Tony Reagins may have been Bill Stoneman’s protege, but Bill Stoneman he is not. Tony the Trader has been wheeling and dealing like there is no tomorrow the last week, but rumors are that he isn’t done yet. What other tricks might the Angel GM have up his sleeve before the trade deadline passes?
Now watch Reagins pull a first baseman out of his hat! Abracadabra, abracadoche, send us Adam LaRoche!
You’d think Tony Reagins would just sit back and enjoy all the accolades he is receiving after pulling off the heist of Dan Haren over the weekend but it seems he is so drunk on his own trade-making power that he is still burning up the phone lines trying to find more important pieces to add to the Angel roster even as their hopes of winning the AL West this year start to circle the drain. The question is who is Tony after?
Reagins struck from out of nowhere to yoink Haren, so there is no predicting what he might do next, but that doesn’t mean we can’t give it a try.
OK, so maybe it isn’t that hard to predict. The Angel offense has been decidedly pitiful of late, so it seems pretty clear that if Reagins is going to make another move it is going to address their anemic lineup.
And where this new bat would play is of little mystery. The most gaping hole on the field for Anaheim is at first base. Yes, Mike Napoli has been holding down the fort nicely over there, but it has come at the expense of Jeff “Worst Hitter in the Majors” Mathis being in the lineup on an almost everyday basis. The easiest way for LAA to upgrade their batting order it to have Mathis on the bench, Napoli behind the plate and somebody who doesn’t suck at first base. But who is that guy?
Thus far the MO for Tony Reagins has been to hedge his bets and trade only for players that are under contract beyond the 2010 season. Considering that the Angels are so far back in the AL West, that seems like the prudent strategy to continue pursuing, however, such players come at a premium cost and one has to wonder just how many more prospects the Angels can really afford to give up, especially pitching prospects. Loosely translated, that means you can pretty much abandon any hopes and dreams you might have of Reagins pulling off a blockbuster deal for Prince Fielder.
That doesn’t necessarily mean Reagins is going to chase a rental though either. The only scenario I foresee them acquiring a two-month rental is if they somehow magically close the gap on Texas over the rest of this week and then find a dirt cheap trade to make for an underachieving and expensive veteran like Derrek Lee or Lyle Overbay. That isn’t necessarily a scenario I would count on coming to fruition though given the 7.5 game gap in the standings.
That brings us back to looking for first basemen whose contracts run through 2011 or longer but for ones that aren’t megastars. Turns out that requires a whole lot of looking as such players aren’t all that readily available on the current trade market.
One guy who might be worth a look is MLB home run leader Jose Bautista. He still has a year of arbitration left before hitting free agency and has the kind of positional versatility the Angels love. I don’t really see him as a legit target though because he is vastly overachieving right now and the Angels are smart enough to know that (and to know that it is going to cause him to be wildly overpaid next season). Plus, for all his defensive versatility, he has barely played any first base in his career.
The Angels could really swing for the fences and make a play for five-time All-Star Lance Berkman. Or at least they would if it was 2006. The current version of Berkman is struggling mightily right now and may be slowing down too much to make the switch to the American League. That and he has a huge salary the rest of this season and his team option for 2011 is $15 million and that just isn’t the kind of cash the Halos can be spending if they intend to make a run at Carl Crawford in free agency.
So if saving money is the order of the day, perhaps the Angels could make good on the recent rumor of them being interested in Pittsburgh 1B/OF Garrett Jones. Jones is a late-bloomer with good power, but he may not quite be the big bopper the Angels are looking for. Plus, the cash strapped Pirates have little incentive to trade him as he won’t even be eligible for free agency until after 2015. If they did decide to trade him, it would have to be for a pretty nice package of prospects and I just don’t see Tony Reagins being convinced that he is worth such a price.
The Angels need to find some sort of middle ground between not spending too much money or prospects but also finding a guy they feel will be a reliable producer. The only person I see that is potentially available and matches that description is Josh Willingham.
I honestly can’t think of a player who would be more perfect for the Angels. Willingham has one arbitration year left, so he is no rental though he won’t be inexpensive to keep around either, but not so much that the Angels are breaking the bank for him (probably about $7 million salary next year). He is also an established slugger, unlike Jones, having clubbed 20+ homers the last four seasons and currently sitting on 15 dingers this season. The cherry on top with him is that he can play multiple positions (including catcher, so you know Mike Scioscia will love him). That way Willingham can play first this season and then move to the outfield next season when Kendry Morales returns.
The only real question is how much the Nationals would want for Willingham. I don’t think he is good enough to command an elite prospect, but he won’t be had for bargain either. Then again, I could be wrong. The Nats are so focused on finding the right deal for their other slugger, Adam Dunn, that maybe, just maybe, Tony Reagins could pull a fast one and snake Willingham away for a pittance by taking advantage of Washington’s distracted focus.
The mind reels with possibilities here, but at least we should find out what the real plan is in the next few days.