Kendrys Morales, game changer

January, 11, 2012
1/11/12
2:05
PM PT
He's been cleared to run on a treadmill.

He's ramping up baseball activities and will work out in front of general manager Jerry Dipoto in Arizona later this week.

Blah, blah and blah.

The next meaningful update on Kendrys Morales' health will come some time in March. He can either play baseball again (both in terms of how his surgically repaired ankle holds up and how his skills respond to two years of atrophy) or he can't. Even Dipoto admits nobody will know whether this guy can contribute again until a real pitcher is on the mound, wearing another team's uniform.

But, oh, if he can play like he played two seasons ago, what a world of possibilities that opens up for the Angels.

It solves a handful of problems and opens up a world of possibilities. It solves the right-handed problem (Morales is a switch hitter), the Albert Pujols protection problem (Mike Scioscia says he'd love to bat him cleanup) and the depth problem (the Angels' lineup still doesn't measure up to Texas').

If Morales is healthy and productive, the Angels could have one of the top few offenses in the American League. He and Pujols could combine for 80 home runs and more than 200 RBIs, taking pressure off the rest of the team. Without him, and even with a newly added first-ballot Hall of Famer, it looks like the pitching will have to carry the Angels yet again.

It would open up so many possibilities for trades, with the Angels dealing from a position of strength, a surplus of power bats. Imagine that. This team searched for years for that proverbial "big bat." Now, they may not know where to put them all.

They would be compelled to trade veteran DH Bobby Abreu, who would have no appreciable role, and they could explore trading some of their young bats for other areas of need, say a veteran closer or a powerful third baseman (Mark Trumbo isn't going to play everyday third base, folks).

For now, Dipoto figures to hold onto everybody -- Morales, Abreu, Trumbo and his four outfielders, including prospect Mike Trout -- until the situation begins to sort itself out in Tempe. He does admit the return of Morales could put him in an enviable position in talking to other teams.

"That's very possible, but I don't know yet that it's the case," Dipoto said.

The Angels are hesitant to put all their eggs in the Morales basket for the second year in a row, but they're holding a spot open in case one big egg falls in their lap.

Mark Saxon

ESPNLosAngeles.com
Mark Saxon is a staff writer for ESPNLosAngeles.com. He spent six years at the Orange County Register, and began his career at the Oakland Tribune, where he started an 11-year journey covering Major League Baseball. He has also covered colleges, including USC football and UCLA basketball.

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TEAM LEADERS

BA LEADER
Mike Trout
BA HR RBI R
.310 22 73 65
OTHER LEADERS
HRM. Trout 22
RBIM. Trout 73
RM. Trout 65
OPSM. Trout 1.005
WG. Richards 11
ERAG. Richards 2.55
SOG. Richards 127