In today’s mailbag, readers ask about the catching situation, what’s going on with the offense, and what’s next.
Luis R. (North Hollywood, Calif.): Looking forward to next season, what are the chances the Angels put either Kendrys Morales or Mark Trumbo at third base and trade Alberto Callaspo or Maicer Izturis?
Mark Saxon: Luis, I think you’re onto something. The Angels would like Trumbo to go play winter ball after this season and work on playing third base and the outfield. He started his minor-league career at third and he says he wasn’t very good, so I think the outfield is more likely. Of course, that raises a whole other can of worms since the Angels have a ton of money tied up in aging veterans there.
Ryan Thomas (Cypress, Calif.): Aramis Ramirez is a potential August trade candidate, but why not David Wright? He seems to fit the Angels’ style better and is under team control beyond this year. Is this possible?
MS: Ryan, David Wright is probably a better player than Aramis Ramirez and his numbers are more valid since he doesn’t play home games at Wrigley Field. The problem, I think, is the other team’s willingness to trade him. The Mets already moved Carlos Beltran, they might lose Jose Reyes next winter. It’s tough to draw fans in New York when you let all the name-brand players go.
Justin (Newport Beach, Calif.): Hey Mark, just wondering what the Halos plan to do with their logjam of outfielders, first basemen, and DHs next year. I assume they’ll have Trout, Peter Bourjos, Hunter, Bobby Abreu, Vernon Wells, Trumbo, and Morales all competing for five spots. How Do the Angels plan to solve this?
MS: Justin, This is the $64,000 question. Or, in the case of Vernon Wells, the $24 million question. That’s his contract next year and it makes him impossible to move. As I see it, the Angels have seven players (Mark Trumbo, Kendrys Morales, Bobby Abreu, Torii Hunter, Vernon Wells, Peter Bourjos and Mike Trout) for four spots. It’s going to be a tricky off-season to say the least.
Charles (Brea, Calif.): Two questions: 1. Can the Angels acquire Wandy Rodriguez before the season is over, or after the season is over? 2. Is Abreu done, and will he retire or suffer the Jorge Posada humiliation?
MS: Charles, I haven’t heard that name liked to the Angels in any capacity and I doubt they’ll get him this month, but who knows? As for Abreu, I’d say he’s certainly on a slippery slope given his age, but it’s doubtful he’ll retire and leave $9 million on the table. At some point, Mike Scioscia might have to have the difficult conversation Joe Girardi just had with Posada.
Mike Lepley (Murrieta, Calif.): Why is Mike Scioscia so bad with keeping a consistent lineup? Players like stability right? And what about Jeff Mathis? This is Brandon Wood all over again; does Scioscia really think his defense and ability to call a game cover up a .180 average that keeps getting lower?
MS: Hey Mike, I’ve heard this one a lot but I’m not sure I agree with it. If anything, he’s kept the lineup too consistent (e.g., keeping Hunter, Wells and Abreu planted in the middle of it). His problem this year is he doesn’t really have the horses for the race, strictly speaking of offense. It doesn’t matter how you line them up if you don’t have the horses.
Mike Becannon (Huntington Beach, Calif.): What is that the Angels want Hank Conger to work on? Blocking balls in the dirt? Throwing out base runners? Game calling? When the Angels need offense how can the Angels continue to justify playing Mathis? And if he’s such a great catcher, why do Conger and Wilson have a lower CERA when catching Ervin Santana and Tyler Chatwood? Also, why is it that Mathis ranks so low on defensive stats, if he’s so good? How come the best-hitting catcher the Angels have is in triple A and not starting everyday for them so he can keep his swing?
MS: Mike, All of the above, but mostly throwing. He has had a major shoulder injury and, at times, his throwing isn’t good enough to catch everyday in the major leagues. I think if he could convince Scioscia he can throw adequately, he could quickly move to the front of the pack. I’m not saying I disagree with you about Hank, though. I think he’s easily the best-hitting catcher, plus he’s left-handed hitting. That’s always a huge plus.
Dennis (Commerce, Calif.): How much does Jeff Mathis’ lack of hitting hurt the Halos and does his supposed defensive play make up for it?
MS: Dennis, That seems to be on everybody’s mind. His lack of hitting hurts them. I think there have only been three players with 1,300 plate appearances in baseball history with a lifetime batting average under .200 and he’s the only one who doesn’t play in the 1960s (when pitching dominated). On the other hand, I’ve heard scouts say he’s one of the best catchers around. He’s just so much more athletic back there blocking balls than most catchers, who tend to be big guys. On this one, I’m willing to trust Scioscia to some extent, though like I said above, I suspect Hank Conger will emerge as the best overall option before long.
Rob McMillin (California): Jeff Mathis stays, Mike Napoli traded ... for Vernon Wells. The trade for Scott Kazmir. Aside from the Dan Haren trade, has the Angels’ front office had one trade go right for them? Is there anyone in the Angels’ front office who can properly evaluate baseball talent? And how much longer does Tony Reagins get to keep his job?
MS: Rob, I’ve been quite critical of Tony Reagins for the trades you mentioned, as well as for the firing of scouting director Eddie Bane. He does deserve credit for a couple of other things, though, primarily trading for Mark Teixeira when that looked like a move that might put the Angels over the top in 2008 (and he only had to part with Casey Kotchman) and for the Alberto Callaspo trade. Callaspo has been one of the Angels’ best hitters with runners in scoring position and he’s played solid third base. I’m not sure how much longer he’ll keep his job. I’m not so sure the Angels want to pay an elite general manager, in part because they’ve locked up Scioscia long-term and invested him with a lot of power.
David G. (Huntington Park, Calif.): If Abreu continues to slump so badly, what are the Angels’ options at DH? I propose bringing Mike Trout back up and have him play left field, while having Wells and Hunter split the right field/DH duties. The outfield would be amazing defensively. Isn’t that doable?
MS: David, I think you might be onto something for next year, but I don’t get the case it’s on the front burner for 2011. Torii Hunter has played Gold Glove-caliber right field, for one thing, and the Angels like Abreu’s ability to get on base. If he has a bad September, I would say his chances of being an everyday player for this team next year would be slim, but as we talked about earlier in this mailbag, it’s a bigger question than just the outfield platoon. It involves several other positions as well.
Have an Angels question? Send it to Mark Saxon here.