November 8, 2010

The Hot Stove Season is officially cooking

I’ve had a lot of time to think about what the Angels might do this off season and even more time thinking about what I would do. Somewhere between the two is the master plan to rule baseball for generations to come. Okay, maybe not…

In all seriousness, I do expect the Angels to do something unexpected.

Most scenarios being discussed revolve around signing Carl Crawford and/or Adrian Beltre (two signings I believe will happen). If they do those two things, I’m just not sure it will be enough.

I have a plan. I know, I know, you’re thinking here comes another hair brain idea from a fan. Hold on and don’t be so quick to judge. I promise you that I won’t throw out some whacked out idea that has Albert Pujols coming to Anaheim for Juan Rivera. My proposal has some merit and if you let me explain my rational maybe, just maybe it will make sense.

Howie Kendrick is expendable. Whoa. What? “Future batting champ” Howie? Yes. The way I see it, Alberto Callaspo can play 2B and do just as good a job, if not better. Compare their statistics. Kendrick had a better OPS (.721) to Callaspo’s 674 OPS. However, their career OPS numbers (Callaspo .720/Kendrick .752) are close.

Here’s the thing - Callaspo struck out just 42 times compared to Kendrick’s 94 K’s. Callaspo is one of the toughest hitters to fan in baseball. He has better bat control.

Ding. The bell just went off in your head, didn’t it? You see it now, don’t you? Callaspo is Mike Scoscia’s kind of player.

Look, the Angels have been waiting for Howie Kendrick to become the #2 hitter they need; however, he has failed to embrace that role. Why not put the guy who is better suited for that role in the #2 spot? I believe Callaspo is the perfect #2 hitter.

But… Howie has more power right? Nope. They each hit 10 homeruns last year.

Hear me out. Callaspo and Kendrick are both 27 years old (Callaspo is a few months older). Kendrick has more service time and made $1.75 million to Callaspo’s $460,000. The way I see it, Callaspo is just as good and is cheaper.

Besides, the Angels have a plethora of middle infielders who can serve as backup. Maicer “The Tin Man” Izturis and Kevin Frandsen can fill that role. Plus, the Angels have organizational depth here with Alexi Amarista and Jean Segura in the minors and playing well. Someone has to go! Who has more appeal in a trade? Howie Kendrick does, that’s who. He’s got that “P” thing going for him. You know the “potential” thing? I’m sure there’s a team out there who would love to take Howie in a deal.

What team? I’m glad you asked. I’m thinking the Washington Nationals as possible trade partners. And no, I’m not trying to suggest they trade Stephen Strasburg or Bryce Harper to the Angels. The way I see it, the Nationals have an abundance of outfielders. They have Mike Morse, Nyjer Morgan, Josh Willingham, Roger Bernadina, prospects Justin Maxwell and Harper. They also have Willie Harris who plays just about everywhere (but is also a free agent).

What they don’t have is a second baseman. Adam Kennedy’s option was declined and they’re in the market for a middle infielder (with apologies to Danny Espinosa).

I’m proposing a Howie Kendrick for Roger Bernadina trade. Bernadina is a 26 year old left handed hitting player who can play all three outfield positions. He has moderate power (11 homeruns in 414 AB’s), stole 16 bases and plays exceptional defense.

I see Bernadina as the new Angels right fielder.

What about Torii Hunter, you ask?

I’m glad you asked because here’s where things get interesting. I would not be surprised to see Hunter back in CF next year. Which begs yet another question, right? What about Peter Bourjos.

I’m a huge Bourjos fan, but I have a feeling that his .204 batting average and .237 OBP is going to keep him from being handed the everyday CF job going into the 2011 season. I just don’t think the Angels will be willing to be patient with him and will look for a more immediate solution. Which makes my idea of a Crawford, Hunter, Bernadina outfield seem plausible.

There’s also the Mike Trout factor. Trout is considered by many to be the best prospect in all of baseball and he also happens to be a centerfielder. While I know it’s easy to get caught up in the hype that comes with that kind of tag, I don’t think it’s unrealistic to believe that Trout could be on the big league roster by 2012.

If you buy into what people like Keith Law of ESPN or Jim Callis of Baseball America are saying, then it’s reasonable to believe he will arrive sooner rather than later.

Do the math.

Hunter has two years left on his contract. Trout is on his way and he and Bourjos play the same position. If the Angels sign Carl Crawford something has to give eventually. It’s conceivable that Bourjos will become a fourth outfielder or traded. Like it or not, Bourjos is somewhat expendable.

Now don’t get me wrong – I wouldn’t mind seeing a Crawford, Bourjos, Hunter outfield; in fact, like most fans, I love the idea. However, this team is in desperate need of offense and in order to contend for a World Series title, big changes have to be made. The Angels can’t afford to carry a .200 hitter going into the 2011 season (yes, this also applies to Jeff Mathis).

Let’s not forget that 2011 will be the Angels’ 50th Anniversary. Expect a big splash and bold moves. I have to believe that Arte Moreno isn’t going to settle for another season like the one we all just endured.

Besides, I’m trying to think outside the box here.

So with that in mind, know this - Jeff Mathis is done. Wishful thinking? Perhaps, but consider this – Mathis only saw 39 AB’s in the last month of the season (including a couple days in October). I think this means something. The popular belief is that Mike Napoli is on his way out because Mike Scioscia seems to prefer Mathis for his defensive skills.

Well, I’m throwing that idea out the window based on his diminished playing time at the end of the season. I also don’t need to remind Angel fans that Mathis hit a putrid .195 with a .219 OBP. Like Bourjos, I don’t believe the Angels can afford to carry Mathis on their opening day roster; at least not as the everyday catcher.

I believe the Angels would like to trade Mathis, but that’s truly wishful thinking. Look for Mathis to be non-tendered and released. I see a Mike Napoli/Bobby Wilson tandem behind the plate in 2011.

If you’re thinking Hank Conger will be on the 25 man roster next April, think again. He was released from his Venezuelan team because of his lack of hitting. He’s going to start the year at AAA again.

I know this idea of Napoli staying in Anaheim is outside the popular opinion, but the way I see it the trade market for catchers is slim while the free agent market is booming. Teams looking to add a catcher have Victor Martinez, Miguel Olivo, John Buck, Ramon Hernandez, Rod Barajas, Yorvit Torrealba, and others to look at in the free agent market. Mark it down – Mike Napoli is not going to be traded.

Juan Rivera on the other hand will be dealt for pennies on the dollar. Even though Rivera’s contract is affordable to a lot of teams ($5.25 million), moving him will be difficult, but necessary. I could see a trade to Colorado for utility man Clint Barmes. Rivera could become their right fielder and even spell Todd Helton at first base once in a while.

Colorado could also be the kind of change in scenery or should I say altitude that Rivera needs. Another possible destination could be St. Louis where he could platoon with John Jay (a left handed hitter).

Now, about that bull pen…. Well, if you’re looking at Rafael Soriano, I suggest you look elsewhere. The Angels haven’t had much luck dipping into the free agent market when it comes to relievers. Think about Justin Speier, Brian Fuentes and Fernando Rodney. Not a pretty picture, huh?

I believe they are more likely to trade for a short term solution rather than signing someone to a multi-year deal. The Angels will have Rodney, Kevin Jepsen, Jordan Walden, Michael Kohn, Jason Bulger and most likely either Rich Thompson or Matt Palmer in the pen. While there isn’t a definitive closer in the bunch per say, it’s possible that any one of Walden, Jepsen or Kohn could emerge in that role. I suppose that even Rodney is a possibility.

And there you have it. The ranting of a mad man or the insightful opinion of a long time fan. You decide. Chances are no one will see what’s coming and the Angels will baffle us all.

In the mean time – it’s fun to speculate; after all, the Hot Stove Season is officially open for business.


  1. You are right, the Angels will probably baffle us. But I certainly like your scenario for catcher better than what I have been worried was going to happen. From your typing fingers to Arte and Tony’s ears.

  2. Wow, very well put. I agree with you on most levels. The only spot that I question is with adding Soriano. I would like to see his arm added to the Halos' pen. I would not be comfortable going into the season with all of the other young kids to bolster that pen...

  3. Thanks for the comments and welcome to the blogosphere Blithescribe!

  4. Just a few things...

    - His name is Bobby Wilson

    - When you consider how many runs Bourjos' glove saves, his bat is acceptable. We have fly ball pitchers and we need a CF with range, Bourjos has more than any player in the game. Plus, his minor league numbers suggest he's not going to be a .200 hitter in the majors. Also, we need his speed in the lineup.

    - Hunter as a CF is no longer an option. Even when Bourjos wasn't playing, Scioscia put WIllits out there instead of Hunter. He was great there once, now he's in his mid-30's.

    - The Kendrick for Bernadina trade proposal is unnecessary and would leave the Angels on the losing end of that deal. If anything, I keep Callaspo around to split 2B duties with Kendrick , SS duties with Aybar and backup Beltre at 3B.

  5. I just don't see the Angels going into the season with that bullpen. They need left-handed relievers in there. Also, to be honest, I think the Angels are going to trade Napoli for Papelbon because of the mutual interest from last August. Which leads to possibly signing a free agent, more productive catcher. Who knows, maybe even V-mart, but I guess we'll see...

  6. Andrew - Brian Wilson is the name one types when they make a mistake. As you can probably figure out I meant to say Bobby.

  7. Scotty - Willits playing some CF at the end of the season had more to do with letting Hunter get comfortable in in RF than it did with what you're suggesting.

    And again - I'm fine with Bourjos in CF, but I believe the Angels won't have a lot of patience with him.

    Mr. Anonymous - I don't disagree with you in the idea that the Angels will look to do something with the bull pen, I just don't see them spending a lot of money on Soriano or someone along those lines.

    I'll be stunned if they trade for Papelbon.

  8. One more thing. You can't take all of this too seriously. It's just speculation and it's all part of the Hot Stove season.

    Thanks for reading.

  9. good analysis, interesting proposition with the Nationals, glad to here some "outside the box" thoughts.

  10. Definitey some interesting ideas here. However, I wouldn't trade Kendrick for Bernardina, and I most certainly would not replace Bourjos in the everyday lineup for Bernardina. Bourjos' effect on the defense cannot be overstated - his defensive abilities effectively pushed a perennial gold glove center fielder in Hunter to right field (granted, Hunter is getting older, and his skills have diminished, but still, it says something).

    Even with Bourjos' struggles at the plate (and it has to be said -- it's a small sample size), Bourjos (1.7 WAR) was a more valuable player than Bernardina (0.5 WAR). So to me, a deal for Bernardina in an effort to replace Bourjos in the lineup is not only unnecessary, it makes the team worse.

    If you think (like I do) the Angels' free agent priorities are Crawford and Beltre, and if they land the pair - then I think the offense is fixed. I feel comfortable having a light-hitting Bourjos at the bottom of the lineup knowing that (a) we have Crawford, Hunter, Beltre, and Morales all capable of hitting in the middle of the lineup, (b) we have great starting pitching depth, especially 1-3; (c) and we have gold glove-caliber defense in Beltre, Aybar, Crawford, Hunter, and Bourjos. With that pitching and defense, it shouldn't take much for Crawford-Hunter-Beltre-Morales to outscore the opposition.

    Finally, the bullpen needs fixing. Like you, I'm not sure Soriano is the answer - he's definitely a great talent, but he's had injury problems in the past, and he's certainly not going to come cheap. So while I wouldn't necessarily be against a Soriano signing, I might prefer to swing a deal for Heath Bell.

  11. projected lineup:
    1. Bourjos Cf
    2. Abreu DH
    3. Crawford LF
    4. Morales 1B
    5. Hunter RF
    6. Beltre 3B
    7. Kendrick/Callaspo 2B
    8. Napoli/Mathis/Wilson C
    9. Aybar/Izturis SS

    Looks good to me, but I think we need a new catcher

  12. I disagree with Kendrick for Bernadina I think the halos should trade howie and Napoli to the marlins for uggla

    Projected 2011 lineup:
    Abreu /dh
    Uggla /2b
    Crawford / lf
    Morales /1b
    Hunter /rf
    Beltre /3b
    Wilson / conger / c
    Aybar /ss
    Borjous /cf

    That's a sick lineup and our starting pitching and adding 2 bullpen arms
    GET READY TEXAS AND THE Rest OF THe West cuz HERE come the ANGELS. 2011 champs

  13. Thanks James and thank you so much for adding me to your list of links! :)

  14. I think it would be cool and stun everyone if the Angels traded for Dan Uggla for Napoli/Wilson, Callaspo, and Rivera. Sign Crawford and Beltre and we have one of the best lineups.

    Projected lineup:
    Bourjos CF
    Abreu DH
    Crawford LF
    Morales 1B
    Hunter RF
    Beltre 3B
    Uggla 2B
    Mathis C
    Aybar SS

    That's a scary lineup

  15. So much for the idea about acquiring Uggla. I don't think the Marlins would have wanted to add that much salary anyway (Napoli/Kendrick, etc.)