Angels 2011 Blueprint: If Not Crawford, Then Who?
Mired in the depressing heat of a disappointing season, the Angels need to start thinking seriously about 2011.
Calling Mr. Crawford, Mr. Carl Crawford.
Everyone knows Mike Scioscia’s No. 1 free agent target will be the one player ideally suited to his system. It is almost like the Rays’ Crawford was destined to be an Angel some day.
There is this one tiny problem, however. When Crawford goes on the open market, the Yankees and, probably, the Red Sox both will be waiting to pounce. This will be one of those heavyweight checkbook battles, the kind Angels’ owner Arte Moreno detests.
So if the real possibility exists that all those New York or Boston dollar signs are too much for Crawford to resist, and Arte is unwilling to compete financially, where do the Angels go from there?
Well, they have to go somewhere. This limp noodle of a lineup they’ve been featuring for most of the summer just won’t cut it in a division full of Texas muscle. Scioscia and GM Tony Reagins have to find a way — a legitimate way — to make the offense better.
If Crawford is off the table, the two most appealing options would be Adrian Beltre and Jayson Werth. These are two proven middle-of-the-order hitters who would fit right in between the returning Kendry Morales and Torii Hunter.
Naturally, the Angels won’t sign both. But they need to go hard after one, and my preference would be Beltre, the third baseman who has demonstrated this season in Boston that he is still a top tier talent, both with the bat and the glove.
So what do you do with Alberto Callaspo? Other than wonder why you traded for him in the first place, you mean? Well, you make him the utility guy that Maicer Izturis is supposed to be. Izturis, as we all know, spends more time on the DL than he does collecting ABs.
Besides, if you acquired Beltre, you could also rotate him in as one of the designated hitters, considering Hideki Matsui won’t be around next season. If it’s the Phillies’ Werth you end up signing, he can play the outfield and he and Bobby Abreu can slip in some DH time.
There are other questions facing this team heading into the off-season, as well. Like:
What do you do with Scott Kazmir? I’ll tell you one thing you don’t do. You don’t stick him back in the starting rotation.
What about the bullpen? Brian Fuentes has had a decent enough season to stick around as the closer, but he’s a free agent, so it might not be that easy. Maybe there is somebody better out there, but no, I don’t think Frankie Rodriguez is heading back here. It’s the bullpen depth that needs to improve. Francisco Rodney, Kevin Jepsen and, especially, Scot Shields have been erratic too often. The young power arms like Michael Kohn and Jordan Walden are intriguing but they’re not ready yet.
Will they ever do anything about their dismal bench? The other night, in a one-run game against the Rays, the only pinch hitter the Angels could send up against right-handed closer Rafael Soriano in the ninth inning was right-handed hitter Mike Napoli. Three pitches later, Napoli had struck out. For a couple of years now, the Angels have been badly in need of a veteran left-handed bat off the bench. Will they continue to be too cheap to sign one?
Is there a real leadoff hitter in the house? The Erick Aybar experiment was a dismal failure. Give the shortstop credit. He tried to make the adjustment. It was just too difficult for a kid who’s always been a free swinger. Abreu is sort of a stop-gap leadoff choice. He gets on base more than anyone else, but at 36, those legs are starting to show some wear and tear. The speedy Peter Bourjos? Great idea. Except he hasn’t shown he can hit consistently enough and, oh yeah, no one ever took the time in the minors to teach him how to generate walks. I mean, there was no real reason to do that. He was just the organization’s obvious leadoff hitter of the future.
— STEVE BISHEFF