Angels first baseman C.J. Cron has come up as a possible trade candidate in the wake of the team’s agreement with free agent Luis Valbuena on Thursday, but the Halos’ decision to add another corner infielder has more to do with Albert Pujols’ uncertain status, according to FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal. Pujols could miss the beginning of next season as a result of December foot surgery. In the meantime, the Angels will play the lefty-swinging Valbuena against right-handed pitching and deploy him at Pujols’ positions – designated hitter and first base – as well as third base, writes Rosenthal. When Pujols returns, the club could take advantage of the fact that Cron and Jefrey Marte have minor league options remaining and send either to Triple-A Salt Lake City, Rosenthal notes. Looking ahead a year, third baseman Yunel Escobar could depart in free agency next winter. That would enable Valbuena to take over at the hot corner on a full-time basis in 2018.
More from the American League:
- Right fielder Jose Bautista, who brought an end to a drawn-out saga when he re-signed with the Blue Jays earlier this week, didn’t seriously consider joining the Indians, reports Terry Pluto of cleveland.com. The Indians inquired about Bautista, but it doesn’t seem as if either side was gung-ho about a union. After all, manager Terry Francona declared that the Tribe’s pursuit of Bautista in free agency – which may have included a bid – was overstated.
- While the Astros committed a guaranteed $14MM to Charlie Morton earlier this offseason, the right-hander isn’t a lock to win a spot in their rotation, general manager Jeff Luhnow suggested to Brian McTaggart of MLB.com (Twitter link). Luhnow does expect Morton to end up in the Astros’ starting five, but he’s only “softly” part of the rotation for now. The Astros have been pushing to add a front-line starter all winter, and picking one up could relegate Morton to a bullpen role. As of now, in addition to established starters Dallas Keuchel, Lance McCullers, Collin McHugh, Mike Fiers and Morton, the team has intriguing young options – including Joe Musgrove and Francis Martes – knocking on the door.
- Once regarded as key building blocks for the Astros, first baseman A.J. Reed and third baseman Colin Moran are long shots to crack the big league roster this year after rough seasons, writes Jake Kaplan of Baseball America (subscription required/recommended). Reed, whom BA ranked as baseball’s 11th-best prospect a year ago, got his first taste of major league action in 2016 and batted a weak .164/.270/.262 with a 34 percent strikeout rate in 141 plate appearances. The soon-to-be 24-year-old did rake at Triple-A Fresno (.291/.368/.556 in 296 PAs), though he’s now behind $47.5MM man Yulieski Gurriel and Marwin Gonzalez on the Astros’ first base depth chart. With Carlos Beltran and Evan Gattis also on hand, Reed stands even less of a chance to garner at-bats as a DH. Moran, the sixth overall pick in the 2013 draft, didn’t help his cause in Fresno – .259/.329/.368 in 511 trips to the plate – and the emergence of Alex Bregman in Houston only added to his problems. Bregman looks like the Astros’ long-term solution at third, putting the 24-year-old Moran’s future in question.