When Will the Angels Put Their Best Team, and Mike Trout, on the Field?

Steven Goldman@GoStevenGoldmanMLB Lead BloggerApril 2, 2012

Jersey Mike Trout will need to play once healthy.
Jersey Mike Trout will need to play once healthy.Jeff Gross/Getty Images

Last week, the Angels optioned Mike Trout to Triple-A Salt Lake City. One of the two best prospects in baseball (along with Bryce Harper), Trout was slowed this spring by illness and some shoulder tendinitis and barely played, so it’s not surprising that he couldn’t crack a crowded Angels roster.

But how crowded should the Angels roster be? The Angels are allowing themselves to be handicapped by two oversized contracts, those of Bobby Abreu and Vernon Wells.

Abreu, a lame duck in more ways than one, is owed $9 million this year. Wells, meanwhile, is the great rock of baseball. He’s signed through 2014 at $21 million a year. In a trade that will go down as one of the worst in baseball history, the Angels voluntarily acquired the perpetually disappointing Wells in January, 2011, sending Juan Rivera and Mike Napoli—the same Napoli whose .320/.414/.631 season would prove to be instrumental in the Rangers’ AL pennant.

Wells, 33, has long been one of baseball’s most confusing players. As a 24-year-old with Toronto, he hit .317/.359/.550 and seemed set for a long run as one of the league’s elite players. Instead, it would be three years before he returned to those levels.

Since 2006 (.303/.357/.542), Wells has alternated strong seasons with abjectly miserable ones, collapsing to .218/.248/.412 last year:

2006

.303/.357/.542

2007

.245/.304/.402

2008

.300/.343/.496

2009

.260/.311/.400

2010

.273/.331/.515

2011

.218/.248/.412

 
The good Wells is a star. The evil Wells is barely worth playing.

Abreu has been relegated to the bench so that Kendrys Morales can play, but that still leaves an outfield crowded by Wells on one flank and a declining Torii Hunter on the other.

In the middle you have Peter Bourjos, who: (A) is a spectacular defender; (B) exceeded all offensive projections last year and could regress; and (C) is playing with a frayed labrum in his hip and could probably use the odd day off.

Trout is not ready now; skipping most of spring training made certain of that. That’s not going to be the case for long, however, and at that point the Angels will have to make a tough decision as to who to play and who to sit.

Which will speak louder, current ability or current salary—and the chance to beat the Rangers to the postseason?

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