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Inbox: Burning question at hot corner
Inbox: Third base raises intriguing options
By Alden Gonzalez
Three days from now, the Angels' baseball-operations staff will descend upon Tempe, Ariz. Twenty-four hours later, the coaching staff arrives. And on Sunday, pitchers and catchers officially report to Spring Training.
And then, lo and behold, we'll have baseball. Actual, real baseball.
Before that happens, I tackled more of your lingering Angels questions with the final offseason Inbox. Here goes ...
I'm sure Mark Trumbo will struggle at third base in the beginning, but eventually end up being a good third baseman. If he does struggle a little, do you think the Angels may ask Albert Pujols to play third a little to help him ease into the position? And would Kendrys Morales be a good idea for third when he plays the field again, considering he played there at times in Cuba?
-- Robert L., Murrieta, Calif.
We'll start with Morales: No way. You have to remember, Morales couldn't even run full speed last spring before undergoing a second operation on his left ankle. I don't see any way the Angels would place that kind of burden on a guy they're just hoping can swing the bat for them. If Morales can hit from both sides of the plate at DH, great. But the last thing they'll do is risk another injury or setback by playing him extensively in the field, especially third base.
As for Pujols, I can't see that happening, either. Pujols played third base primarily in his only season of Minor League ball 12 years ago, spent parts of '01 and '02 there in the Majors and even played the position adequately last year when filling in for an injured David Freese. But Pujols signed a $240 million contract to do what he has always done: Play first base and bat third. That's the expectation, and that's simply how it's going to be. Now, could he play third base for a few days if there's some sort of emergency? Sure. That's what happened May 16 in Philadelphia, when he volunteered to man the hot corner for the shorthanded Cardinals.
Here's what Pujols said after that game, the first of four starts at third base last year: "I'm a first baseman, but as you know, I played shortstop in high school, I came up as a third baseman and I love the action. I love to take ground balls at different places, because you just never know when the team is going to need you."
But first base was and will continue to be Albert's home.
Do you think the Angels will trade Bobby Abreu before Opening Day?
-- Zachary F., San Pedro, Calif.
It's easy to say Abreu needs to be traded. It's a whole other thing to actually do it.
I probably sound like a broken record at this point, but Abreu is owed $9 million this season, and that's no small hurdle. Think of it this way: If Abreu were a free agent today, how much money do you think a team would pay to get him? I can't see it being more than $3 million, and even that may be a little too generous.
The Angels, I've been told, haven't had many interested suitors, for obvious reasons, because of Abreu's price tag, because he's only really an option in the American League, and because similar guys like Raul Ibanez, Johnny Damon, Vladimir Guerrero and Hideki Matsui can still be had in free agency.
At this point, if they were to move him, they'd have to pick up almost the entire tab just so Abreu can go help somebody else -- probably another contender in the same league. But the Angels still value the soon-to-be-38-year-old, because he can get on base and is one of very few lefty power (or, power-ish) hitters on the team.
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Do they feel what he brings is worth the money he'll make? Of course not (though they'd never admit it publicly). But do they believe the money they'll save is worth losing him? Not at this point, with Morales trying to bounce back after a 1 1/2-year absence and Trumbo trying to learn a position he has never played.
Look, my money would be on Abreu eventually being dealt, especially if Morales can be an everyday designated hitter. I just don't think the Angels are going to bend over backwards to facilitate one. At least not now.
Besides LaTroy Hawkins, the Angels weren't really able to add to the bullpen and, considering who's left, it looks like they won't improve it much this offseason. Why didn't they bring more relievers in, and what are their options moving forward?
-- Brad S., Huntington Beach, Calif.
Simply put, the Angels don't have much left to spend. It's evident in the fact that guys they had varying degrees of interest in -- like Brad Lidge (who signed a $1 million deal with the Nationals), Luis Ayala ($925,000 with the Orioles) and Francisco Cordero ($4.5 million with the Blue Jays) -- all took one-year, non-closer deals elsewhere.
"We didn't feel like the opportunity existed to find the right piece for us, where we were," general manager Jerry Dipoto said Saturday. But he also noted that in Spring Training, with basically all 30 teams conducting in-house competitions in the bullpen, relievers have a tendency to become available on the waiver wire. Perhaps the Angels can also acquire a quality back-end piece via trade, once they have a better feel for what their roster will look like.
But make no mistake: Regardless of any Spring Training moves, the bullpen's improvement will mostly rest on the young shoulders of closer Jordan Walden.
What are the chances the Angels hold on to Peter Bourjos? I've seen rumors linking them to the Nationals for John Lannan. He seems to be a very average pitcher and not worth giving up Bourjos, who is a fan favorite and has a lot to offer to this team.
-- Chase G., Ladera Ranch, Calif.
There were some rumors spreading about this shortly after the Nationals signed Edwin Jackson, but I can't see how a Lannan-for-Bourjos trade makes sense for the Angels. For the Nationals, of course, it's ideal. They can part ways with an expense they no longer need and, in return, get that leadoff-type center fielder they've coveted for quite a while.
But for the Angels, it would mean taking on salary even though they have very little money left -- Lannan will make $5 million this season, Bourjos will make about $500,000 -- putting all their chips on Mike Trout being ready to be the Opening Day center fielder and sacrificing some depth, just to pick up someone who'd be nothing more than their fifth starter (and they have options there already).
Whether or not the Angels ultimately choose this path remains to be seen, but Bourjos in center and Trout in right could be solid long-term options.
When is Angels FanFest and how much will it cost?
-- Geoff G., Lake Forest, Calif.
Angels FanFest is scheduled for April 22, which coincides with a Sunday home game against the Orioles and the Angels 5K. Details are still forthcoming, but the event is usually $5.