Angels Face Some Tough Roster Decisions

With Matt Holliday signing with the Cardinals earlier this week, the last of the big-money free agents are now off the market, but there are still some holes to fill on this year's Angels.  Below is the projected Angel roster if the season were to open today:

C - Jeff Mathis / Mike Napoli
1B - Kendry Morales
2B - Howie Kendrick
SS - Erick Aybar
3B - Brandon Wood / Maicer Izturis
OF - Juan Rivera / Torii Hunter / Bobby Abreu / Hideki Matsui / Gary Matthews Jr. / Reggie Willits
P - Ervin Santana / Jered Weaver / Joe Saunders / Scott Kazmir / Matt Palmer / Fernando Rodney / Jason Bulger / Kevin Jepsen / Scot Shields / Brian Fuentes

This major league roster consists of 23 players, leaving two roster spots open.  To fill those 2 spots, the Angels are unlikely to sign any other free agents as they already have some tough decisions to make regarding players who are out of options.  Outfielder Terry Evans, catchers Bobby Wilson and Ryan Budde, and pitchers Rich Thompson and Dustin Moseley must remain on the Angels major league roster or else be exposed to waivers in order to be sent down.  With the exception of Moseley, who probably won't be ready for spring training due to injury and could open the season on the disabled list, none of the remaining five players would likely clear waivers.  (Note: yeah, okay...Moseley was non-tendered this off season and is no longer with the team)

If the Angels are able to unload Matthews' contract, Evans would most likely open the season as the Angels 5th outfielder as he can play all three outfield positions.  However the toughest question to answer is what to do with Bobby Wilson.  Wilson, who turns 27 just before opening day 2010 (a week younger than Jeff Mathis), has nothing left to prove in the minors and could ably replace Mathis if the Angels are able to swing a deal that includes the arbitration-eligible catcher. 

If the Angels decide to carry eleven pitchers, Rich Thompson would probably start the season in Anaheim...maybe.  Of the players who are out of options, Thompson would probably be the easiest to replace and to be let go.  Yet Thompson has one thing going for him the others don't; age.  Thompson will turn 25 during the 2010 season while the next youngest of the group is Wilson at 27.  The remaining player's ages are Moseley (28), Evans (28), and Budde (31).  All of these players are too old to be considered prospects and should be thought of as nothing more than injury replacement-type players making the organization's decision a bit easier if they decide to let them go.

What off season article would be complete without some sort of free agent talk?  If the Angels decide that none of the above, out-of-option players are worth keeping, who's still available to fill the utility role?  How about one these, completely off the radar guys (age in parenthesis):

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Fernando Tatis (35):
Tatis has spent the last 2 seasons with the Mets where he's batted .289/.352/.458 in 685 plate appearances, while playing every defensive position except CF and C.  Would be a cheap bat, with some power coming off the bench and could be a nice compliment at first base when Morales needs a day off.

4078_medium

Melvin Mora (38):
Primarily a third baseman the last 6 seasons, Mora had spent a significant amount of time in the outfield during his career.  Not a great hitter nor fielder, Mora is an option only because there have been rumors the Angels have talked to his agent.  Mora could come cheap, but anything would be too much.

5189_medium

Marcus Thames (33):
Thames is a DH/OF/1B who is known for his power (and little else), hitting a home run every 14.5 at bats over the last four seasons, and he does hit lefties somewhat (.256/.329/.516).  The Angels could use his power off the bench, but they don't need another DH.

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Adam Kennedy (34):
Kennedy had a good year last season in Oakland where he hit .289/.348/.410 in 529 at bats while splitting his time between third and second.  He even hit 11 home runs (second highest amount in his 11 year career).  Could be a cheap, useful player off the bench.

3545_medium

Nomar Garciaparra (36):
Although he's missed about 4500 games the last couple years (okay, but you get my point), he is useful at one of the corner infield spots when healthy.  Can still hit, but doesn't get on base nor hit with much power as he did in his days in Boston.

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