Ridding themselves of a possible clubhouse distraction while freeing up money to address more pressing needs, the Angels traded excitable outfielder Jose Guillen to Washington on Friday in a three-player deal that left another gaping hole in the Angels’ once-formidable offense.
The Angels got outfielder Juan Rivera and minor league shortstop Maicer Izturis for Guillen, who was suspended for the final eight games of the regular season and the Angels’ first-round playoff series against Boston for his tantrum after being pulled for a pinch-runner.
Without Guillen, their most productive offensive player other than Vladimir Guerrero, the American League’s most valuable player, the Angels were outscored, 25-12, by the Red Sox in a three-game sweep.
Coupling the loss of Guillen with the recent departure of slugging third baseman Troy Glaus, the team would probably like to acquire some heavy firepower in its quest to make the playoffs in consecutive years for the first time.
“We know we’re losing a 100-RBI guy,” General Manager Bill Stoneman said of Guillen, who finished a breakout season batting .294 with 27 homers and 104 runs batted in. "...We’ll fill those spots as the winter progresses. We’ll have another move or two.”
Rivera is expected to be a reserve, but the Angels might have found a starting shortstop in Izturis. Stoneman said Izturis, 24, the younger brother of Dodger shortstop Cesar Izturis, would be given the opportunity to win the job in spring training. David Eckstein is slated to move to second base until Adam Kennedy returns from a right knee injury that is expected to sideline him early in the season.
With Guillen’s $3.5-million salary purged from their 2005 payroll, the Angels are better equipped to pursue free agents such as center fielder Carlos Beltran. Yet, Stoneman said, utility man Chone Figgins could open the season in center field, allowing the Angels to focus on acquiring a designated hitter and front-line starting pitcher.
The team has committed an estimated $81 million to the eight players under contract and 14 others under the club’s control, so Stoneman has $9-19 million to work with to satisfy owner Arte Moreno’s desired payroll of $90-100 million.
Guillen expressed regret for his season-ending outburst, which also included a verbal exchange with Manager Mike Scioscia, and said he was disappointed he could not remain with the Angels.
“I wanted to finish my career in one place, instead of bouncing around,” said Guillen, who will be playing for his seventh major league team. “Hopefully, this will be my last stop.”
Sounding much as he had last December at his introductory news conference at Angel Stadium, Guillen said he would have to prove himself as a good teammate after a season filled with altercations, including accusing Angel pitchers of not throwing at hitters in retaliation after he was hit by a pitch. On another occasion, Guillen told reporters he had not attended a team meeting when in fact he had.
The outfielder said he had completed anger-management classes and was eager to be reunited with Washington General Manager Jim Bowden, whom Guillen credited with reviving his career two years ago by signing him to a minor league contract after he was released by the Colorado Rockies.
Bowden, who acknowledged having had his own share of run-ins with Guillen as general manager of the Cincinnati Reds in 2002-03, called the outfielder’s late-season tantrum a learning experience.
“Sometimes young guys need learning experiences to become better people,” Bowden said, “and I believe that’s what happened to him at the end of the season.”
Said Guillen, “I’m the type of player where I just want to play baseball, I just want to be in the field. What I did, I know I wasn’t being respectful to my manager. But I’m a grown man already. I know what I need to do, and, hopefully, I learn from this.”
Stoneman acknowledged that Guillen’s behavior was part of the impetus for the trade but also said that the Angels didn’t need the corner outfielder, with center fielder Garret Anderson moving back to left. Stoneman said he expected Anderson, whose offensive production fell dramatically during an injury-plagued season, to help offset the loss of Guillen.
Rivera, 26, put up solid numbers last season in 134 games with the Montreal Expos, hitting .307 with 12 homers and 49 RBIs primarily as a right fielder. He also led major league outfielders with 14 assists.
The Angels landed a more promising prospect in Izturis. The diminutive switch-hitter batted .338 in 99 games with triple-A Edmonton before finishing the season in Montreal, where he hit .206 with one homer and four RBIs in 107 at-bats.
Bowden said Izturis became expendable after Washington acquired free-agent shortstop Cristian Guzman.
The Angels are one of five teams that have expressed interest in Cuban defector Kendry Morales, a switch-hitting first baseman and left fielder. Morales, 21, might be willing to sign an incentive-laden contract for the opportunity to play in the major leagues, his agent, David Valdes, said.
“This is a kid that hit cleanup on the Cuban national team at 19 years old,” said Eddie Bane, the Angels’ scouting director. “This isn’t like anyone else who has come out of Cuba. He’s legitimate.”
(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX)
JUAN RIVERA (outfielder)
* 2005 salary: Expected to be about $350,000.
* Background: Rivera hit .307 with 12 homers and 49 RBIs in 134 games for Montreal last season. He is expected to be an outfield reserve for the Angels.
MAICER IZTURIS (infielder)
* 2005 salary: Major league minimum $300,000 if he makes the roster.
* Background: The younger brother of Dodger shortstop Cesar Izturis, Maicer, 24, hit .338 with three homers and 36 RBIs in 99 games with triple-A Edmonton before a late-season call-up to the Expos. He is expected to compete for the Angels’ everyday shortstop job.
JOSE GUILLEN (outfielder)
* 2005 salary: $3.5 million.
* Background: The well-traveled outfielder excelled on the field but was often a headache for teammates and coaches, especially during a tantrum Sept. 25 after he was lifted for a pinch-runner. Guillen hit .294 with 27 homers and 104 RBIs and will be a bargain for Washington if he can replicate those numbers.
-- Ben Bolch