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Why Angels' Mark Trumbo is so coveted

The Angels have attached a very high price tag to first baseman Mark Trumbo, with this warning to shoppers: Good luck finding another power hitter with an affordable salary and a similar track record.

As baseball's general managers open their meetings Monday in Orlando, Fla., the Angels are in search of pitching -- not the expensive free agents, but the young ones years away from free agency. To get it, the Angels are willing to trade just about any position player not named Mike Trout.

The most likely to come up in trade talks this week: Trumbo, second baseman Howie Kendrick, shortstop Erick Aybar, outfielder Peter Bourjos and catcher Chris Iannetta. All five are under club control for at least two more years.

In theory, the 27-year-old Trumbo would command the highest return, because power is increasingly difficult to find.

Number of free agents who hit 30 home runs last season: Zero.

Number of players who hit 30 home runs last season: 14, of which Trumbo was one.

In comparison, 36 pitchers threw 200 innings last season, and 24 batters hit .300.

There are three players who hit 30 home runs in each of the last three seasons: Miguel Cabrera of the Detroit Tigers, Adrian Beltre of the Texas Rangers and Jay Bruce of the Cincinnati Reds. All are signed at least through 2015, at annual salaries ranging from $10 million to $22 million.

Trumbo hit 34 homers last season, 32 in 2012, and 29 in 2011. He must play another three years before he is eligible for free agency, and his projected salary next year is $4.7 million.

No doubt an opposing club would try to bargain down the price by citing Trumbo's .294 on-base percentage. No doubt the Angels would respond by saying no one would be trading for Trumbo as a leadoff hitter. His job is to hit for power, and he does it well.

The Boston Red Sox, New York Yankees, Pittsburgh Pirates, Kansas City Royals, Tampa Bay Rays, San Diego Padres and Miami Marlins are among the teams that have been linked to Trumbo.

But, given the scarcity of power in the game, the Angels could gamble that comeback seasons from Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton could give them four 30-homer players -- Pujols, Hamilton, Trumbo and Trout.

That kind of offense would allow them to trade Aybar to St. Louis for one of the young power arms in the Cardinals' arsenal, then sign a good-field, no-hit shortstop like Brendan Ryan.

The Cardinals want a shortstop years from free agency; Aybar is signed through 2016 at $8.5 million per season. Aybar has a career on-base plus slugging percentage of 93, Stephen Drew a career OPS+ of 98. That means both players are slightly below average offensively, but Drew might cost twice as much in free agency.

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