The Angels have gone nuts this offseason and many have wondered exactly why. Some say it’s because they’re trying to contend again when they should be rebuilding. Others think it’s simply because a lot of money fell off the books, and there was simply room to fill holes. Both are valid points to a degree. The latter tends to be the closer to the truth as far as what the front office feels they should be doing. However, none of these answers are closer than the fact that Albert Pujols may not be ready for Opening Day 2017.
Granted, the Halos needed to plug second base. They did. Catcher was a position in need of another veteran presence. That was taken care of, for now. Left field was the club’s longest existing hole. It looks like that has been solved with a much better combination of players than last season. Then, the bench was deepened with what would look more like a bit of a clog in the infield, but also shows (on paper) the kind of bench depth the team had ten years ago.
And it’s all because of the foot surgery Albert had earlier this offseason on the plantar tendon in his right foot. Pujols has been dealing with plantar fasciitis for much of his career and it finally caught up to him in 2013 and caused him to miss the final two months of that season.
Albert played through pain in most of the 2016 season, and having surgery on his foot in November 2015 as well contributed to a slow start. The tendon really flared up in August at a game in Toronto. Then it was time to call it a season when the slugger went shockwave therapy on September 29. Insisting he didn’t need surgery, Albert tried to have a normal offseason. But it didn’t work out that way.
So when the Angels signed Luis Valbuena, an insurance policy was the motive. But knowing Albert, he’ll tough it out and try to get back in time for the start of the season. He’s a fighter, and is always finding ways to shut up the naysayers. So it’s conceivable to see him in the Opening Day starting lineup for the Angels.
If not, Valbuena will play first base every day until the return of The Machine. After that, Luis will likely occupy a hybrid Chone Figgins/Maicer Izturis role. Mike Scioscia has a lot more diverse options on the bench than the last few years.
The Halos are also looking to next season as well since Valbuena is on a two-year contract, and will likely succeed Yunel Escobar at third base.
In any case, we’ll see how Albert’s recovery pans out this spring. And regardless of the outcome, fans will get to see Luis Valbuena in action.