The Angels are back in the Halladay chase

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Last year the Angels balked when the Jays demanded either Jered Weaver or Joe Saunders, Erick Aybar and prospect Peter Bourjos for Roy Halladay.  I would have balked too, that’s way too steep.  Now, however, it appears that the Jays are being more reasonable, and that may get the Angels back in the game:

A trade for Halladay this winter is expected to cost the Angels a young starter — Weaver, Saunders or Ervin Santana — but new Blue Jays General Manager Alex Anthopolous appears willing to make a deal that does not include Aybar, who hit .312 with five home runs and 58 runs batted in and played Gold Glove-caliber defense this season.

Unlike Ricciardi, Anthopolous reportedly is willing to allow teams a window to sign Halladay to a contract extension, which makes the pitcher, who will be paid $15.75 million in 2010, an even more attractive trade target.

My friend Sam Miller at the OC Register explains why any deal that includes Erick Aybar would be a bad one for the Angels. the upshot: Aybar is young, cheap and valuable. Halladay is older, expensive and valuable.  Making that deal plus adding in a top prospect and a good starting pitcher and the Angels are making a big mistake.

But a deal short of Aybar?  Interesting.  Interesting indeed.

Starting pitcher Shohei Ohtani will pinch-hit and pinch-run for the Angels in 2018

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The Angels’ bench is looking woefully thin this winter — so thin, in fact, that manager Mike Scioscia says he’s considering utilizing starting pitcher Shohei Ohtani as a pinch-hitter and pinch-runner on the days he’s not scheduled to pitch.

I’ve never had a pitcher pinch-run,” Scioscia told reporters Saturday. “There’s more bad than good that can come out of it. But Shohei is not just a pitcher. He’s a guy that has the ability to do some of the things coming off the bench, whether it’s pinch-hit or pinch-run, and we’re definitely going to tap into that if it’s necessary, because we feel we’re not putting him at risk. It’s something he’s able to do.

Granted, spring training allows for a certain amount of experimentation before managers and players decide what works best for them, so this may not be the strategy the Angels employ for the entire season. In addition to coming off the bench between starts, Ohtani is also expected to see 2-3 days at DH every week, forcing Albert Pujols to shift over to first base to accommodate the new two-way star.

Ohtani’s hitting prowess has already been well-documented — he has a lifetime .286/.358/.500 batting line from NPB and crushed a batting practice home run during his initial workouts with the team this week — but his skills on the basepaths have received less attention so far. MLB Pipeline describes the 23-year-old phenom as a “well-above average runner” whose speed has yet to manifest stolen bases: he’s nabbed just 13 bases in 17 chances over the last five years. That’s a number Scioscia hopes to see increased this season, though he doesn’t want his ace pitcher making any head-first slides on the basepaths to do so.

To be sure, it’s an unorthodox role for any young player to step into, but if anyone can pull it off, Ohtani can.