Los Angeles Angels shortstop Erick Aybar finally broke out of his 6-46 slump on Monday night, when he blasted a home run and batted in four runs to give the Halos a blowout 11-2 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays, thereby notching their ninth win in 10 games. The performance lifted Aybar’s season average to .270, a touch below his .277 career mark.
Around the July 31 trade deadline, trade rumors swirled around Aybar, with St. Louis allegedly showing interest before talks broke down at the eleventh hour. If it was Los Angeles that walked away, they were correct to do so, for a few reasons.
First of all, Aybar is one of the Halos’ few stalwarts in a defense that has committed a sieve-like 95 errors this season, the third most in the American League. His positional value as a shortstop is extremely high — you just can’t replace his fielding prowess so easily.
Moreover, the historical difference in production between Aybar and the Angels’ most likely other trade target, Howie Kendrick, is fairly minimal. Kendrick’s career average of .293 is a tick higher than Aybar’s, but he has struggled in the field and has been replaced adequately by Grant Green, who has hit .299 for the Halos since taking over for Kendrick on Aug. 6. Green is still unproven, and cannot be realistically compared to Kendrick. If the Angels can replace even 80 or 90 percent of Kendrick’s production at a cheaper price, they’ll be in fine shape.
The top priority heading into this offseason remains pitching. GM Jerry Dipoto (or owner Arte Moreno, depending on who’s really pulling the strings) will have to get creative to find that arm that could turn a lackluster rotation into a potent one. He should avoid trading Aybar unless he gets a truly great deal for him, say a shortstop and a pitcher who could fill the third slot behind Jered Weaver and C.J. Wilson; the Angels aren’t likely to get that, however. Their best chance passed by with the July 31 trade deadline, when several contenders were on the prowl for that one player who could put them over the edge for a playoff run.
If the Halos are smart, Aybar will be wearing Angel red in 2014.