Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Angels Trade Finley to G-Men for Alfonzo

The Angels raised the white flag on their 2004 free-agent signing of Steve Finley by trading the 40 year-old centerfielder to the San Francisco Giants for the comparably youthful Edgardo Alfonzo. The 32-year-old veteran will be a utility infielder for the Halos, playing second and third. While Finley's struggles in Anaheim (.222 avg, 12 HR) are attributed to an injury he suffered in the second game of the season, the reason for Alfonzo's slump in 2005 is more difficult to identify. Giants GM Brian Sabean could not say for certain why Alfonzo hit 2 homers in April and no more for the rest of the season while batting just .241 in the second half of the season.
"I go back to that first year [2003] -- he performed pretty well, but for some reason, once he got to the West Coast, there was culture shock," said Sabean. "He left New York where he was so loved and lived in that area, and I don't know how he was able to break those ties or ever did.

"There was a combination of factors. I think he'd be the first to admit expectations didn't happen, but I don't hold that against the player. He gave the effort."

So the natural cure to Alfonzo's longing to be on the east coast was to trade him to the Angels? There is a reason Sabean's initials are B.S. While "culture shock" might be an excuse for a rookie, a 32-year old veteran from Venezuela is not likely to be that freaked-out by a move to Frisco. More likely is that Alfonzo was either dinged-up or struggled early due to a general degeneration of skills. He also may have lost some confidence -- particularly when Pedro Feliz played well at third in '05 and slugged 20 HR's and with 81 RBI. Alfonzo is a career .287 hitter who has seen his homerun production drop each of the past six years since 1999 when he slugged 27 for the Mets. In 2000 Alfonzo backed up his strong '99 campaign with a .324 average and 25 more HR's. After signing with the Giants in 2003 Fonzie's average dropped nearly 50 points and he had just 13 HR. In a study of the numbers, Alfonzo appears to be a player in steady decline offensively. This will be his first American League team and Edgardo will be an insurance policy on injury plagued Dallas McPherson.

Bottom line is that the Giants and Angels just traded a couple of guys that turned out to be busts as marquee free-agent-signings. I would give the edge to the Giants on this simply because if Finley was injured last year he at least has a chance to be better in 2006. Alfonzo on the other hand looks like a guy running out of gas. The contracts were a wash financially and this trade will do little to help the Angels other than give them another back-up infielder instead of a back-up outfielder. Worst case for the Halos is that they release Alfonzo in spring training to little fanfare instead of releasing Finley, in which case everyone would talk about what a bad signing it was. Thanks to blogs though, even if Alfonzo is released we will talk about what a bad signing Finley was which was topped off by a bad trade.

Alfonzo will likely have to compete in Spring Training with Robb Quinlan and Maicer Izturis for the utility infielder role with former utility man Chone Figgins now slated to be the Angels full-time centerfielder. Figgins more than deserves the opportunity to be a full-time starter after serving as the Angels uber-utility player for the past three seasons. Alfonzo does not figure to be an Angel long even he makes the team in 2006 with a bevy of young infielders primed to make the jump to the big leagues in the next year or two including Brandon Wood, Howie Kendrick and Kendry Morales.

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