With Howie Kendrick now enshrined to man second base for the next four years as an Angel, this leaves Erick Aybar as the man on deck to receive an extension, but is that a wise decision?
Aybar had a career year in 2011, posting new personal highs in home runs (10), RBI (59) and stolen bases (30). This lead to a personal-best 4.0 WAR season—eighth among all MLB shortstops, with a Gold Glove Award to boot (though Brendan Ryan probably deserved it).
While that looks great now, the Los Angeles Angels would be paying a high price for production Aybar cannot guarantee to emulate. His career to date has been fairly inconsistent, with mediocre seasons in 2008 and 2010, and a good season sprinkled in 2009.
|2008||.277 ||.314 ||.384||.699||3||7||1.9|
The good news is that Aybar has progressively gotten better on the basepaths, increasing his stolen bases total each season. He was only caught six times out of his 36 attempts this past season.
Aybar also flashed some power potential hitting 10 home runs in 2011. If that became a norm, you would bet the Angels would feel better about locking up a player with the potential for 10-plus home runs and 30-plus stolen bases that plays above-average defense at a premium position.
The case to not extend Aybar can also be raised due to a potential heir apparent in the Angels minor league system, Jean Segura. Segura is praised as the Angels third-best prospect after outfielder Mike Trout and pitcher Garrett Richards, by John Sickels of Minor League Ball.
Marc Hulet of Fangraphs.com provides a scouting report:
“Segura has shown the ability to hit for average and manages to generate more power than expected from his compact frame thanks to good bat speed. He currently has plus speed. Defensively, Segura played mostly second base prior to ’11 but he moved over to shortstop to see if he could display enough range. The jury is still out and there is some concern that he’ll thicken up in the lower half and have to move back to second base.”
Even if Segura does not pan out at shortstop, the Angels can afford to wait a year and see how things progress with both him and Aybar.
In the event that Segura is not the solution at shortstop, or is not ready by 2013, the Angels can always look to bring back Aybar or Izturis, who is also a free agent at the end of the 2012 season.
If Aybar puts up another high-quality season, then they can enter the negotiating process next season feeling a little better about the player they are locking up.