Speaking about the decision not to make a qualifying offer to free agent Torii Hunter on Friday, Angels GM Jerry Dipoto said he intends to go young and cheap in the outfield next season.
That means it’ll likely be Mike Trout in left, Peter Bourjos in center and Mark Trumbo in right on Opening Day.
“It wasn’t that we couldn’t fit Torii’s salary in” Dipoto said. “We made the decision to allow Trout, Trumbo and Bourjos to play on an every-day basis.”
That’s quite a change from last season, when Bourjos turned into nothing more than a defensive replacement after losing his job to Trout. He started just two games during the final two months, one of those coming in the final series after the Angels were eliminated. He had a total of two plate appearances in a seven-week span between Aug. 10 and Sept. 30.
Bourjos, though, is perhaps the game’s best defensive center fielder and one of the few people on the planet who could push Trout into a corner. Many believed Trout should have won a Gold Glove for his play in center last season.
Trumbo, a natural first baseman, got a brief look at third to begin last season, but that didn’t go to well. He went on to hit his way into the outfield picture and make 97 starts between left and right. However, his offense performance cratered after he made his first All-Star team in July; he hit just .227/.271/.359 with 10 homers and an 88/14 K/BB ratio in 256 at-bats after the break.
Besides leaving no room for Hunter, Dipoto’s decision also means Vernon Wells will be a $21 million fourth outfielder unless the Angels can trade him. He’s set to make about 10 times as much as the three starters ahead of him combined.
The Red Sox have some tough decisions to make in advance of the World Series next week; namely, what to do with some of their hottest-hitting players once the series shifts to a National League park — and National League rules. During a press conference on Saturday, manager Alex Cora said he’d be open to the idea of starting All-Star right fielder Mookie Betts at second base when the club’s regular DH, J.D. Martinez, is forced to play the outfield during away games.
The Red Sox carry home field advantage through the Fall Classic, so Games 1 and 2 will be played at Fenway Park — as well as Games 6 and 7, should those become necessary. Depending on the outcome of NLCS Game 7 later tonight, World Series Games 3 through 5 will be played at Dodger Stadium or Miller Park. That’s when Betts might take over the keystone from Ian Kinsler and Brock Holt, both of whom have shared second base duties over the course of the 2018 postseason.
The idea isn’t without merit. Betts and Martinez comprise two of the team’s top talents at the plate and, should the Red Sox need to stave off elimination in Games 4 and 5, sitting either of them doesn’t make sense. The 26-year-old Betts led the team with a staggering .346/.438/.640 batting line, 32 home runs, 30 stolen bases, and career-best 10.4 fWAR over 614 PA, while Martinez posted some career totals of his own, slashing .330/.402/.629 with 43 home runs, a 1.031 OPS, and 5.9 fWAR in 649 PA. This wouldn’t be the first time Betts has taken reps at second, either, as he’s logged 15 games at the position over the course of his five-year career, most recently during a 4-1 win over the Yankees in August.
Whether or not Betts is considered a lock for all three games is another question, one to which Cora didn’t give a definite answer. “I don’t know, man,” the skipper told reporters Saturday. “[Betts] already played second during the regular season, so there’s always a chance, I guess.” He later added that while Betts would be taking ground balls at second, it’s part of the routine he’s maintained all year — so nothing should be read into it until a clear decision has been announced.