From today's season preview of the Los Angeles Angels...
Should the Angels just be willing to cut bait on Bobby Abreu and Vernon Wells in order to give younger, more talented players more playing time?
Bobby Abreu started at DH for the Angels last season, and managed a .718 OPS. He made $9 million, and will make $9 million this season after his 2012 option vested last July. He lost his starting job this offseason to Kendrys Morales. Morales hasn't played in a game since 2010, but he had an .813 OPS that season with more homers (11) in 51 games than Abreu had (8) in 142 games in 2011.
Vernon Wells was the Angels every day left fielder in 2011, and managed a .660 OPS. He made $23 million, and will make $21 million for each of the next three seasons. He is still starting every day because of his contract, while top Angels prospect Mike Trout will start the year in AAA after a season in AA where he OPSed .958 with 11 homers and 33 steals...in 91 games. In the majors, Trout had a .671 OPS...which was still better than Wells's mark.
Now, the Angels are going to pay their two overpriced veterans $30 million this season. One will sit on the bench and get occasional starts, and one will play every day. When is it time to just cut bait on both of these players who are eating up roster spots from younger players that could actually help the Angels in the future?
At the absolute worst, Trout will be starting in the majors next season. Right fielder Torii Hunter's contract is expiring, and the team isn't going to bring him back. That opens up a spot in the outfield for Trout, but the behemoth that is Vernon Wells and his massive contract will still be starting every day. The Angels really don't have a better option in the minors to replace Wells with, so the team will probably just roll with him next season too.
Abreu is the real issue. Not only do the Angels have a younger, better DH in Morales, they have another guy currently without a position that could be better as well in AL Rookie of the Year runner-up Mark Trumbo. There is an extreme numbers crunch with Abreu right now, and if the Angels can't find a taker for him, they should cut bait immediately. There's no use having hiim on your roster when you have better, younger players ready to roll at the only position he can play.
I don't like the situation with Wells, but I at least understand it. If the Angels had another top outfield prospect, or Hunter was under contract past this season, it wouldn't make any sense to keep him around. But with Hunter leaving town this offseason, and Trout having absolutely no time at AAA, it somewhat makes sense. Now, if in July, Trout has a .950 OPS at AAA, it would make a lot of sense to deal Hunter and try to squeeze Trout in there. No one is going to take Wells's contract off of your hands in full. The Angels would need to pay probably 80% of it. Hunter though? The Angels could easily pick up maybe $5 million of his contract in July and deal him, freeing up a spot for Trout in the majors. Then, they'd have their outfield set with Wells still in the picture.
As horrible as it is to push the idea of keeping Vernon Wells on the team, it at least makes some sense. If the Angels dump Wells as Hunter's contract expires, they'd still need one more outfielder. They could try Trumbo out there, though his defense would probably be terrible. If they signed a free agent outfielder, they'd be paying him as well as Wells, which offsets the whole purpose of getting rid of Wells.
Former Angels GM Tony Reagins has created quite a little conundrum for current Angels GM Jerry DiPoto, and it will be interesting to see what DiPoto will do with it.
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