Commentary

Morales issue has no easy answer

Whether to add a big bat to replace the injured first baseman is the key question

Updated: June 2, 2010, 11:22 AM ET
By Mark Saxon | ESPNLosAngeles.com

The Los Angeles Angels are giving absolutely no indication they are a team worthy of adding expensive talent to their roster before the July 31 trade deadline. They've been fuddling around under .500 for most of the year. Their bullpen specializes in making bad situations worse and their rotation -- which was supposed to have a reliable five men -- can rely on just two.

Joel Pineiro had another blasť start in Kansas City on Tuesday during the Angels' 6-3 loss to the Royals, but what were you expecting from the No. 4 starter? Pineiro's National League numbers last year (15-12, 3.49 ERA) pretty much translate into his American League performance this season (3-6, 5.16 ERA). He gives you innings -- which is nice -- but they're far from dominant.

Joel Pineiro
AP Photo/Orlin WagnerJoel Pineiro had one bad inning against the Royals and it cost him and the Angels a shot at a victory.

If you owned this team, would you shell out $10 million or more for a first baseman to replace Kendry Morales, who fractured his left leg Saturday celebrating a home run? Let's say you do. Then your team continues to scuffle along and the guy walks in November. Wouldn't you feel kind of silly?

More important, you might have put a big enough dent in your team's budget that the 2011 team doesn't end up being as competitive. With a bumper crop of free agents looming next winter, adding a big-ticket spare part like Paul Konerko ($12 million) or Lance Berkman ($14.5 million) for a few months might be an example of firing a blank. There are big game targets starting in November, including Carl Crawford, Magglio Ordonez and Jayson Werth.

Overspending to fix the Morales problem seems like the wrong way to go. If only the AL West would drive the point home.

Instead, the Angels' division has been a steady diet of disappointment, keeping alive the illusion the Angels are in the thick of this race. The Oakland Athletics and Texas Rangers were fine -- pushing their way to the front of the pack -- as long as they played sub-par competition. When they've wandered into tougher neighborhoods, they've been revealed as marginal threats, at most.

Out West, it's looking as if the first team to reach 10 games over .500 will win. The Angels just might be that team, but first they might want to think about getting back to .500. Then they can get to work figuring out how much of owner Arte Moreno's money they're willing to spend.

In-house solution

Barring a trade or free-agent signing, Mike Napoli looks to be the best long-term solution at first. The Angels can't employ that option until Jeff Mathis returns from the disabled list, though. He has been recovering from a broken wrist since April 19.

Mathis took on-field batting practice at Kauffman Stadium on Tuesday, according to the Orange County Register, and could begin a Triple-A rehab assignment Friday. That would put him in line to return to the Angels as early as the middle of next week.

Meanwhile, the third first baseman in three days auditioned Tuesday. Robb Quinlan, playing his natural position, went 0-for-3 and remains hitless in 10 scattered at-bats this season. See why Napoli might be the best option, barring an outside acquisition?

Morales still hasn't undergone surgery. Doctors warned it might be as much as a week before the swelling subsides to make surgery possible.

Looking ahead

There's no getting around it: Scott Kazmir (3-5, 6.34 ERA) has been the Angels' biggest disappointment. The team had high hopes for him coming off his solid two months with them last season after they acquired him from the Tampa Bay Rays once the non-waiver trade deadline had passed. Instead, Kazmir pitched poorly in two playoff starts and he has had an up-and-down (mostly down) year in 2010.

Kazmir gave up eight hits and six runs in less than six innings Friday night against the Seattle Mariners. Kazmir is 2-2 with a 5.40 ERA in four starts against Kansas City.

The Royals' pitcher, Kyle Davies (4-3, 4.92) seems to getting a better feel for his command. He walked 17 batters in his first six outings and has walked just four in his last four. He has pitched only twice against the Angels, going 1-0 with a 1.64 ERA.

Mark Saxon, who reported from Los Angeles, covers the Angels for ESPNLosAngeles.com.

Mark Saxon

ESPNLosAngeles.com
Mark Saxon is a staff writer for ESPNLosAngeles.com. He spent six years at the Orange County Register, and began his career at the Oakland Tribune, where he started an 11-year journey covering Major League Baseball. He has also covered colleges, including USC football and UCLA basketball.

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