ANAHEIM, Calif. — The Angels rolled out the red carpet — literally — for Josh Hamilton’s arrival Saturday morning, but signing the former Texas Rangers outfielder to an outsized contract only creates more decisions for them.
There’s still another shoe to drop, and it might involve outfielder Peter Bourjos, who is now part of a crowded infield. Or it could conceivably involve Kendrys Morales or Mark Trumbo, either of whom could be used in a trade for a starting pitcher.
The Angels have a number of directions they could go, but they seem almost certain to seek a trade now that Hamilton has been added to an outfield that includes Mike Trout in center and, at least for now, Trumbo in right.
Bourjos, who had only 168 at-bats last season and essentially lost his job when Trout was called up from the minors, looks most likely to go, although general manager Jerry Dipoto divulged little after the Hamilton news conference ended.
“There’s a variety of things (we can do), not the least of which is the depth we have on the current roster and the ability to play these guys,” Dipoto said. “It also gives us the opportunity to go out and seek the possibility of a trade that might improve us in other areas.”
Hamilton’s introduction was worthy of a Hollywood movie premiere. He signed autographs for fans outside a Downtown Disney restaurant, posed for pictures and walked a red carpet with his wife Katie and their four daughters. He talked about hitting in a lineup that includes Trout, Trumbo and Albert Pujols and addressed his well-chronicled addiction problems, saying he will employ a support system similar to one he used with the Texas Rangers.
Then, recalling that he was originally drafted by the Tampa Bay Devil Rays in 1999, he said, “I started off with the Devil Rays, and now I’m an Angel, so it’s cool.”
Manager Mike Scioscia initially plans to use the left-handed-hitting Hamilton behind Pujols, who bats third. The top half of the lineup should be among the best in the American League: Trout, Erick Aybar, Pujols, Hamilton, Trumbo and Morales.
“There are a lot of exciting possibilities,” Scioscia said. “Obviously, you have some things to consider (with) Albert’s on-base percentage when he’s where he’s going to be, which is off the charts. And you want to set the table for Josh. There will be some combination we’ll look at, if we can take advantage of that.”
Scioscia said he would also consider using Hamilton at designated hitter in an effort to keep him healthy. Hamilton, who is 31, has averaged just 123 games a year because of injuries but has hit 25 or more homers in four of six seasons. Last season, he hit a career-high 43 home runs and drove in 128 in 148 games.
“He’s gotten a tremendous amount of at-bats to be productive,” Scioscia said. “When he’s missed some time it’s been some freak things that have happened, and he’s still putting up numbers that are off the charts. I talked to Josh about playing left field, which will probably take some pressure off him with Mike in center. Then we can try to relieve some of the physical demands of playing the field with the DH spot too.”
Trade rumors involving Bourjos revolved around a possible deal for R.A. Dickey, the New York Mets’ Cy Young Award winner, but those have cooled, and the Mets reportedly are close to a deal with the Toronto Blue Jays. Dickey is attractive because he’s due to make $5 million next season and is seeking an extension for two years and $28 million.
Trumbo is also a valuable commodity, but at this point, it’s likely the Angels will keep him. Any possibility of moving him to third base fizzled last season when he made four errors in eight games and the Angels gave up on the experiment.
The Angels also have the option of trading Morales, who doesn’t reach free agency for one more year, and making Trumbo their full-time DH and backup outfielder and first baseman.
The Angels could ease some of their outfield congestion by trading Vernon Wells, but they’ve been unable to find takers for the unproductive outfielder, who is still owed $42 million over the next two years. It’s possible he could even be released, but that would be an expensive pill for Angels owner Arte Moreno to swallow.
The Angels still have a workable starting rotation of Jered Weaver, C.J. Wilson, Joe Blanton, Tommy Hanson and either Garrett Richards or Jerome Williams, but with Dipoto putting an emphasis on pitching depth, it’s clear he would like to get stronger, if not in the rotation, then in the bullpen.
He has a surplus of outfielders to make it happen, but he doesn’t seem under pressure to do anything, at least not now.
“There’s a variety of things we’d like to improve,” he said. “Obviously, pitching depth one through 12 was very important to us at the start. It’s still important to us today.”