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Inbox: Why let Halladay get away?

Inbox: Why let Halladay get away?

CHICAGO -- Yes, it's been a long time coming, and I apologize for not getting to your questions in the Inbox sooner -- even though I've tried to answer each one personally.

Man, time sure flies when you're writing four or five stories a day. But seriously, I'll try to be more diligent in getting back to loyal readers with earnest inquiries about your favorite team in this forum, formerly known as the Mailbag.

With the non-waiver Trade Deadline having passed -- and passed the Angels by to the dismay of a number of impassioned readers highly critical of management's decision to stand pat -- I'll explore issues that seem to represent the primary concerns of loyalists.

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Please understand these are my independent thoughts, formed over decades of observation and evaluation. I am not on the Angels' payroll, as some have charged, and do not sit in on any of their internal meetings, regrettably.

OK, here goes:

With Roy Halladay, I think the Angels could win a championship this year and next. The players that Toronto wanted are all unproven and replaceable. A lot of fans want the team to go for it all and quit waiting on prospects. Why did they let him get away?
-- Andre P., Los Angeles

Halladay is an elite starter, maybe the best in the game. As for the "unproven and replaceable" players the Blue Jays were demanding in return for their ace, that couldn't be further from the truth.

Erick Aybar, on the threshold of great things for several years, has been frustrated by hand and hamstring injuries caused by effort and overzealousness. This season, he has matured into an elite shortstop, making all the plays while becoming a force offensively. He's also among the fastest players in the game.

If you let Aybar go for Halladay, you'd need Brandon Wood to help fill the void along with Maicer Izturis, a wonderful player who in the past hasn't been able to hold up physically over a long season. The Jays wanted Wood, and his great promise, as well.

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A third part of the deal would have been Joe Saunders, an All-Star last season, or Jered Weaver, who should have been an All-Star this season. Both are capable of being 15-game winners for years to come.

The final piece in demand was a premium pitching prospect -- presumably southpaw Trevor Reckling, who is advanced beyond his years at 20 and could be a front-line starter for many years. Alex Torres, another lefty with immense promise, might have been accepted as a substitute for Reckling.

If the Jays could have made the deal by coming off Aybar and accepting Sean Rodriguez -- an athlete with immense potential -- in his place, I think they made a serious mistake.

As great as Halladay is, the Angels might have had him for only a season and a half. They'd have been giving up at least 18 contract seasons combined with Aybar, Wood, Saunders or Weaver and Reckling or Torres. That made it a no-brainer.

Why weren't the Angels able to get one of the available relievers, like Heath Bell of San Diego? That bullpen really worries me.
-- Andy H., Hollywood, Calif.

As with Halladay, the Angels went all out for Bell, viewing him as an ideal complement to Brian Fuentes at the back end of the 'pen. If San Diego rejected the proposal that was making the rounds -- Sean O'Sullivan, Sean Rodriguez, Jose Arredondo and a blue-chip prospect -- the Padres made a grave miscalculation.

Rodriguez can play six positions and combines power with speed. He'd have supplied much-needed talent and energy and fan appeal. O'Sullivan, a local kid, could have moved to the front of their rotation, and Arredondo could have replaced Bell in the very near future.

You never know when a pitcher will put it all together. Bell was an underachiever with the Mets. Maybe Kevin Jepsen and Jason Bulger will emerge, just as Bell has, and take care of the back end. And don't overlook Arredondo, who could get his stuff back after elbow issues and make an impact down the stretch.

How can you say you wouldn't give up Aybar to complete a deal for Halladay? What has Aybar done to deserve that kind of respect?
- James C., Irvine, Calif.

This is a common lament. Fans seem to have focused in on four October games in judging Aybar, who, like Howard Kendrick, struggled against the Red Sox in the American League Division Series. A fellow named Barry Bonds was a complete postseason bust for years, before 2002, and the same applies to Alex Rodriguez. History is loaded with stars who struggled in October.

Aybar is a superlative talent with a modest demeanor and serious work ethic. I'm sold on him. I've never judged a career on one rough series or one October misstep. That would be as unfair with Aybar or Kendrick as it was to Bonds, A-Rod, Ted Williams, Stan Musial, Gil Hodges or star-crossed Bill Buckner.

It has been an unreal time with the offense erupting almost as soon as Torii Hunter, Vlad Guerrero and Juan Rivera went down, but why isn't Izturis in the lineup every day? I understand his history with hamstring problems, and being prone to injuries, but the guy is a real hitter and simply makes things happen. I love him hitting in the No. 2 spot. Also, how do you think the Wood saga will play out?
-- Dave H., Monarch Beach, Calif.

Izturis would love to play every day. So would Kendrick and Aybar. But it seems to me that manager Mike Scioscia is handling this just right, given the history of all three athletes falling victim to injuries, notably in the hamstrings. By essentially keeping all three fresh by spotting Izturis at both shortstop and second, they've remained healthy for a greater period than at any time in their careers.

If it ain't broke, why fix it?

As for Wood, his future remains unclear. He could be part of an offseason trade, or he could move in at third base on a regular basis if free agency sends Chone Figgins off to a new life. One thing seems clear: Kendry Morales, the AL Player of the Week, isn't going to need much relief at first base. And Aybar gives no indication that he'll let go of shortstop for the next five or six years. So Wood's options have diminished considerably.

Who would you say is the Angels' biggest free agent to re-sign?
-- Matt W., Long Beach, Calif.

This is not an easy call, given the volume and talent of potential free agents: Figgins, Bobby Abreu, Darren Oliver, John Lackey, Guerrero, Robb Quinlan and Kelvim Escobar.

If I had to make a wild guess, I'd put them in that order in terms of most likely to be back. This is just a gut feeling, pure speculation. The Angels have a policy of not negotiating extensions during the season, but that could be a mistake -- especially in the case of Abreu, who loves it here, has had a major impact on the team's chemistry and should command big money in the open market -- along with Figgins and Lackey, especially.

The Angels stole Abreu for $5 million. He's been worth at least twice that much. It's something they should keep in mind with respect to retaining him. The same applies to Figgins, who will have significant appeal in free agency as one of the game's most dynamic leadoff hitters. He's right there with Hunter, Abreu and Weaver as the most valuable Angels this season.

Lackey and Guerrero, I suspect, will depart -- and not because the Angels don't want them. Lackey will command major dollars as the big prize among starters. Guerrero probably needs to be a designated hitter full-time at this stage of his career. The Angels should make that Mike Napoli's primary role, at cheaper cost, with Jeff Mathis and Bobby Wilson sharing the catching duties.

Lyle Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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