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Inbox: Is Chapman a viable option?
Inbox: Is Chapman a viable option?
By Lyle Spencer
Do you think the Angels are through in free agency? Any chance the Cuban pitcher, Aroldis Chapman, could be acquired? -- Keith W., Candler, N.C.
The Halos clearly are intrigued by Chapman's potential, and their track record with Kendry Morales certainly suggests they'll move on a Cuban player if they covet him. But keep in mind that position players and starting pitchers are different breeds of cats. The probability of debilitating injury is greater with pitchers, elevating the risk factor in a long-term commitment.
Chapman has a lively left arm, much like Scott Kazmir's. He throws in the mid-90s and is searching for his complementary stuff and command. That, along with all the social aspects involved in the transition, would indicate he's a year or two away from making an impact in Anaheim.
My sense is that it depends on how high the market rises. Clearly, Chapman is a prize. How steep a club is willing to go in the investment is the question, and I can't answer that with respect to the Angels.
As for the free agency inquiry, we'll move on to the next inquiry from the lovely South Bay.
Any chance the Angels will pursue Jon Garland or Jason Isringhausen? -- Denise D., Torrance, Calif.
Garland, yes; Isringhausen, not likely. My sense is that the Angels intend to acquire a fifth starter in free agency, and nobody in the market makes more practical sense than Garland. There is the element of familiarity with the club and its catchers, from his 2008 season in Anaheim, and his remarkable durability. You plug the guy in and forget about that spot in the rotation. He never misses a start.
Garland had a slightly better year statistically overall with the D-backs and Dodgers in '09 -- his ERA fell from 4.90 to 4.01 -- than with the Angels. He's 30, and he'll give you 200 innings and 10-15 wins. The only question is whether he'll accept a deal that will fit him into a relatively tight Angels budget with eight arbitration cases waiting to be resolved.
There are other interesting possibilities out there, notably Joel Pineiro, Jarrod Washburn, Doug Davis and Ben Sheets. Sheets has the biggest upside, obviously, but is high-risk. I think the Angels would like a dependable arm to settle in and enable Matt Palmer to complete the staff as an all-purpose guy, capable of performing any role in a moment's notice.
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As for Isringhausen, the bullpen looks deep and settled with the addition of Fernando Rodney. This is not an area of need at this time.
Let's bundle whatever it takes and get a legitimate No. 1 starter who can dominate. John Lackey was close but not it. -- Tom S., Moreno Valley, Calif.
There aren't as many legit No. 1s as you might imagine, and when teams have them, they're not apt to give them up. That's what made the movement of Roy Halladay (Blue Jays to the Phillies) and Cliff Lee (Phils to the Mariners) so stunning this offseason.
It's more likely that one of these rare creatures will become available nearing the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline than any time soon. The 2011 free-agent class of potential starters is rich, with names such as Lee, Josh Beckett, Brandon Webb, Kevin Millwood, Jake Westbrook, Joe Blanton and Ted Lilly. The Padres' Chris Young has a club option for $8.5 million in '11 that's not likely to be exercised.
On the other hand, the Angels might feel no need to deal if Trevor Reckling, 20 and gifted, emerges as a potential top-shelf starter this year in the Minors. As I've mentioned repeatedly, I don't see a club in the Majors with four under-30 starters better than Jered Weaver, Joe Saunders, Kazmir and Ervin Santana. Of course, I'm known for my optimism. I leave the pessimism to others. They're more than willing to accept the assignment.
The Angels were 12th in starter ERA last season, and that was with Lackey. Without him, they fall to 17th. To say the Angels' starting pitching is in the top five in the Majors, as you have done, is demonstrably false. Look again, this is 2009: Weaver, 3.75 ERA, 1.24 WHIP; Saunders, 4.60 ERA, 1.43 WHIP; Kazmir, 4.89 ERA, 1.42 WHIP; Santana, 5.03 ERA, 1.47 WHIP; Palmer, 4.66 ERA as starter, 1.35 WHIP overall. That's a bleak picture. This is an injury-plagued and inconsistent bunch. The rotation is full of question marks. Without further adjustments, the organization is lying to itself if it thinks this rotation will be competitive over 162 games in the American League. -- Andrew M., Los Angeles
Wow, how did this undermanned, outgunned outfit manage to win 97 games and five more in the postseason? No wonder Mike Scioscia was the AL Manager of the Year. He's a miracle worker, obviously. Clearly, the big man did his best job ever given the late starts of Lackey and Santana, Nick Adenhart's tragic death, Saunders' shoulder issues and incorporating a new arm (Kazmir) into the mix with a month left. Oh, by the way, Kazmir's ERA with the Angels was 1.73 -- not too shabby.
The point I keep coming back to is that this is a relatively young bunch with tremendous upside. They're all just coming into their prime years. Call me a cockeyed optimist, but I think it's a solid group, and the addition of a steady veteran such as Garland would make it complete.
With the expected loss of Robb Quinlan, who do the Angels plan to use as the primary corner infield backup? Maicer Izturis will be busy at both middle infield positions and third base if he doesn't win the job over Brandon Wood. Have they thought about teaching Mike Napoli how to play first base to occasionally give Morales a breather? -- Jim B., Belleville, Ill.
Napoli has played first base in the Minor Leagues, and capably from what his former teammates have told me. New to the position, Wood also handled first as if he'd played there for years in limited opportunities last season.
It wouldn't be a bad idea to give Morales a DH day occasionally, to keep him fresh. Versatility in the infield remains one of the Angels' strengths, even with the departure of Chone Figgins, one of the game's best athletes.
If you ask the question, "Who should play third base? Adrian Beltre or Wood?" it would be great to get the fans' opinions. As for Hideki Matsui, I would rather have seen us reacquire Garret Anderson and have him retire with us as he deserves to do. I'll roll with Matsui, because he's on my team, but that's how I feel. -- Greg V., Avondale, Ariz.
I can anticipate how that poll would go. More fans naturally would prefer Beltre, a proven commodity. But the cost is probably prohibitive, and it's time to find out about Wood while the Angels have Izturis -- one year removed from free agency -- as a fallback.
As for Anderson, he's waiting for someone to call with an offer of 500 at-bats. He never got fully comfortable in Atlanta and the National League in '09 but managed to raise his career hit total to 2,501. He remains a smart, capable athlete and dangerous clutch bat. But the only way he'd return to Anaheim now is if the club moved an outfielder, such as highly desirable Juan Rivera, for a starting pitcher. And that doesn't appear likely.
Lyle Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.