what now?

In a word (or two), Matt Garza.

The Angels have targeted Garza ever since Jason Vargas signed with the Royals in late November. The two actually share the same agent, Nez Balelo, who also represents third baseman David Freese, who filed an arbitration number $1.9 million higher than what the Angels filed last week. Small world, right? Garza has always seemed a lot more realistic than Tanaka because the contract and the amount of suitors are smaller, but the Angels still aren’t expected to overpay. Agree with it or not, they don’t feel they have to add another starter after acquiring two young, cost-controlled lefties in Tyler Skaggs and Hector Santiago for Mark Trumbo, a duo that joins Jered Weaver, C.J. Wilson and Garrett Richards in the projected rotation.

I don’t expect the Tanaka signing to impact Garza’s price. They’re on two completely different stratospheres. But one potential ripple effect is that the Diamondbacks have liked Garza for a while, and they have money to burn after not being able to sign Tanaka or Shin-Soo Choo. A resolution could come soon (you know, since we’re like three weeks away from Spring Training).

If Garza’s price demands don’t go down, then the Angels will move on to the next tier, to the likes of Bronson Arroyo and Chris Capuano and Paul Maholm. Chances are, they’ll add someone this month. But I think they’ll wait for a fair price (and this is the month for fair prices). They still aren’t expected to give up a Draft pick in order to sign Ubaldo Jimenez or Ervin Santana.

Nobody wants to hear this, but if they don’t feel comfortable with any of the free-agent-salary demands, they can always keep their remaining funds and wait ’til next year, when Max Scherzer, James Shields and Jon Lester will make up a much more talented free-agent crop of starters.

Alden

100 runs, no matter what …

Mike TroutLast year, Mike Trout scored 100 runs despite spending the entire first month in the Minor Leagues.

This year, triple-digits in that category may be even more impressive.

In Wednesday’s 5-4 win over the Blue Jays, Trout scored two runs to give him 101 on the season, making him only the seventh player in Major League history to notch 100-plus runs in his age-20 and age-21 season.

In 2012, a year in which he led the Majors with 129 runs scored, Trout reached No. 100 in his 481st plate appearance. That gave him an astounding 44 percent run-scoring percentage, tied with Desmond Jennings for first among American League players with at least 500 plate appearances.

In 2013, a year in which he trails only the Cardinals’ Matt Carpenter (114) in runs, he did it in his 641st plate appearance. Entering Wednesday, Trout’s run-scoring percentage was way down to 30 percent. The reason is two-fold: (1) He’s stealing less bases (49 to 32) because pitchers are watching him a lot more closely; (2) he hasn’t had much consistency behind him, with Albert Pujols hurt and Josh Hamilton struggling.

That’s OK, Trout has made up for that with an on-base percentage that’s 38 points higher than last year’s (.399 to .437).

And somehow, he still managed to score 100 runs.

“Last year was incredible because he did it minus 100 at-bats that he didn’t have in the month of April,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. “And that’s off the charts what he did last year. I think this year his numbers are going to be terrific. He’s having an incredible year. And I don’t think it’s under the circumstances where teams know what he can do. I mean he’s running into a lot of 1.15, 1.2 times to the plate, which he didn’t see as much of last year. It’s impacting his ability to steal, but it’s also giving guys at the plate a better look where pitchers are a little more uncomfortable staying in a slide step. So he still brings a presence there.”

Here’s a list of the six others who notched back-to-back 100-run campaigns in their age-20 and age-21 seasons …

John McGraw (1893-94)
Mel Ott (1929-30)
Buddy Lewis (1937-38)
Ted Williams (1939-40)
Vada Pinson (1959-60)
Alex Rodriguez (1996-97)

Alden

Game 117: Angels-Yankees …

The Angels are 6-17 in their last 23 games at Yankee Stadium (including the playoffs) and Hiroki Kuroda has a 1.13 ERA in his last six starts. But Mariano Rivera has blown three consecutive save opportunities for the first time in his Hall of Fame career, and the Yankees have dropped five of their last seven games (though they took two of three from the first-place Tigers over the weekend) …

Angels (53-63)

ANAJ.B. Shuck, DH
Kole Calhoun, RF
Mike Trout, CF
Josh Hamilton, LF
Erick Aybar, SS
Mark Trumbo, 1B
Chris Nelson, 3B
Chris Iannetta, C
Grant Green, 2B

Pitching: RH Garrett Richards (3-4, 4.20 ERA)

Yankees (59-57)

NYYBrett Gardner, CF
Ichiro Suzuki, DH
Robinson Cano, 2B
Alex Rodriguez, 3B
Lyle Overbay, 1B
Alfonso Soriano, LF
Curtis Granderson, RF
Eduardo Nunez, SS
Chris Stewart, C

Pitching: RH Kuroda (10-7, 2.45 ERA)

  • It’s official: Jason Vargas, who hasn’t pitched since June 17 because of a blood clot, will start tomorrow, opposite CC Sabathia. As for who comes out of the rotation? Mike Scioscia wouldn’t say just yet, but it’ll probably come down to either Tommy Hanson or Jerome Williams (though Richards could make it even more interesting if he gets roughed up tonight). Hanson has an option to the Minor Leagues, Williams has experience pitching in the bullpen and both have struggled.
  • The 22-year-old Trout vouched for severe penalties for those who fail Major League Baseball’s Drug Policy, saying on WFAN in New York on Monday morning that players “should be out of the game if you get caught.” “It takes away from the guys that are working hard every day and doing it all-natural,” Trout added on the radio show. “Some people are just trying to find that extra edge.” … Asked about those comments at Yankee Stadium later on Monday, Trout deferred to the Angels’ union rep, C.J. Wilson.
  • Trumbo is batting sixth today, even with Albert Pujols and Howie Kendrick out, with his slash line down to .237/.300/.455 after putting up only nine hits in his last 63 at-bats. “He’s not going to be graded out on his batting average and his on-base percentage as much as what his power production is,” Scioscia said. “Like most hitters who have maybe a little more leverage in their swing, it’s a double-edged sword. When he’s off, he struggles. And it seems like once he finds that timing, he keeps it for a long time.”
  • Peter Bourjos (fractured right wrist) is expected to play his fifth game for Triple-A Salt Lake on Monday night and the Yankees have a lefty (Sabathia) starting tomorrow, which seems like as good a time as any to activate Bourjos — though Scioscia wouldn’t say anything definitively. Trout will play left field on the days Bourjos is in the lineup — I feel like I need to state that for the record every time Bourjos comes back — and it probably won’t cut into Shuck’s playing time, since the DH spot is essentially open.
  • Earlier today, Trout’s high school field was named in his honor.

Alden

Wilson, Josh react to Cruz, PEDs …

Here’s what Nelson Cruz‘s two former teammates on the Angels had to say about today’s news that Cruz joined 12 other players — most notably Alex Rodriguez — in getting suspended due to their links to the now-defunct “wellness clinic” in Miami …

Josh Hamilton

On his initial thoughts: “I’m very surprised. It’s one of those things, you know. You’re teammates, you spend a lot of time with him. Some guys keep certain parts of their lives to themselves. Take from what you see. Nellie was always a good teammate. I enjoyed playing with him and enjoyed having him in the locker room. I saw his statement that he made a mistake. I’ve made plenty of those.

On whether he feels differently about him now: “We’ve all made mistakes. Some people’s mistakes are different than others and some are the same. He made a poor decision, and now he’s gong to deal with consequences.”

On guys always cheating the system: “People will always be trying to beat the system no matter what. All we can is Major League Baseball and the Players’ Union get together to try to prevent that. But there will always be those few who will try to do it.”

On this being a stain on the game: “I think the big to-do earlier in the 2000’s was a process of getting that out of the game, and this is part of that process.”

On whether the suspensions are long enough: “It’s not for me to decide. It’s for Major League Baseball and the [MLBPA] to decide.”

On whether he accepts Cruz’s statement: “I was there last year and I saw him when he came to Spring Training and what he looked like. I asked the same questions everyone else did. ‘What happened?’ ‘How did you get sick?’ There was nothing he said to me that made me question anything.”

C.J. Wilson (also the Angels’ MLBPA rep)

On constantly talking about this: “Hopefully this is the last press conference we have to have; this is the last scandal for the game. I think it’s good they’re getting all this stuff out of the way. It’s a uniform thing, everybody is taking their suspensions except for that other guy, and hopefully we can move on from this. It’s sad that playoff races are impacted by players who used PEDs, but this is the nature of the beast.”

“I think the issue centers around greed. If anybody says it’s something else, they’re not telling the truth. The players want to do well because they want to get bigger contracts. That money they earn is tainted, just like their statistics are. Hopefully we can take this as a lesson, for everybody watching, all the clean players, that we’re cleaning up the game and getting rid of the incentive to do this stuff.”

On this affecting playoff-bound teams: “It affects everybody. Think about that series we just had against Texas. Nelson did really well, and he’s not available for this series. Is the playing field level? I don’t know. You can’t take away wins he’s created through his contributions, but this is the way the game is right now. You hope with the suspension of Rodriguez also that we’ve found a level playing field for the clean players.”

“We need the greed to stop. I’ve accepted the fact I’m not a $300-million player, God didn’t bless me with that. I’m dealing with regular-guy stuff and trying to compete, and that’s the way it is for the rest of the guys in this dugout. You’re dealt a certain hand and you have to play that. Stop being a baby and move on.”

On whether he’s happy with the process: “I think there’s less people slipping through the cracks than 10 years ago. Other sports don’t have the frequency or accuracy of testing that we do.”

On Cruz specifically: “It’s hard to make character judgments of people when you don’t know all the circumstances. I’ve known Nelson for many years, always thought he was a great guy and teammate, but at this point, he’s a competitor, on the other team, so it’s immaterial what I think. He got hits off me and I’m [ticked] off about that.”

“If you really look at it, it’s a small percentage of players who are cheating, and that’s getting weeded out culturally. We’re getting into an issue of ethics. You’re never going to have perfect people. They can’t follow the rules.”

On whether he’s relieved it didn’t affect the Angels: “It’s affected our team. We’ve played against these guys. They’ve all hit home runs against us, struck us out, and we’re not happy about that. We’re hoping this would happen sooner rather than later to give us a chance to play against the clean guys.

On the A-Rod ordeal: “I think it’s going to end in a 30 for 30 special. It’s a saga. Always has been for him. He’s been in spotlight for 20 years. Nothing is gonna change that. He has one of those polarizing personalities that people are going to be drawn to. People will think he’s a villain no matter what he does. This latest chapter just gives further fuel to the fire that he’s made bad decisions. The whole appeal process is kind of curious. I don’t even know how the Yankees fans are going to react. When he goes to Boston, other cities, gonna be rough. But good for the game that they’re finally getting him on something. All these press conferences, Good Morning America, 20-20, enough of that, let’s just play some baseball and stop trying to be a role model.”

Alden

Mike Trout hits for the cycle. Well, duh. …

TROUTY2Mike Trout had a 2-0 count against Mariners lefty Lucas Luetge, with one out in the eighth, an 11-0 lead in the scoreboard, and a triple, double and single in his back pocket. At that point, you figured he’d go deep. It made so much sense — too much sense — for one of the most dynamic, exhilarating, talented players in the game to hit for the cycle.

When he did, Trout (21 years, nine months and 14 days old) became the youngest player in American League history to accomplish the feat (surpassing Alex Rodriguez in 1997), the first Angels player to do it since Chone Figgins on Sept. 16, 2006, and the sixth-youngest ever.

“I didn’t really think of it ’til about the 8th inning,” Trout told FOX Sports West postgame. “I was like, ‘Man, I have a triple, double and a single.’ I got the 2-0 there and I said, ‘Hey, if I’m going to hit one, it’s going to be this pitch.'”

You have to figure Trout has at least one more of these in him.

Question is: Can he hit for the cycle more times than anybody ever?

The record is a mere three, accomplished by three players (Bob Meusel, Babe Herman and John Reilly) in Major League history. Now, Major League Baseball history is long. And there have been a lot of five-tool players to come through. The fact that nobody did it more than three times shows you the luck that’s needed to accomplish a milestone that’s somewhat, well, quirky. But is there anyone in baseball more qualified to hit for the cycle than Trout, with an unrivaled combination of speed and power?

“If I were a betting man,” Mike Scioscia told reporters postgame, “I’ve got to believe there’s another cycle in his career somewhere.”

Some additional tidbits from Trout’s cycle …

  • Trout is the third-youngest player to hit for the cycle since 1930. The two younger guys were Arky Vaughan (21 years and three months in 1933) and Cesar Cedeno (21 years and five months in 1972).
  • This is the seventh cycle in Angels history. Ex-shortstop Jim Fregosi had two. Two of the Angels’ seven cycles have come against the Mariners.
  • First cycle in the Majors since Adrian Beltre – who also had two — on Aug. 24, 2012.
  • The last Angels player to hit for the cycle at Angel Stadium was Jeff DaVanon in 2004.
  • Since the RBI became an official stat in 1920, only two other players have hit for the cycle in a game where they also drove in five or more runs and stole at least one base (Tony Lazzeri in 1932; Herman in 1931).
  • Trout is the first player born in the 1990s to hit for the cycle in the Majors.
  • There have been 238 other cycles in baseball history. Twenty-nine players did it more than once, including George BrettJoe DiMaggioLou Gehrig and, yes, Brad Wilkerson.

Alden 

Vernon Wells to the Yankees? …

The Angels and Yankees are in talks regarding a deal that would send Vernon Wells to the Bronx, an industry source confirmed to MLB.com on Sunday.

How much money is exchanged in the deal and who the Angels get back — if anyone — is still unknown. The Angels have not made any official announcements. Deals like this, with money changing hands and approval needed by MLB, usually have several hurdles to overcome. Last spring, the Angels and Indians talked extensively about a deal for Bobby Abreu that ultimately fell through.

Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports reported that the deal “could be done today.”

Wells has a full no trade clause and is owed $42 million over the next two seasons, but he comes into the season as the fifth outfielder in the depth chart — behind Mike Trout, Peter Bourjos, Josh Hamilton and designated hitter Mark Trumbo.

The 34-year-old outfielder, who has the day off on Sunday, has enjoyed a nice spring, batting .361 (13-for-36) with four homers and 11 RBIs. The Yankees have Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira and Curtis Granderson slated to start the season on the disabled list.

If the deal does go through, it would relieve some of the pressure off Bourjos, who came in as the everyday center fielder but had some pressure to succeed early with Wells on the bench.

The Angels dangled Wells in the offseason, but weren’t able to find anyone willing to take on much of any of his contract in a trade.

Wells, who plans to retire after the 2014 season, has been very accepting of his role all spring, saying he understands he comes in as a reserve and just wants to fight for playing time.

“I put myself in this position,” Wells said early in spring. “Obviously, some guys played well last year. You have the most exciting player in the game in Mike Trout; Trumbo, who’s one of the most powerful guys in this league when it comes to hitting a baseball; you sign Josh Hamilton; and you have Peter. Peter deserves a chance. What he had to go through last year was far more difficult than what anybody had to go through, sitting and watching that entire time. There’s a lot of things at play. I understand that.”

With the Blue Jays from 2002-10, Wells posted a .279/.330/.478 slash line, won two Gold Gloves and made three All-Star teams. But he hasn’t been able to duplicate that success since coming to Anaheim, in a January 2011 deal that saw the Angels send Juan Rivera, Mike Napoli and $81 million of the $86 million owed to Wells.

Wells hit 25 homers in 2011, but posted the lowest batting average (.218) and on-base percentage (.248) in the Majors. He batted .244 with six homers in the first two months of 2012, then missed the next two months with thumb surgery and, with Trout producing, hardly played the rest of the way.

Alden Gonzalez

Report Card: Outfield/DH …

Mark Trumbo, LF

2012: .268/.317/.491, 32 HR, 95 RBI
2011: .254/.291/.477, 29 HR, 87 RBI

In keeping with the theme here, Trumbo aced the mid-term, but failed the non-cumulative final exam. He hit .306/.358/.608 in the first half, but .227/.271/.359 in the second half — dropping all the way down to eighth in the order and occasionally getting benched for Vernon Wells. Was it an uncharacteristically long slump that he’ll shake off and won’t happen again? Or did he rapidly digress towards the mean after hitting outside of himself in the first half? The sample size may not be big enough to know for sure just yet. But one thing we do know: Trumbo’s power is real.

Grade: B-

Mike Trout, CF

2012: .326/.399/.564, 30 HR, 49 SB

Trout is like that brainy kid in your pre-calc class who constantly screws up the curve. You can’t do any better than Trout did after coming up on April 28, putting up one of the greatest offensive seasons in baseball history while making a tremendous impact in center field and on the basepaths. Yeah, he struck out 139 times. So what? He also led the team in walks. Oh, and by the way, Alex Rodriguez struck out 121 times per season from 1996 to 2008. He did pretty well in that span. Question is: Long-term, is Trout a leadoff hitter or a three-hole hitter?

“For the foreseeable future, I see Mike as a leadoff hitter,” general manager Jerry Dipoto said, “but that being said, I think Mike transcends any position of the lineup. He can hit wherever you want him to hit. He’s got middle-of-the-order power, he’s got top-of-the-order speed, he’s got top-of-the-order ability to get on base. Frankly, it’s a very good package of skills.”

Um, yeah it is.

Grade: A+

Torii Hunter, RF

2012: .313/.365/.451, 16 HR, 92 RBI
1999-2011: .274/.332/.468, 22 HR, 81 RBI

Was 2012, his age-37 season and his 16th in the big leagues, Hunter’s best yet? It’s at least debatable. Thanks to a monstrous second half, Hunter hit .300 for the first time in his decorated career and may end up with his first Gold Glove as a right fielder (10th overall). Not only that, Hunter was as clutch as can be for the Angels down the stretch, when they were scratching and crawling for a spot in the playoffs, and continued to be the veteran and emotional leader of this team. If he departs via free agency, he will be gravely missed.

Grade: A-

Kendrys Morales, DH

2012: .273/.320/.467, 22 HR, 73 RBI
2010: .306/.355/.569, 34 HR, 108 RBI

It’s hard to analyze Morales’ season in a vacuum because the real story lies in much he had to overcome. The switch-hitter missed almost two full seasons with a couple of left ankle surgeries — making the kind of comeback that’s quite unprecedented among position players — and not only stayed healthy and hit well, but played a pretty good first base while Albert Pujols was out. Everybody in the Angels organization would’ve been ecstatic if you told them in spring that they’d get a .787 OPS out of Morales this season. Next year, his walk year, he should be even better.

Grade: B

Week 1: Infield.

Alden 

Parting ways with Vernon Wells …

In honor of Paul Simon, who told you about the 50 Ways To Leave Your Lover, below are Five Ways To Leave Vernon Wells. Not as catchy, I know. And it’s not as easy as slipping out the back (Jack), or making a new plan (Stan), or hopping off the bus (Gus) — OK, I’ll stop.

The best way to get it done may be a little bad-contract swapping.

Look, it’s no secret the Angels would prefer to part ways with Wells, who’s owed $42 million through the 2014 season. At this point, they can’t expect much salary relief (if any) in the process, but what they can do is create some breathing room in a clogged-up outfield and perhaps get a player back who can help them in an area of need. At the same time, they’d probably be helping Wells, sending him to a place where he can play more regularly. The best way to do it, perhaps, is to try and find a match with a team that has a similarly unfriendly contract. The Cubs did it in 2009, sending the volatile Milton Bradley to the Mariners in exchange for Carlos Silva. The Angels themselves tried to do it last offseason, with Bobby Abreu slated to return to the Yankees before A.J. Burnett evoked his limited no-trade clause.

Is there a similar partner for Wells this offseason? Below are some possibilities. Two things to keep in mind: 1. This is merely speculative — nothing more than my own opinion; 2. The Angels may consider the next two years of Wells’ contract a wash, so perhaps they’ll have little issue with paying the difference in a trade. The benefit for them is creating flexibility in the outfield — perhaps easing a return for Torii Hunter — while getting a player who may help them. If they can save a couple million dollars, too, even better.

BOS SP John Lackey ($30.5M thru ’14)

After winning 102 games, posting a 3.81 ERA and having a few memorable postseason moments in eight seasons with the Angels, Lackey put up a 4.40 ERA in his first year with the Red Sox, followed by a 6.41 ERA in 2011, followed by Tommy John surgery in October that knocked him out for all of this past season. But the soon-to-be 34-year-old progressed towards the end of the year, should have a normal offseason and is expected to be ready to go by the start of Spring Training. Would Boston go for it? They have Jacoby Ellsbury in center and there appears to be strong mutual interest in Cody Ross returning. Other than that, though, they have several uncertainties in Daniel Nava, Ryan Sweeney and Ryan Kalish. Wells, meanwhile, may be a nice fit for the Green Monster, and to them, Lackey may represent part of that toxic clubhouse they’re still trying to fumigate.

NYY 3B Alex Rodriguez ($114M thru ’17)

It’s an easy place to go these days, since A-Rod is getting benched in the playoffs while being booed mercifully by the home crowd and the Angels could use an upgrade at third base. But A-Rod’s deal extends three years longer than Wells’, at $61 million. I’m thinking one $200 million deal (Albert Pujols) is enough in Anaheim.

CWS DH Adam Dunn ($30M thru ’14)

Bringing him on board as a lefty middle-of-the-order hitter could free up a trade for Kendrys Morales, who’s heading into his final year before free agency. But Dunn turned it around in 2012, raising his OPS from .569 to .800, and may claim AL Comeback Player of the Year honors for it (Morales is also in the running). This no longer looks like a salary dump for the White Sox.

SEA UT Chone Figgins ($8M in ’13, $9M vesting option in ’14)

This is one that seems to make sense for both sides. Figgins has said he wants out of Seattle, and he’d probably embrace a return to the place he thrived from 2002-09. The Angels could use a utility man with Maicer Izturis expected to depart via free agency (though Figgins doesn’t help them at shortstop). The Mariners, meanwhile, are in desperate need of power and Wells may be a nice fit now that they’re moving the  fences in at Safeco Field. One problem: The money. In case you hadn’t noticed, Figgins’ deal is a lot friendlier than Wells’. But, hey, if the Angels see Wells’ contract as a wash, that may not be an issue. By the way, Figgins’ 2014 option automatically vests with 600 plate appearances in 2013 — meaning it probably won’t automatically vest.

SFG SP Barry Zito ($20M in ’13, $18M club option — and $7M buyout — in ’14)

Another one that may fill needs on both sides. Zito would move into the Angels’ rotation — a rotation that could lose up to three-fifths of the 2012 makeup — and Wells would go to a team that, like the Mariners, is perpetually looking for offense. Plus, Melky Cabrera and Angel Pagan will hit free agency this offseason. But do the Giants really benefit from this? Though obviously no longer the same pitcher, Zito had a descent year with a 4.15 ERA in 184 1/3 innings. And in their desire to upgrade the offense, the Giants, three wins away from the World Series, may have higher aspirations than Wells. Zito, by the way, has a full no-trade clause — but he is a SoCal product.

Not mentioned: CHC LF Alfonso Soriano ($36M thru ’14); NYM LF Jason Bay ($16M in ’13, $17M club option in ’14); NYM SP Johan Santana ($25.5M in ’13, $25M club option in ’14); LAD SP Josh Beckett and 3B Hanley Ramirez ($31.5M thru ’14 each); LAD LF Carl Crawford ($102.5M thru ’17); MIA RP Heath Bell ($18M thru ’14).

Alden 

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