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What Should LA Do With Erick Aybar?

This wasn't supposed to be a particularly difficult question for the Angels. Aybar has been LA's primary shortstop for over two years, dealing with some struggles last year after a breakout 2009 that saw him post the fourth-best WAR among American League shortstops. As the 27-year-old enters his prime, the Angels likely anticipated that he would be the dominant presence at shortstop once again this season.

And that was never necessarily a bad thing. Aybar's an above-average defender at the position, but he's an impatient hitter with little pop that depends on lots of contact and a high BABIP to be useful with the bat. In general, he's better than what most teams trot out at the position every day. When the whole "lots-of-contact-and-cross-your-fingers" approach is working, like in 2009, he can be a slightly above-average hitter. And when it's not, you end up with miserable lines like the .253/.306/.330 line he flashed in 2010.

But Aybar's missed most of the beginning of the season with an oblique injury, and in that time we've seen a few wrenches thrown into LA's plan. Because the shortstop's only played in three games this year, and frankly they haven't missed him at all. Maicer Izturis was expected to share playing time across the infield with Aybar, second baseman Howie Kendrick and third baseman Alberto Callaspo, but he's been the primary shortstop in Aybar's place, and he's been nothing but fantastic so far.

And you'd say that the Angels could just slot in Izturis at another infield position to make room for Aybar. But Kendrick's currently in the midst of his own monster breakout, and Callaspo's batting .354 with nine walks and two strikeouts so far. There's not exactly an obvious place to fit Aybar into the lineup, particularly when you note that Izturis, Callaspo and Kendrick are all solid defenders at their respective positions.

So what exactly should the Angels do with Aybar? Should they just assume that the playing time thing will work out and return Izturis to his utility role? All four players are arbitration-eligible and should receive raises next winter, though, and they already make a combined $11.6 million this season. Do you see what kind of value Aybar might have on the trade market? There aren't exactly that many legitimate starting shortstops around in Aybar's salary range.

Seems like the Angels have four quality infielders and only three places to play them. Unless someone gets hurt soon, you have to wonder who ends up being the odd man out.