A year after signing Albert Pujols, the Angels again shocked the baseball world by inking Josh Hamilton to a five-year deal worth $125 million. Like the Pujols signing, adding Hamilton leaves the Angels with a surplus of position players. Unlike last season, when the Angels kept their surplus in tact, Jerry Dipoto appears ready to trade one—or more—of the spare parts to shore up his tattered rotation.
Even after trading James Shields and Wade Davis, the Rays remain a go-to destination for starters. And even with the additions of Wil Myers, James Loney, and Yunel Escobar, the club is still in need of a hitter—preferably one with some thump. Considering the needs of each organization, one would expect Andrew Friedman and Dipoto to be in contact.
Four Angels have been the subject of recent trade rumors: Peter Bourjos, Vernon Wells, Mark Trumbo, and Kendrys Morales. Each of the four comes with a different skill-set and varying levels of team control, and thus various price tags in trade. They all have the ability to bat right-handed, with Morales able to hit from both sides. Of the quartet, only Bourjos would positively impact Tampa Bay defensively or on the basepaths.
Bourjos also comes with added team control. The 25-year-old has one year remaining before entering arbitration. He is a dynamic outfield defender with speed to burn on the bases. Offensively, he is not the coveted big bat, but has shown potential in the past. It should be noted he played most of the season with a wrist injury which prompted a stint on the disabled list in August.
With so much value tied to his legs, one would like to see Bourjos walk a bit more than he does. Though he may look the part of a contact hitter, he has not shown those traits at the big-league level. Still, an elite-level defender with speed and team control are qualities that fit the Rays’ style. Even if the current roster looks a little outfield heavy after the Myers addition, the team has never shied away from collecting assets first and worrying what to do with them later.
A move for Bourjos would have longer-lasting impact; however, the target that might make the most sense for Tampa Bay is Kendrys Morales—free-agent-to-be after the season. I speculated as much last off-season and the Rays reportedly tried to acquire him in July.
Following two injury-riddled seasons stemming from a freak accident during a home plate celebration, Morales stayed clear of the disabled list in 2012. Despite the extended time away from the field, the Cuban native was once again an above-average offensive performer. In just over 500 plate appearances, he belted 22 home runs and added 26 doubles. A more aggressive approach led to an increase in strikeouts and a drop in average, but perhaps he was simply anxious to swing a bat after missing nearly 300 games of live action.
Morales has above-average power, but he is not the prototypical slugger. Prior to last season, he struck out at league-average levels or below. Part of it is because Morales doesn’t go deep into counts, looking for walks. The 29-year-old switch- hitter is at his best when he is batting left-handed, and while he is a lesser hitter from the right side, he maintains considerable power and should be an option for everyday duty.
He played 28 games in the field last season, but a full-time job as a designated hitter seems best considering Morales’ medical history. In terms of monetary commitment, he is in his final year of arbitration. He will receive a raise on his 2012 salary of $2.975 million, but should command less than Luke Scott or Carlos Pena made a season ago.
Mark Trumbo and Vernon Wells round out the potential targets, yet both seem unlikely for different reasons. Wells, 34, has been a below-average player for quite some time, although he is paid like a superstar. Since 2010, he has hit .244/.291/.456 while playing average outfield defense at best. Last season, he produced a .682 OPS in 77 games. He missed two months due to surgery on his right thumb.
Wells is owed $42 million over the next two seasons— the final two years of his massive seven-year, $126 million contract. In order to make his salary a fit for the Rays, the Angels would presumably need to eat 90 percent of the deal. This is a fate they may have already made peace with. There is a slim chance Wells can return to his early-Aughts form; however, he does not appear to represent the upgrade Tampa Bay is looking for.
On the other hand, Mark Trumbo would be an upgrade to the Rays’ lineup. In two seasons as a big-leaguer, he has more than 110 extra-base hits including 61 home runs. His power comes with a lot of swing-and-miss, however, his strikeout rate is not extraordinarily high. Similar to Morales, he appears uninterested in walks.
Trumbo was a team-player on defense, appearing at four different positions in 2012. After playing almost exclusively at first base in 2011, he spent most of last year in the outfield with Pujols taking his regular position. Credit Trumbo for his willingness to try new things, but his best position is hitter. Moving Morales would allow the Angels to use him as such. He is not yet arbitration eligible which means the Angels likely prefer to keep him over Morales as their DH moving forward.
Alex Cobb for Bourjos or Trumbo? Jeff Niemann for Morales? A lotto ticket for Wells? Speculating on names is traditionally an exercise in futility. Nonetheless, the point remains: both teams have pieces that would be attractive to the other. All it takes is a match.