My dad once taught me that when it comes to spending money, you need to draw the line between what you need and what you want. When it comes to the Angels, they came into the off-season with a lot of supposed needs and have thus far failed to satisfy them. But the more I think about it, I can’t help but wonder if some of those “needs” were really just “wants.” As much as we would all like the Angels to resolve their wants and needs, I think this team might actually be pretty good if they can address their needs and their needs alone. Now we just need to figure out what those needs are…
Take for example the Angels’ supposed need for a closer. Yes, Fernando Rodney is a walking greasefire, but the Halos also have potential up and coming closers like Jordan Walden and Kevin Jepsen. Heck, they might even be able to employ Scott Downs at closer in the right situations. And then there is my personal favorite option of going with a closer by committee. While the bullpen was a real problem for the Angels last season, even the biggest skeptic has to admit that this year’s pen is already looking much better and features a number of intriguing arms. In my book, that means the Angels should be able to find a closer within their current roster. It would be nice if they could go out and get a lockdown closer like Heath Bell or Rafael Soriano, but do they need them? No, I don’t think so.
Another one of the Angels’ supposed needs is at third base. Now, you might call me a heretic for even suggesting this, but I don’t think this is a need for the team. Don’t get me wrong, I can see why everyone wants to upgrade at the hot corner, but if they don’t, the Angels aren’t up a creek without a paddle. They’ve got Maicer Izturis who, when healthy, is a solid offensive performer and a strong fielder. They’ve also got Alberto Callaspo. Sure, Callaspo fell on his face when he got traded to the Angels, but he is better than his half season in Anaheim suggested. His two previous seasons suggest he is a pretty comparable offensive player to Izturis at the plate, and his defensive numbers at third show a great deal of promise as well. That tandem isn’t going to set the world on fire, but at a minimum it seems like they can field the position well while performing at league average levels offensively.
I’ve even been making a case this off-season that one of the secret needs that nobody is talking about for the Halos is another middle of the order bat. The best lineup the Angels can run out there right now is with Abreu hitting second, Hunter third and Morales fourth. The problem though is that their is a gaping hole after Morales. Seriously, who is going to bat fifth on this roster? Mike Napoli certainly has the power for the gig but isn’t exactly a dynamite situational hitter, which is probably why Mike Scioscia has always been so reluctant to hit him above the bottom third of the order. Another option would be Juan Rivera, who as of right now figures to be in the lineup most days. Rivera is coming off a down season but he still has pop in his bat that could fill the five-spot well… when he isn’t busy grounding into untimely doubleplays. Of course, this is Mike Scioscia we are talking about and he is far too fond of his middle infielders to bury every single on of them in the bottom of the order. Tell me you can’t see Maicer Izturis hitting fifth in a Scioscia lineup. That definitely isn’t going to impress anyone, but Maicer is a good situational hitter, especially with runners in scoring position. The pickings here are definitely slim, but so slim that it has to be considered a need? Almost, not quite, but almost.
Don’t go taking me for some myopic who thinks this team is perfect, far from it. If there is one thing this roster most definitely needs it is a leadoff man. The beginning of all of the Angels’ offensive problems last season started at the top. I mean, let’s be straight, who cares who is batting fifth in the order if there is nobody setting the table at the top of the lineup. With the Angels getting a pathetic .325 OBP and .309 OBP out of the one and two-hole, respectively, it is no wonder that they couldn’t generate any consistent offense. And not even Mike Scioscia is going to be able to convince himself that there is a leadoff option on the roster since only four players on the roster turned in an OBP over .325 last season: Abreu, Hunter, Willits and Morales. Abreu likely isn’t an option at the top of the order as Sosh has demonstrated he clearly prefers him to his second or third in the lineup, an idea I can’t say I disagree with. As for Hunter and Morales, they aren’t even options. That leaves Reggie Willits. Nothing against Reggie, he certainly has his uses, but as an everyday player, he would be overexposed. We saw that in his rookie season when pitchers realized in the second half of the season that they could simply use a good fastball to knock the bat out his hands. Sorry, but that is no option at all.
Alas, that is the problem with needs; you can’t always satisfy them. If you thought that the Angels didn’t have any options internally, they have even fewer external options, especially now that they have pulled out of the running for Johnny Damon. No doubt that Tony Reagins is turning over every stone to find a better option at the leadoff spot and he best keep at it because until he addresses that need, he can’t even begin to try and address the team’s wants too.