Speculation will continue to swirl about the Angels being in the market for a veteran first baseman thanks to Kendry Morales’ broken ankle, but for now Mike Scioscia is giving career-long catcher Mike Napoli a shot to grab hold of the position:
Mike’s going to get a lot of looks at first. We have some depth at the catching position which is going to let us use his versatility at first and contribute offensively. We’ll probably mix in some other guys, but we’ll try to keep his bat in the lineup.
Napoli hadn’t played a single inning at first base in the majors prior to Morales’ injury, but Jeff Mathis coming off the disabled list yesterday frees him up to move out from behind the plate.
Napoli admitted that moving to first base “felt a little strange” initially, but he’s by far the Angels’ best option offensively and did play there some in the minors. In fact, this could be Napoli’s best chance at everyday playing time, as Scioscia has often gone with Mathis’ glove over his bat when choosing his starting catcher.
Napoli has a lifetime .848 OPS, which is above average for big-league first basemen, and he’s averaged 30 homers per 500 at-bats for his career. Assuming he can be somewhat passable defensively, Napoli is very capable of giving the Angels the same type of production they’d get from a midseason pickup like Paul Konerko.
Oft-injured pitcher Josh Johnson is retiring from baseball, ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick is reporting.
Johnson, 32, hasn’t pitched in the majors since 2013. The right-hander underwent his third Tommy John surgery in September 2015 but wasn’t able to bounce back.
Johnson spent most of his career with the Marlins, but also pitched for the Blue Jays in the big leagues, as well as the Padres in the minors. He retires with a career 3.40 ERA, 915 strikeouts across 998 innings in the majors, and two All-Star nominations. Johnson led the National League with a 2.30 ERA in 2010, finishing fifth in NL Cy Young Award balloting. One wonders what he could have accomplished if he was able to stay healthy.
The Angels are nearing a multi-year deal with free agent third baseman Luis Valbuena, Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register reports. It’s believed to be a two-year contract with a third-year option.
Valbuena, 31, hit .260/.357/.459 with 13 home runs and 40 RBI in 342 plate appearances in 2016. He missed most of the second half with a hamstring injury, for which he underwent surgery in late August.
Valbuena has played a majority of his career at third base, but also has extensive experience at second base and has racked up innings at first base and shortstop as well. He won’t play every day for the Angels, as Yunel Escobar lays claim to third base and C.J. Cron first base, but he will give them flexibility and a left-handed bat off the bench.