Now that the Josh Hamilton signing is official, the Angels’ next move — or moves — might not be what many in the industry expect.
The team prefers to keep outfielders Peter Bourjos and Mark Trumbo and trade designated hitter Kendrys Morales and outfielder Vernon Wells, according to major-league sources.
Though the Angels possibly could acquire a starting pitcher for Bourjos or Trumbo, they also might get a pitching piece back for Morales — and enhance their run prevention by fielding a stellar defensive outfield of Bourjos, Hamilton and Mike Trout, with Trumbo serving as the primary DH.
The Yankees, sources say, are among the possibilities for Wells — the teams discussed him at the winter meetings, and Wells could fill the Yankees’ need for a right-handed hitting outfielder.
To trade Wells, the Angels know that they must assume the vast majority of the $42 remaining on the final two years of his contract. Wells, 34, also has a full no-trade clause, but likely would waive it for the opportunity for more playing time elsewhere.
The Yankees also are looking at free agent Scott Hairston for their remaining opening in the outfield, but Hairston is seeking a two-year contract, sources say. Ichiro was the only free agent to sign a deal of that length with the Yankees this offseason — and only after the Phillies increased his leverage by making him a two-year offer.
The Philadelphia Phillies and Tampa Bay Rays, according to sources, are among the other possible fits for Wells, who batted .230 last season with a .682 OPS in 262 plate appearances. The Phillies, however, have intensified their pursuit of free agent Cody Ross, who also remains a target of other clubs, sources say.
Morales, entering his free-agent year, could make sense for Tampa Bay, Cleveland and other clubs as a DH. After missing most of 2010 and all of 2011 with an ankle injury, he batted .273 last season with a .787 OPS in 522 plate appearances.
If the Angels keep Bourjos, their outfield could consist of three center fielders. Trout or Bourjos would likely play center, with the other in left and Hamilton in right. Trumbo also would be in the outfield at times; both he and Hamilton boast superior arms.