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My first thought when I heard the Angels had traded Orlando Cabrera for Jon Garland was, “Maybe NOW people will figure out not to believe trade rumors.”
The media have been falling all over themselves reporting Cabrera trade rumors, but those were about Florida Marlins third baseman Miguel Cabrera. That trade has yet to happen, and perhaps never will.
As I’ve written many times, baseball general managers don’t spend their days telling beat writers about their trade discussions. Yet fan boards run rampant with hysteria every time some story is printed claiming a trade is imminent. This trade is just further proof that GMs don’t engage in pillow talk with reporters.
My second thought was, “Thank goodness they didn’t trade any prospects.”
As I wrote in my October 9 blog, Orlando Cabrera will be a free agent after 2008 so the Angels might move Brandon Wood back to shortstop as his eventual replacement. This trade opens that possibility one year earlier.
For all the hubbub about Wood moving to third base in 2007, in fact he played 34 games at shortstop for Salt Lake this year in addition to his 74 appearances at third. Just as Cal Ripken moved between SS and 3B during his career, Wood is capable of the same versatility. Mike Schmidt in his 1971 Triple-A season played 2B for 76 games, 3B for 52 games and SS for 5 games. Some fans question why a player isn’t locked into one position. The reason is that it increases the player’s versatility, giving him an opportunity to make the majors at more than one position. Remember that Howie Kendrick reached the majors in 2006 not as a second baseman, but as an emergency first baseman. Howie never played that position in the minors, but in 2006 he was at 1B for 44 games and his native 2B for 28 games.
Moving Cabrera opened the door as well for Maicer Izturis and Erick Aybar. Izturis filled in at third base and second base when Chone Figgins and Howie Kendrick were injured, but in his minor league days he played a lot of shortstop too. Aybar has been considered a top prospect for some time and also played a utility role this year, but as I’ve written over the years in the FutureAngels.com Top 10 Prospects reports his style of play is quite reckless, leading to mental errors and injuries.
Let’s not forget Dallas McPherson, who began his rehab in September from his latest back surgery. McPherson homered in his first rehab game at Tempe on September 22, but that’s a long way from the big leagues. He’ll need at-bats in 2008, which probably means he starts the year at Salt Lake, but a healthy McPherson at 3B and an emerging Wood at SS easily add 30 HR to the lineup, and in 2009 maybe 50 HR between them. If Dallas isn’t ready to go, Wood can play 3B with Izturis or Aybar at SS.
Where does Chone Figgins play? I covered that in the October 9 blog. Just as with Cabrera, I think Chone’s value will never be higher, so I’d look to move him in the right deal.
Of course, all the speculation is that the Garland trade is a pre-cursor to another deal, packaging some of the above with Nick Adenhart or Ervin Santana or some of the above names to Florida for Miguel Cabrera.
I hope not.
As I wrote on November 10, the Angels can add 50 HR internally in 2008 just by staying reasonably healthy. Flushing the farm for Miguel Cabrera may please the instant gratification crowd and give the press something new to write about, but the internal options are a lot cheaper and in the long run just as productive.
In the aforementioned October 9 blog, I wrote that I felt the Angels’ priority should be to add a veteran pitcher, maybe a guy like Curt Schilling. He went back to Boston, but Garland at 28 is entering his prime. He’s not an ace, but he’ll make a decent back-of-the-rotation starter. Add him to a rotation that includes Kelvim Escobar, John Lackey, Jered Weaver, and Joe Saunders, and that’s an impressive corps. Garland will be a free agent after 2008, but he’s a SoCal native so the Angels may hope to sign him to an extension.
In the October 9 blog, I also wrote that I thought the Angels needed to restructure their bullpen, starting with a trade of Francisco Rodriguez (who’s also a free agent after 2008). Acquiring Garland allows the Angels to move Ervin Santana to the bullpen. I still think Ervin’s destiny is to become a dominant starting pitcher, but for now maybe he needs to rebuild his confidence by working relief. In two regular-season relief appearances, Ervin worked four no-hit shutout innings, striking out seven and walking two. Hardly a reasonable sample, but it’s a reason for optimism. If effective, he’d add some badly needed bullpen depth.
My third thought was, “The Angels finally got their man.”
Rumor had it during the December 2001 winter meetings that Angels GM Bill Stoneman and White Sox GM Ken Williams had tentatively agreed on a trade that would send Erstad to Chicago for Garland, outfielder Chris Singleton, and two unnamed minor leaguers. According to the rumor, Disney ownership nixed the deal, possibly because Erstad was a marketable commodity. Stoneman never confirmed the deal, and the Angels’ version of the tale was that no trade is ever complete until ownership approves it, which is just as true today under Arte Moreno as it was six years ago under Disney.
In any case, Garland has remained on the Angels’ radar for years. A year from now, if he’d remained in Chicago, maybe he would have become a free agent and they would have pursued him on the open market. This trade gives them Garland one year earlier and the inside track on an extension.
And my final thought was, “Well, this will blow the Warner Madrigal flub off the map.”
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