Logjam at first could test Dipoto's creativity
Angels confident in Trumbo's versatility; Morales' future unclear
DALLAS -- General excitement and sheer exuberance was the overall sensation for Angels fans, players and personnel when word came on Thursday morning that they had signed Albert Pujols, adding him alongside left-hander C.J. Wilson to take the 2012 club to a whole new level.
But it was bittersweet, in a way, because it also led to this question: What does it mean for Mark Trumbo?
It would've mattered little one year ago, but Trumbo stepped in as the everyday first baseman -- while Kendrys Morales missed all of 2011 -- and finished with 29 home runs and 87 RBIs to place second in voting for the American League Rookie of the Year Award.
Now, the Angels have three capable first basemen on their depth chart, with only one of them -- the new $254 million man -- expected to see significant time there. Angels general manager Jerry Dipoto admitted recently that the addition of any position player -- not to mention a player at arguably the club's greatest area of depth -- would likely create a follow-up trade.
Angels sign Pujols, Wilson
But, of course, you get the big stuff out of the way first. And nothing is bigger than landing Pujols.
"This is, again, just based on the opportunity," Dipoto said while announcing the agreement from the site of the Winter Meetings on Thursday. "You have the opportunity from an offensive perspective to plug one of the great hitters of all time into the middle of your lineup. And we feel like you can never have too much depth. As it pertains to Mark Trumbo and Kendrys Morales, we still have the benefit of playing in the American League, where we have first base at-bats, we have DH at-bats, corner-outfielder at-bats."
The Angels could have a fluid rotation on their veteran-laden lineup next year, with Trumbo likely getting most of his at-bats as the designated hitter while also seeing some time at first base and, perhaps, right field and third base.
Can he play third base full-time?
It'd certainly be ideal if Trumbo could, because that would leave his potent bat in the lineup and perhaps free up a trade of either Alberto Callaspo or Maicer Izturis, two players who should garner a fair amount of interest given their versatility and price.
But Trumbo, the 25-year-old Anaheim native, has never played the position at the professional level and is recovering from a stress fracture in his right foot that brings his range of motion into question.
Angels manager Mike Scioscia at least left the possibility of Trumbo playing the hot corner open during his media session on Tuesday, two days before Pujols came on board. And on Thursday, Dipoto sounded like a man who felt Trumbo was certainly capable.
"Mark Trumbo is particularly athletic for his size," Dipoto said of the 6-foot-4, 220-pounder. "The power leads you to believe [he's ideal for] first base, but he's got a little bit of history at third base and in the outfield. We know those DH at-bats are there. We are still unaware of exactly the timetable for Kendrys Morales, but if we have all three healthy and clicking on all cylinders, we're going to be in a really good position."
Right now, the Angels are in a position of excess, with regard to first-base power bats and -- after committing $331.5 million combined to Pujols and Wilson -- the 2012 payroll.
Left fielder Vernon Wells (owed $63 million over the next three seasons) and right fielder Torii Hunter (no-trade protection) are basically immovable.
Morales wouldn't bring back much value in a deal until he proves he can run at full speed in Spring Training after missing almost two entire seasons with a broken left leg.
Trumbo? He'd definitely have plenty of suitors -- the Rays, Pirates, Indians, Athletics, Brewers and Padres, among others, would certainly be interested -- but his offense brings a lot of value to the 2012 Angels, and shedding his contract wouldn't free up much money on the payroll.
That could leave Bobby Abreu as the odd man out. The problem: He's 38 in March and is coming off the worst season of his career, meaning the Angels would likely have to eat at least some of the $9 million owed to him next season in a trade.
So, the only thing that seems certain at this point is that a lot of possibilities are still on the table with regard to the Angels' 2012 lineup.
And, as Dipoto showed on Thursday, he's certainly capable of surprise.
Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his columns and his blog, listen to his podcast and follow him on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.