Angels pursued Victor Martinez and Joaquin Benoit before each signed with Tigers
Manager Mike Scioscia acknowledged during the winter meetings Tuesday that the Angels pursued free-agent catcher Victor Martinez and reliever Joaquin Benoit before the players signed with the Detroit Tigers.
"I think of all the guys that were out there, they were two high-profile guys that got a lot of interest from a lot of teams, including our club," Scioscia said. "Victor, first of all, is obviously a tremendous bat. His versatility to be able to catch or play first or just get his bat in the lineup, you would make it work or make it fit."
The pursuit of Benoit is hardly a surprise. The Angels needed to upgrade their bullpen, which was inconsistent and often unreliable last season. But the pursuit of Martinez is an indication that the Angels are not enamored with their catching situation, a job Mike Napoli and Jeff Mathis have shared for the last three years.
Mathis is the better defender of the two, although he regressed defensively last season, but hit a paltry .195 with three home runs and 18 runs batted in last season. Napoli hit .238 and led all big league catchers with 26 home runs, but he regressed even more behind the plate during a 2010 season in which he also spent a considerable amount of time at first base.
Napoli will probably make about $6 million in arbitration next season, making him a probable trade target if the Angels look to trim some payroll. Asked how he viewed Napoli, as a catcher or designated hitter, Scioscia's response was a clear message to Napoli that he needs to improve behind the plate.
"I think he's a catcher. He thinks he's a catcher. He needs to go out and catch like a catcher," Scioscia said. "That is the frustrating part with Mike. His ability to do things behind the plate is really important to our club to get him to get the at‑bats to be productive. Last year he got at‑bats, but it was mostly as a first baseman or a DH. So, he knows he has some work to do. It's important to our team that he can play at a level that he can behind the plate, because it definitely correlates to how your pitching staff is going to function."
--Mike DiGiovanna in Lake Buena Vista, Fla.