The Los Angeles Angels turned the baseball world on its ear when they signed the best available bat on the free agent market for the second consecutive year, inking outfielder Josh Hamilton to a five-year, $125 million deal on Friday afternoon.
The move came as a huge surprise, especially after Angels general manager Jerry Dipoto told MLB.com's Alden Gonzalez on Wednesday that he didn't feel that a move was "imminent", "pressing" or "required". (Note: Should the opportunity present itself, do NOT play poker with Dipoto.) Thursday morning, Fox Sports West's Joe McDonnell fired up the hot stove by reporting that the Angels were in "SERIOUS NEGOTATIONS" (all caps, his, not mine) with the 31-year-old outfielder. Two hours later, Fox Sports' Jon Morosi tweeted that the deal was essentially done. There was barely time to process the rumors before the Angels locked Hamilton up for the next five years.
Adding Hamilton gives the Angels what is arguably the most potent lineup in baseball, but it also leaves them with some questions. The most pressing of which, is what the Angels might do with their surplus of outfielders and whether they can use that surplus to plug a hole in a starting rotation that clearly could still use some help.
Ideally, they would like to rid themselves of former general manager Tony Reagins' gift that keeps on giving (or taking, rather), Vernon Wells and the $42 million he is owed over the next two seasons. Unfortunately, the only way to move such an albatross of a contract would be to eat some of it and pick up a slightly different sized albatross. Say, John Lackey's two years and $30.5 million remaining on his deal with the Boston Red Sox or Barry Zito and his $38 million ($18 million of which is a club option or $7 million buyout for 2014) owed to him by the San Francisco Giants. The Yankees have also emerged as a possible suitor, according to Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal. Before you vomit all over your keyboard or mobile device, remember that paying "superstar money" to a fourth or fifth outfielder to not play, is probably a tougher pill to swallow than taking a risk on an arm that could slot as a No. 5 starter. And yes, Wells has a full no-trade clause, but something tells me he'd waive it to have a chance to play elsewhere.
The Angels are apparently not willing to move outfielder/first baseman/designated hitter Mark Trumbo, despite there being interest from several teams in the power hitter's services. With Trumbo under club control until 2016 and able to play either corner outfield spot, spell Albert Pujols at first base or handle the team's designated hitter duties at a very affordable price tag, it would make little sense to deal the 26-year old slugger. His presence in the Angels lineup gives them a middle of the order with three players fully capable of hitting 30 home runs and driving in 100 runs through 2016.
Switch-hitting designated hitter/first baseman Kendrys Morales' name has also surfaced as a potential trade chip. The 29-year-old bounced back from nearly two years of inactivity to be a solid piece of the Angels' offense, hitting .273 with 22 home runs and 73 RBI in 134 games last season. The Tampa Bay Rays, Houston Astros and Cleveland Indians are among several AL teams rumored to be interested in Morales as a designated hitter. With the Rays down two starting pitchers after dealing James Shields and Wade Davis to the Royals for a package of prospects, it would seem unlikely that moving Morales would land the Angels an arm from Tampa that could help the rotation immediately. The Astros are in dire need of a designated hitter, and while Morales would be a far better option than Lance Berkman (who was rumored to be a target), Houston doesn't have an appealing big-league starter that could step into the back end of the Angels' rotation. Cleveland could certainly use Morales, but aside from Justin Masterson and Zach McAllister (both of whom are unlikely to be moved) there isn't much appeal to the Indians' big-league-ready arms.
The player most likely to be moved would appear to Peter Bourjos, a stellar defensive outfielder who has become expendable since Mike Trout arrived in Anaheim. Bourjos' name was mentioned as a potential fit in a swap (possibly along with catcher Hank Conger and a prospect) to New York for last year's NL Cy Young winner R.A. Dickey, but with a deal reportedly near completion with the Toronto Blue Jays, that option appears to be off the table. Moving Bourjos for Miami Marlins right-hander Ricky Nolasco could be a possibility, although Nolasco's $11.5 million price tag for 2013 and essentially replacement-level stats would make that move a bit questionable. The Chicago White Sox also are reported to have some interest in the speedy outfielder, which could potentially land the right-hander Gavin Floyd, who is owed $9.5 million in 2013 and might be a more affordable back of the rotation option for the Halos.
While it hasn't been rumored, I wonder if the Arizona Diamondbacks might be interested in Bourjos. The Arizona-resident could be a more appealing option to man the vast center field confines of Chase Field than Adam Eaton, and with the Diamondbacks faced with a surplus of starting pitchers after signing Brandon McCarthy, one would have to think they might entertain the option of moving one of their back end arms (Trevor Cahill, Daniel Hudson, Patrick Corbin or Tyler Skaggs).
While rumors abound, a move seems imminent if not absolutely necessary. But, of course, Dipoto and company could stick with the script and do something totally unexpected.
In the meantime, all we can do is sit and wait.