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Angels Roster Construction Still Puzzling

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By Joey Kaufman, Special to LAist

You want to root for Tony Reagins, really. Smart, likeable, hardworking in the sense Puritan Boston would even be proud. The fourth-year Angels General Manager joined the organization in 1991 as a marketing intern out of Cal State Fullerton, worked his way up to become director of baseball operations by 1998 and now calls the shots on Gene Autry Way at least when it comes to player personnel. He still has two A.L. West titles to his name, and, after all, brought the Halos that coveted “big bat.” Well, for a few months anyway.

But in spite of the nice guy narrative, Reagins’ latest efforts haven’t necessarily been the crowning achievement of his career. With just over one-third of the 2011 season in the books, the Angels hold a rather mediocre 30-34 record placing them 5 ½ games out first place in the west.

The Dodgers have been forced to deal with a disruptive ownership situation, security issues, attendance woes and an ever declining on-the-field product and received the brunt of the criticism shelled out this spring by the media. However the Halos have largely avoided such treatment. Based on the team’s current roster construction, that might not be particularly smart.

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For a team with the fourth highest payroll in baseball at $138 million, just behind that of the Red Sox, they have, collectively, been exceptionally average thus far, particularly at the plate.

In the American League, the Halos rank 11th in runs scored (239), 11th in home runs (48) and 11th in RBIs (226). It’s all the more staggering when you note the team ranks fourth in total hits, trailing league-leading Boston by just 11.

It is always dicey when you start finger pointing, but starting with Reagins does make some sense especially when you consider the team has over $80 million committed toward next year’s roster. This despite the fact it has yet to sign its three arbitration-eligible and essential players in second baseman Howie Kendrick, first baseman Kendrys Morales and starting pitcher Jered Weaver, to long-term contracts.

Instead Reagins has guaranteed Bobby Abreu’s option for 2012 at $9 million provided he reaches 550 plate appearances in 2011 (nearly half way there). Granted Abreu is still posting solid numbers with a .289 batting average, but at 37 and with other aging outfielders on the roster it makes you scratch your head.

Oh, and it doesn’t stop there.

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Last winter, Reagins traded catcher Mike Napoli for Toronto Blue Jays outfielder Vernon Wells, a $26 million annual salary and all. Wells, who has started just 37 games this season because of a groin injury sustained last month, even has a player option for 2012. Think he’s going to take it?

But the accumulation of pitchers might be worse. Scott Kazmir, at $12 million/year, has appeared in just one game this season, pitching one and two/third innings and allowing five runs. Relievers Fernando Rodney and Hisanori Takahashi have over $9 million combined in annual salary but hold ERAs of 3.86 and 4.76 respectively.

At least Brian Fuentes is in Oakland these days.

Either way, it’s a lot of money committed to a team ranked third in a four-team division.

With June underway, it doesn’t look as if it’ll be a banner season for Southern California baseball.