Granderson Stealing Spotlight from Angels’ Biggest Needs: Pitching, Catching


Baseball’s hot stove season is finally in full swing, and rumors are flying out of the ballparks of every contender in both leagues.

From the Big A, reports are swirling in left field, where the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim may make a significant upgrade with the potential acquisition of Curtis Granderson from the Detroit Tigers.

In return, the Tigers are looking for a package that could include Brandon Wood, Maicer Izturis, Chris Pettit, and Jose Arredondo.

As Jim Rome would say, this deal seems like “the biggest no-brainer in the history of mankind.”

Replaceable infielders, minor league prospects, and a shaky reliever for one of the most electrifying outfielders in the American League? Where does Tony Reagins sign?

Granderson adds speed to the outfield and power to the lineup, and the Angels finally put their log-jammed minor league system to good use.

However, there is a downside.

The deal would be a promising one, and would help fill the void left by Vladimir Guerrero at designated hitter/fourth outfielder. But DH is not the Angels’ most pressing issue, and giving up those prospects might hinder the team’s ability to address greater needs.

John Lackey, the Angels’ ace and No. 1 starter, is testing the free agent market for the first time in his career and will be asking for a sizable chunk of change.

He has expressed his interest in returning to Anaheim, but that sentiment is only as meaningful as the girth of the Angels’ offer to him.

If the Boston Red Sox, Milwaukee Brewers, or New York Mets outbid us, even by a little, we can kiss the big Texan goodbye.

The other area the Angels should improve upon is one that was ignored all season long, but has finally hit a tipping point: catching.

Mike Napoli and Jeff Mathis are each able catchers in their own ways, but both have faults that far outweigh their better qualities.

Napoli’s power is dazzling but far too inconsistent, his bat going from hot to cold quicker than a muscle relaxing patch. Add to that his inaccurate throwing arm and below-average defensive abilities, and Nap is just not suited for the starting roll.

Mathis has the glove to keep his job as a backup, but a career .200 batting average with little power, if any, will prevent him from ever starting for any team.

Both also strike out an alarming rate, stranding runners on base and killing rallies dead in their tracks.

The solution? Bengie Molina.

Call me crazy if you want, but rest assured, I’m crazy like a fox.

No, Molina is not the sexiest free agent on the market and his return to Anaheim would be a shock. But take a closer look at his numbers and consider the impact his signing would make.

Our boy Bengie batted .265 in 2009, with 20 home runs and 80 RBI. That’s a dying quail away from Napoli’s .272 average, and while the homers are a push, Nap drove in 26 fewer runs.

Not surprising, considering Molina’s numbers with men on base. He reached a career high with 11 sacrifice flies—eight more than Napoli—and had 35 fewer strikeouts despite his nearly 100 more plate appearances.

A former two-time Gold Glove winner with the Angels, Molina’s bulky frame would be a welcome sight behind the plate again, blocking balls and throwing out 10 percent more would-be base-stealers than Napoli for his career.

Short discussions and a two-year deal later, fans would welcome back the eldest flying Molina brother with (very) wide open arms.

With Mathis’ defensive skills securing his job as backup, the move would free the Angels up to trade Napoli, who generated some interest around the non-waiver trade deadline this year.

And where better to send him than Toronto?

The Blue Jays have all but publicly announced that they will not be bringing Rod Barajas back and have been rumored to be looking for a new starting backstop.

Can anyone think of any other trades the Jays might be involved in?

That’s right, this is all part of another ploy to bring Roy Halladay to the Big A. And we have what they need.

Napoli can take over the starting catching job for the Jays, Gary Matthews, Jr. can replace Alex Rios’ speed in the outfield, Brandon Wood can fill the shortstop role vacated by Marco Scutaro, and any two pitching prospects from the Angels can replenish Toronto’s minor league system.

If they are indeed looking for another starter to replace Halladay in the lineup, as some have suggested, then I’m willing to part with Ervin Santana as well.

True, his departure would create another gap in the rotation, but consider your starting four if the deal was made: Halladay, Jered Weaver, Scott Kazmir, and Joe Saunders.

With that stellar starting four, the Angels could easily plug one of their remaining prospects into the No. 5 spot, or sign a lower-priced free agent.

Ben Sheets, for example, is looking to make a big comeback, but his recent injury struggles have made him a less-desirable—and thus, cheaper—candidate.

If, after all of that, the Angels have enough left over to make a play for Granderson, then by all means go get him. He is a unique talent with incredible attributes that will make him valuable for years to come.

But he should not be the team’s top priority at this point.

The Angels are looking at a very precarious offseason, and right now their future could be tipped in either direction.

Wait too long and too many free agents might slip through their fingers. Act too quickly and opportunities yet to be revealed may be out of reach before they even appear.

It’s easy to get caught watching those rumors fly like moonshot home runs, and I may sound like a slackjawed fan in the bleachers. But the numbers are solid and the moves are sound.

The Angels need to understand their most pressing issues and address them while they still can.