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Inbox: Assessing offseason possibilities
Angels Inbox: Assessing the offseason
By Lyle Spencer
The Victor Martinez signing by the Tigers could have some serious implications for the Angels. Boston is a different team without Martinez in the lineup, and this could push the Angels directly into a bidding war with the Red Sox over Carl Crawford and/or Adrian Beltre. It could also affect the status of Mike Napoli. I love seeing him in an Angels uniform, but given manager Mike Scioscia's preferences for other catchers behind the dish, I could see Napoli being dangled as an attractive trade chip.
-- David W., Washington, D.C.
You're right, the Martinez signing could have an impact on the Angels in several ways. Boston needs a catcher, and Napoli is intriguing on several levels. He has bashed the ball in Fenway Park, and he has a history with John Lackey. Perhaps the Red Sox would prefer Jeff Mathis, the superior defensive player. It's possible the teams could work something out for closer Jonathan Papelbon or perhaps setup man Daniel Bard, filling the Angels' perceived need for a closer, but the Angels would have to sweeten the pot.
Boston certainly would like to retain Beltre, especially now that Martinez is gone. Another Red Sox player who would have appeal to the Angels in a potential Napoli swap is ultra-swift outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury. He could become available if the Sox outbid the Angels for Crawford, thereby keeping Crawford away from the dreaded Yankees. If the Yanks lose out on Cliff Lee, which seems unlikely, they could train their sights on Crawford and use highly regarded Brett Gardner as a trade chip for a starter. Detroit, clearly going for the gusto, is considered a sleeper in the Crawford sweepstakes.
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There are all kinds of potential scenarios in play here, which is why it's so difficult to predict how player movement is going to evolve so early in the game. So much depends on where the big free agents land, setting off a chain of movements. This is what few fans seem to grasp. They want moves NOW, and it just doesn't work that way. It's a high-stakes game these general managers are playing, fit for Las Vegas.
Being a lifetime Angels fan, their immediate need is an established closer to complement the best starting rotation (in my opinion) in baseball. Free agent Rafael Soriano would be a perfect choice. As far as improving the offense, Crawford will probably end up with the Yankees or Red Sox, mainly because they have deeper pockets. So for Plan B, how about Jayson Werth? Do you think the Angels would be willing to trade for Hanley Ramirez of the Marlins, possibly swapping Florida native Napoli and Erick Aybar?
-- Brad S., Whittier, Calif.
I'm not sure the Angels feel they're desperate for a closer. They have Fernando Rodney, who had great success in 2009 in that role in Detroit, and they might be quietly grooming Jordan Walden and/or Kevin Jepsen for the role, seeing both as potential Troy Percivals. Jason Bulger, Michael Kohn, Francisco Rodriguez, Rich Thompson and Bobby Cassevah all have shown they can get outs with premium stuff. Soriano will be costly, and that money probably would be better spent on offense.
The bullpen needs a left-handed presence, and there are some appealing possibilities out there, including Soriano's former Rays teammate, Randy Choate, along with Pedro Feliciano, another durable lefty specialist. As a Type A free agent who'd cost the Angels a high Draft pick, Scott Downs appears too expensive on two fronts.
As for Ramirez, one of the game's brightest talents, it would be wise to go all-in if he's made available. Because of the position he plays, he's even more valuable, in my opinion, than Miguel Cabrera was when the Angels went after him before the Marlins erred badly in taking Detroit's prospects rather than proven talent offered by the Angels. Werth is a versatile player and would be a fit anywhere.
I think Scioscia is probably the best manager the Angels have ever had, but I question the limited playing time Napoli receives. Napoli tied for 15th in home runs in the American League even though he had only 453 at-bats. He hit 26 dingers, one every 17.42 at bats. The top 10 home run hitters in the AL averaged 563 at-bats. With his ratio and 563 at-bats, Napoli would have hit 32 home runs, tied for fifth in the league, and he would have been 22nd in RBIs. What does the future hold for big Mike?
-- Bob B., Anaheim
Napoli is a wild card in the days and weeks ahead. His name is likely to come up frequently in the Winter Meetings in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., next week. He could be moved in a deal, or he could return and get playing time as a part-time catcher and DH, spelling Kendry Morales at first base. One thing to keep in mind: Napoli kills left-handed pitching, and lefties dominated the Angels in '10.
When I watch the Rays' Grant Balfour pitch, I feel like I'm watching a younger Percival. That intensity on the mound is invaluable for a reliever. I feel like he would bring a lot of intangibles to our bullpen. What do you think?
-- Jeremy O., Riverside, Calif.
Balfour is a standup guy, widely respected by teammates for his attitude and performance. I think you're right; he'd be a great fit in this or any bullpen. A free agent, he's drawing interest in a number of places and figures to command a very nice deal.
With respect to the Angels, the only drawback is that Balfour is right-handed, and the Halos are loaded with righties in the bullpen. The need is for at least one and ideally two southpaws.
Are there any veteran relief pitchers the Angels are looking at signing to mentor Jepsen, Kohn, Walden and the rest of the young guys?
-- Jason T., Carson, Calif.
Balfour certainly would fill that role, but my sense is the club is looking for lefties. Choate is 35 and coming off a superb season, allowing just 15 of 66 inherited runners to score with a 90 percent save/hold success rate in 85 appearances. He looks ideal from this keyboard. Brian Fuentes, of course, would be a terrific addition, but he's looking to close, and he's probably out of the Angels' price range.
Both Cy Young Award winners this season -- Felix Hernandez and Roy Halladay -- wear No. 34. Fernando Valenzuela, Nolan Ryan and Dave Stewart wore No. 34. Which takes me to a bright, young pitcher with great potential who also wore No. 34: Nick Adenhart. We will not forget him.
-- Greg V., Avondale, Ariz.
Nicely expressed, Greg. Nick is always in our hearts.
Lyle Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.