Waiting in the Wings: Top 5 First Basemen Angels Are Likely To Pursue
Losing Kendry Morales was just about the worst thing that could have happened to the lackluster Los Angels of Anaheim.
Or, at least, that's the way it seemed.
However, since Morales broke his leg celebrating his walk-off grand slam at home on May 29, the Angels have gone 5-1 with 37 runs scored.
More importantly, though, is that they've been included in numerous trade rumors as they look to add more power to the lineup―something that desperately needed to be done prior to their big slugger going down.
At the time of his injury, Morales lead the team in batting average, home runs, and RBI.
Even with their first baseman in the middle of the order, the anemic Angels still ranked right around the middle of the American League in nearly every major offensive category.
Now without his primary source of power and production in the lineup for the foreseeable future, General Manager Tony Reagins is searching high and low for a suitable replacement, someone who can get the job done but won't butcher the position on defense or stick around long enough to cause a logjam at first.
At least for now, there are no such options in-house. Robb Quinlan is a nice utility guy, but can't match the production Morales provided. The same could be said for Kevin Frandsen and Michael Ryan.
Mike Napoli is the most logical choice at the moment. With his bat finally starting to heat up, it will be important to keep him in the lineup as often as possible.
But his defensive abilities behind the plate are questionable enough, to say nothing of his lack of experience in the infield.
And speaking of lacking experience, Angels first base prospect Mark Trumbo is hitting well in Triple-A but has yet to make his major league debut, so it is unlikely he will be called upon to shepherd the big club through its sudden power outage.
A trade, then, is the only reasonable option left.
Several names have already been tossed around by various sources and while some have already been refuted, others remain intriguing possibilities.
Here are the top five most likely options for a trade to fill the Angels' gap at first this season.
Paul Konerko, Chicago White Sox
Konerko seems to be the most popular choice right now.
Without any official confirmation of L.A.'s alleged interest, media members in Chicago have already quizzed the frequent trade target of the Angels about the possibility that he will head west.
“It's none of my business,” he stated, a clear indicator that, if nothing else, he is at least willing to consider waiving his no-trade clause to come play at the Big A.
And why not? Konerko already has a positive relationship with Angels manager Mike Scioscia from their days in the Dodgers' farm system, when Pauly was a prospect and Sosh was a budding Manager-of-the-Year-to-be.
The move would certainly be a boost to the Angels' offense. Konerko, a three-time AL All-Star, is currently in the middle of an offensive resurgence after two hum-drum seasons in a row.
His 16 home runs currently leads the American League and his .969 OPS is a vast improvement over any Angel hitter.
The key to getting this deal done will be Chicago's asking price.
The Angels have absolutely zero leverage in any negotiations they enter into. Every team in the majors is aware of their situation and won't hesitate to ask for one or even two top-flight prospects in return.
But if Reagins can drive down the cost of a guy like Konerko, one of the few bright spots on a surprisingly troubled White Sox team, then the Angels could put themselves right back into the driver's seat in the AL West.
Lance Berkman, Houston Astros
Like Konerko, Berkman is a good player on a struggling team that may look to rebuild sooner rather than later.
Unlike Konerko, however, Berkman's numbers are way down in 2010.
The one-time “Killer B” is batting just .246―well below his career average of .298―and has only six home runs on the season.
But those numbers can be a bit deceiving, particularly where injuries are concerned.
Berkman battled through the first few weeks of the season before landing on the 15-day DL, and it wasn't until he was fully recovered and reactivated that he started to produce.
His batting average is already up at least 10 points in the last week or so and with a little more time, his numbers will continue their upward trend to reflect his typical bat-based brilliance.
For now, though, Berkman's yet-disappointing offense could work in the Angels' favor, driving down the Astros' asking price and forcing them to settle with one or two second-tier prospects, something the Angels have in spades.
Adam LaRoche, Arizona Diamondbacks
LaRoche continues the trend of solid offensive players on terrible teams willing to shop them.
Despite incredible team-wide power, the Diamondbacks haven't been able to compete with the better-balanced teams in their own division and are inching ever closer to officially donning the “sellers."
Arizona's needs are clear: pitching, and lots of it.
And they should have no problem letting a guy like LaRoche go if it means getting their hands on some arms.
LaRoche is sort of like the Orlando Cabrera of first base. He's just good enough to be appealing to contending teams at the trade deadline, but not so valuable that they can't turn right around and use him as bait themselves―exactly the kind of player the Angels are looking for.
His .273/26/92 career averages are nothing to sneeze at. A decent pitching prospect (starter or reliever) should net the Angels a guy who will provide Juan Rivera-like production at a similarly cheap price.
It doesn't have to be Trevor Reckling, but Sean O'Sullivan certainly shouldn't be out of the question.
Xavier Nady, Chicago Cubs
Back to Chicago we go, this time to the North side where most of the rumors have swirled around first baseman Derrek Lee.
But Lee says he's yet to be approached about any such rumors and would prefer to remain a Cub.
Which is just fine. His .232 average combined with a hefty $13.25 million paycheck this season is somewhat less than thrilling.
His teammate Nady, on the other hand, is much more interesting.
Nady has only started three games at first for the Cubs in 2010, but he's been a sturdy outfielder in his career with at least a decent glove that could translate to the infield rather quickly.
Of course, it's his bat the Angels are most interested in.
In less than half the number of at-bats that Lee has this season, Nady's batting average is over 30 points higher at .263 and he's got three home runs and 13 RBI to go along with it.
Regular playing time―say, with the Angels―could produce power numbers closer to his career averages of 20 homers and 76 RBI.
Even despite his limited appearances in 2010, he is still getting on base at a .337 clip, just above his career pace of .335.
Like their cross-town rivals, the Cubs haven't exactly taken off either this year and could quickly become sellers as they continue to struggle against their fate as the loveable losers of the league.
Jermaine Dye, Formerly of the Chicago White Sox
Having started with a current White Sox player, we come full circle to a former star of the South side.
Dye was a surprising no-sign this past offseason, seemingly waiting for a full-time outfielder's job that never came.
Now, two months into the season and still looking for major league work, he might be more than happy to don a halo and take up residence at an entirely new locale.
I'm talking about first base.
A four-year veteran of the AL West (he spent 2001-2004 with the Oakland A's), Anaheim is far more familiar territory to the career outfielder than first base.
In fact, in 14 seasons at the big league level, Dye has played all of one game at first.
Still, like Nady, his defensive prowess would take a back seat to the offense he could bring to the position.
Last season was a bit of a drop-off for Dye offensively, a likely factor in his unemployment today. The career .274 slugger batted just .250 in 2009, but still managed to pump out 27 big flies and drive in 81 RBI.
Reportedly, he has kept himself in good shape during his occupational hiatus and continues to work in a batting cage every day.
If that's anywhere close to true, it shouldn't take too many minor league rehab starts to get him back in major league shape.
It also shouldn't take more than a fraction of last year's $11.5 million in order to bring Dye out of his semi-retired state.
At least until Morales gets back on his feet.