Rejoice, Angel fans, for Bobby Abreu, MVP of the 2009 Angels, has re-signed. OK, that’s enough rejoicing. It’s time to get down to business. Abreu is just the first domino to fall in the Angel off-season but it remains to be seen how the rest shall fall. What of Lackey and Vlad and Figgins? What happens next really depends on which way you choose to read the tea leaves.
I can only read chamomile, sorry.
Those who want John Lackey back might see this as a good sign of the Angels’ priorities. Clearly the Angels are focusing on bringing back the core players of their team and as the team ace, John Lackey certainly falls into that category. Abreu signed for a reasonable $9 million salary, leaving the Angels just enough budget room to bring back Big John if they choose to let Figgy walk away. That is a nice theory and all, but I don’t think it holds water. The Angels are not ones to be strung along by free agents and with Lackey fully intent on testing the free agent waters, inviting a lengthy bidding process, the Halos are far more likely to move on. That is why they moved so swiftly on Abreu. Tony Reagins isn’t focusing on the core so much as he is focusing on the low-hanging fruit so that he has a clearer picture of the roster before free agency opens up in two weeks. Since Lackey didn’t play ball when they tried to sign him back in spring training, the Angels have probably already moved on.
So that must mean the Angels will move on to re-signing Vladimir Guerrero next, right? He has expressed interest in staying in Anaheim and would likely be amenable to signing a quick deal since there is not much of an anticipated market for him since he can’t play the field on a regular basis anymore. Surely the Angels will ink him to a one-year “make good” deal like Abreu got last year. Or not. The Halos have now committed to Bobby for two more years and quite possibly three (assuming he meets the plate appearance threshold to guarantee the third year of his new contract) and it is in their best interest to protect that investment. That means getting Abreu out of the field and into the DH role previously occupied by Not So Super Vlad. Abreu is 35 years old and battled nagging back and toe injuries last year. As he gets older it will only be harder for him to produce as his body breaks down. It isn’t like he is much of a defender anyway. In fact, with the premium that Mike Scioscia places on defense, it seems highly unlikely the Halos would commit to another season of Abreu bumbling around in right field on an everyday basis. That is bad news for Guerrero if he was hoping to put the Halo Red on again next year.
The process of elimination then must force us to conclude the Chone Figgins is next on Tony Reagins’ shopping list. Who else are they going to spend their money on? Figgy is very much like Abreu in that he is a more patient hitter and can pressure opposing defenses with his ability to put the ball in play as well. Together Chone and Abreu combined to turn the Angel offense into one of the best in the league. But aren’t Figgins and Abreu a little too similar? Do the Angels really need both of them a the top of their line-up? In a word, “yes.” I bet you thought I was going to say “no,” right? That is what most people seem to think the answer should be, but that assumption is off base.
Don’t be sad, Chone. you might get to stay after all.
The Angels would be morons to not see that players like Figgins and Abreu is where their future is. Scioscia-ball is predicated on pressuring the opposition. Heretofore he has relied on speedy, high-contact hitters to apply that pressure, but that combination hasn’t been working all that well because while it pressures defenses, it actually makes life easier on pitchers. Now, add some plate discipline to the mix and suddenly opposing pitchers start to feel the pressure as well. A Figgy-Abreu top of the order forces pitchers to throw strikes and expend pitches, weakening them for the power bats that follow them in the order. That is why they moved so swiftly to re-sign Abreu, because he is the master of this new offensive attack and with Figgins as his star pupil, the Angels have an offensive nucleus that they can’t let fall apart.
Maybe I’m wrong, but I really suspect I am right. I know everyone is clamoring to have Brandon Wood take over at third, but there will still be ways to use him (DH or in a trade). I just see Mike Scioscia being too attached to Chone Figgins rather than asking for Reagins to spend the money on a power hitter. Remember, we are talking about a manager who has a penchant for batting Maicer Izturis third in the order.
Only the future can tell what will really come to pass, but I like my chances of being right.