With the July 31st trade deadline a little more than a month away, the L.A. Angels and general manager Jerry Dipoto find themselves in a precarious situation.
Due to the team's free-agent signings of the last couple years, ESPN (subscription required) and Baseball America have both recently ranked the Angels' farm system as one of the worst in baseball. In six of the last eight drafts, the Angels have been missing either a first- or second-round selection. And with no high picks, the organization has floundered in its efforts to find young talent.
This raises the question, do the Angels (currently 33-40, nine games out of first place) stick with their $137 million roster with the hope of making a second-half run at the playoffs, or do they pull the eject cord on the season and try to retool their farm system by trading away some of their major league talent?
Let's break down the odds of players that could be on the move before the trade deadline.
According to BaseballProspectus.com, Albert Pujols, Josh Hamilton and Jered Weaver have full no-trade clauses in their contracts. The trio figures to be in Anaheim through 2021, 2017 and 2016, respectively.
Like Pujols, Hamilton and Weaver, C.J. Wilson has a no-trade clause in his contract for the 2013 season. He will finish the year as a Halo. However, he only has partial trade protection heading into the 2014 season. Between 2014 and 2016, Wilson may block trades to eight clubs annually.
Howie Kendrick has a similarly structured contract. He has partial no-trade protection, which allows him to block deals to 12 clubs this year, six in 2014 and four in 2015.
In other words, if the Angels plan on moving Kendrick this year or Wilson next year, they will have to make sure it is to a team not on each of the player's no-trade list.
On the whole, Howie Kendrick is by far the Angels' most sought-after player.
In his eighth year with the club, Kendrick is having an All-Star-caliber season. Through 73 games, his slash line reads an impressive .330/.372/.473. He is second on the Angels in hits this season (92) and fourth in RBI (36).
There is a moderate chance that he will be traded for minor league prospects before the July 31st trade deadline.
With a 3.65 ERA and a team-best six wins, Jason Vargas has been a nice surprise since signing with the Angels in the offseason.
If GM Jerry Dipoto does in fact pull the plug on the season, look for Vargas and his one-year, $8.5 million contract to be one of the first to go. The 30-year-old left-hander is an appealing option for playoff-contending teams in need of pitching depth.
The San Francisco Giants, Tampa Bay Rays and Baltimore Orioles (all in the bottom half of the league in team ERA) will be among a handful of teams likely to show interest in a pitcher of Vargas' quality. There is a moderate to high chance that Vargas will be on the move at some point before the trade deadline.
In 20.0 innings pitched out of the bullpen, Scott Downs has allowed only four earned runs all season for a sparkling ERA of just 1.80. His batting average against when facing left-handed hitters (.167) makes him an intriguing bullpen addition for contending teams in need of a shutdown setup man. At three years, $15 million, Downs is affordable and will draw interest around the league.
Acquiring a shutdown closer at the trade deadline is of utmost importance for teams in need of bullpen help. Having converted 17 out of 18 save opportunities this season with an ERA of just 2.53, one can argue that Ernesto Frieri is approaching shutdown territory this year.
According to ESPN.com, there are currently plenty of contending teams with real closer issues. The Baltimore Orioles, Arizona Diamondbacks, St. Louis Cardinals and Boston Red Sox have all blown nine or more saves through the first half of the season.
At just $0.53 million a year and with Ryan Madson waiting in the wings, Frieri is certainly an expendable piece of the Angel puzzle. The team will almost certainly be looking to shop him to a contender in exchange for some minor league talent.