At the beginning of the season this question would have seemed absolutely ludicrous, but do the Angels need to look into trading for another outfielder?
Even though the Angels have paid roughly a kajillion dollars to free agent outfielders over the last several years, injuries have suddenly left the Angels perilously close to having a starting outfield of Robb Quinlan, Gary Matthews and Reggie Willits. The very specter of that line-up frightens me to my very core and the Angels would do well for themselves to provide themselves with a little insurance against that ever occurring on a regular basis. The few times Mike Scioscia has run that trio out there nearly caused me to involuntarily begin projectile vomiting.
Though it would seem like a real doomsday scenario for the Angels to end up with the Quinlan-Matthews-Willits outfield on a regular basis, I have learned in this season to put nothing past the baseball gods considering all the tragedy and injury woes the Halos have dealt with thus far. Already the Angels have admitted that Vladimir Guerrero will be prohibited from playing in the field once he returns from the disabled list, so all it takes is a few more injuries before the Halos are up a creek with a Reggie Willits-shaped paddle. Would it really be so far-fetched to believe that the groin injury that has bothered Torii Hunter all season long could get re-aggravated and cost him to miss a lot more time? Would anyone be surprised if Juan Rivera’s nagging leg issues plagued him all season? After all, this is a guy who has never had more than 448 at-bats in a season and a long list of leg problems. What if the neck, back and toe injuries that have intermittently cost Bobby Abreu to miss a few games suddenly crop up again? All of the sudden doomsday seems like it is right around the corner.
Even losing two of their three starters would be borderline catastrophic to the Angels outfield production. And don’t believe any propaganda the Angel PR staff might spin otherwise. Gary Matthews continues to be the bane of Angel fan existence, registering a .572 OPS since taking over for the injured Hunter in centerfield. Reggie Willits is the very definition of a fifth outfielder with his only real assets being that he can work a count and is a solid fielder. He’s not a bad guy to have, just not someone you want playing every day. Then there is Robb Quinlan who is only an outfielder by virtue of him Mike Scioscia saying that he is. There isn’t a single Angel fan who doesn’t get nervous every time a ball gets hit to him the outfield given his inexperience at the position and his lack of range. Nor should we forget that Quinlan is a guy who is generally limited to playing just against southpaws, even though he has little recent success hitting them. I shudder to think what would happen if he had to face righties on a daily basis. To make a long story short, this is not the outfield that championships are made of.
With so little time left before the trade deadline, the Angels aren’t going to have time to wait and see what the prognosis of their injured outfielder is going to be and must start making other arrangements immediately. There is no need to chase a big fish like Matt Holliday, but a relatively cheap option like Josh Willingham makes a lot of sense considering he is accustomed to playing a reserve role and has the versatility to act as a platoon-mate for Kendry Morales at first and as a third catcher whenever Mike Napoli is called upon to DH. There are countless other fringe-starter outfielder types (Austin Kearns, Jerry Hairston, Jeremy Hermida, Ryan Spilborghs, etc.) out there that non-contenders would undoubtedly love to unload for a modest return if only just to save a little bit of cash the rest of the year, so the Angels shouldn’t have trouble finding someone to fit the bill, they just need to actually take the initiative to start looking in the first place.
Clearly the Angels are concerned about their outfield depth as was evidenced by their decision to call up Terry Evans as an insurance policy on the bench. And no all you Angel prospect cultists, Evans is not an option in the starting line-up given his propensity for striking out constantly while seldom ever drawing a walk. The Angels need a real insurance policy with actual major league success on his resume, not another quadruple-A outfielder. The bullpen is still the larger concern for the Halos, but their emerging depth issue can’t be forgotten about either.