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Acquisition of Albert Pujols loads Angels' lineup at first base

Pujols, who agreed Thursday in principle to a 10-year, $254-million deal, adds depth to a position that includes fellow sluggers Mark Trumbo and Kendrys Morales.

December 08, 2011|By Mike DiGiovanna
  • Kendrys Morales emerged as a switch-hitting slugger at first base in 2009 and 2010 for the Angels before a broken left ankle derailed him for 1 1/2 seasons.
Kendrys Morales emerged as a switch-hitting slugger at first base in 2009… (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles…)

Albert Pujols, who on Thursday agreed in principle to a 10-year, $254-million deal with the Angels, is the only player in Major League Baseball history to hit at least .300 with 30 doubles, 30 home runs and 100 runs batted in for 10 consecutive seasons.

Mark Trumbo had 29 homers and 87 RBIs for the Angels as a rookie last season. And Kendrys Morales, before he was injured, hit .306 with 34 homers and 108 RBIs in 2009.

All three play first base, meaning Angels Manager Mike Scioscia may have some challenges when filling out his lineup card next season.

Not a bad problem to have.

"I see something great," outfielder Torii Hunter said of the Angels' lineup. "We have a lot of options, guys who can put up numbers and play.

"This is the piece we've been looking for. It's like a dream come true. I always wondered what it would be like to play with Barry Bonds. Albert is the Barry Bonds of our era."

Scioscia said he has already talked to Trumbo about moving to third base, a position the Angels think he can play on a part-time basis, and both Trumbo and Pujols will get their share of starts at designated hitter. Trumbo can also play right field.

Morales is a wild card. The Angels don't know whether he'll be sound after missing the last 1 1/2 seasons because of a broken left ankle, but they are expected to tender him a contract by Monday's deadline.

If he comes close to regaining his 2009 form, Morales would probably get the bulk of his starts at DH, and the Angels, who finished 10th in the American League with 667 runs last season, would pack an even more formidable punch.

The odd man out would probably be Bobby Abreu, a veteran outfielder and designated hitter with a $9-million contract the Angels will probably have to absorb to trade.

"A lot of things remain to be seen, and a lot hinges on Kendrys' health, but we have a lot of depth now moving forward," Scioscia said.

The same can be said of a starting rotation, which added left-hander C.J. Wilson in a five-year, $77.5-million deal.

Wilson joins right-handers Jered Weaver, Dan Haren and Ervin Santana in a group that could rival Philadelphia's (Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels, Vance Worley) and San Francisco's (Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, Madison Bumgardner, Ryan Vogelsong) as baseball's best.

"I've never been this excited for a season to start," Haren said in an email. "Albert is obviously one of the greatest players in baseball history. He's going to make everyone in our lineup better. He's been a world champion, too, so he knows what it takes.

"C.J. is going to make the strength of our team even stronger. The guy has proven himself as a horse, and if he threw that well pitching half of his games in [hitter-friendly] Texas, I'm excited to see what he will do here in Anaheim."

That the Angels signed Wilson was not a surprise. They've been courting him since mid-November and were considered the favorite to land him entering the winter meetings.

The Pujols deal was such a shocker that it caught Wilson, who agreed to terms with the Angels about two hours before Pujols on Thursday morning, by surprise.

"It's crazy, obviously, with Albert going over there," Wilson said. "It's a big swing of the balance of power in the AL West. I thought I was going to make a little bit of difference, and he's obviously going to make a huge one. I mean, nobody saw that coming."

With a potent offense and dominant starting pitching, the Angels like their chances of ending their two-year playoff drought and challenging for their first World Series title since 2002.

"Texas still has the crown," Hunter said of the Rangers, who have won two straight division titles and reached the last two World Series, "but we have a good chance of taking it away."

Hunter, 36, who has contemplated retiring after his five-year contract expires after next season, was so thrilled by Thursday's moves that he offered to sign a cut-rate deal to remain in Anaheim.

"I want to end my career here, whether it's two or three more years, and it won't be about money," he said. "I like Arte [Moreno, Angels owner], you want to play for him, and I'll take less to stay. I'll be a utility guy or play third base as long as we win."

mike.digiovanna@latimes.com

twitter.com/MikeDiGiovanna

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