Angels might not get what they need

BY Ken Rosenthal • July 21, 2010

For the record, the Angels are not about to concede.

“Absolutely not,” general manager Tony Reagins said before Tuesday night’s 10-2 victory over the Yankees. “We fight. We compete.”

No less is expected from a team that has won five of the past six AL West titles. But the Angels, trailing the Rangers by five games, are unlikely to acquire the player they need most — a big-time, left-handed slugger.

Royals infielder Alberto Callaspo, a switch-hitter, is on the Angels’ "short list” of targets, major-league sources say. The addition of Callaspo, a possibility first reported by ESPNLosAngeles.com, would bring the Angels a hitter with — ahem — a .309 on-base percentage and .721 OPS.

“That would put them over the top,” a rival executive cracked.

Probably not, but Callaspo — or someone like him — might be the best the Angels can do.

The Nationals will not move first baseman Adam Dunn “unless somebody knocks them over,” according to a major-league source.

The Brewers want starting pitching for first baseman Prince Fielder, and the Angels recently demoted their top pitching prospect, left-hander Trevor Reckling, from Triple-A to Double-A.

The Marlins’ Jorge Cantu, a right-handed bat, and Diamondbacks’ Adam LaRoche, a left-handed hitter, are among the players the Angels have discussed, sources say.

But Callaspo, according to a rival executive, would satisfy manager Mike Scioscia’s liking for versatile, switch-hitting infielders — see Erick Aybar and Maicer Izturis.

Though some question Callaspo’s makeup, the Angels know him well. They signed him out of Venezuela before trading him to the Diamondbacks for reliever Jason Bulger in February 2006.

Another thing: Callaspo, unlike Dunn, Cantu and LaRoche, would not be changing leagues, a significant consideration for the Angels, one source said.

“There are opportunities to improve; we’re going to look to do that,” Reagins said, without referring to any specific player. “They may not necessarily be the premier guys you hear about, that are written about.”

In truth, an acquisition such as Callaspo might not make much of a difference alone. But in combination with the oft-injured Izturis, who went 2-for-4 with a homer and three RBIs in his return from the disabled list on Tuesday night, it would help.

The Angels, without injured first baseman Kendry Morales, entered Tuesday’s play ninth in the AL in runs per game. Their production was below average at first base and among the worst in the league at third and DH.

Izturis, who played third Tuesday night after missing more than a month with a strained left forearm, is also adept at second and short. Callaspo plays third and second and even the outfield in a pinch (the Orioles’ Ty Wigginton is similarly versatile). Scioscia could mix and match, and the Angels’ bench would be stronger.

The bench, at the moment, is full of inexperienced players, leaving Scioscia essentially unable to pinch hit for catcher Jeff Mathis and third basemen Kevin Frandsen and Brandon Wood.

In a perfect world, the Angels would acquire Dunn or Fielder, just like they acquired Mark Teixeira for virtually nothing two years ago. Dunn, like Teixeira then, is a potential free agent, while Fielder is under club control through next season.

Alas, circumstances have changed.

The Angels, lacking a surplus of elite prospects, do not match up well with the Nationals or Brewers. In addition, Fielder’s extra year of control would be problematic 1 the Angels would take a potential $14 million hit in arbitration without even knowing if he could succeed as a designated hitter. Better they should sign free-agent left fielder Carl Crawford and move right fielder Bobby Abreu to DH.

In the end, this simply might not be the Angels’ year. Their fifth starter is in question now that lefty Scott Kazmir is on the DL, though righty Sean O’Sullivan held the Yankees to two runs in six innings Tuesday night. Their bullpen, while currently performing well, was a trouble spot earlier this season.

“Our pitching — our starting pitching especially — has been good,” Reagins said. “The bullpen is starting to shape up. (Closer Brian) Fuentes is throwing the ball well. We need to enhance our offensive game right now.”

They will do something. It just might not be enough.



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