Los Angeles Angels' Trade Deadline Strategy Blueprint
Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
Try as the sport-specific networks and programs have done to match something like the interest and fan intensity of an NFL Draft day, there really is only one thing in the MLB that can compare to such a degree of entertainment.
The MLB trade deadline in July really is as good as it gets.
The deadline represents, in my opinion, the true second half of the season. Whether your team is a seller, a buyer, or a seller and buyer, the path taken will define the outlook from August until the playoffs.
If there is a fire sale, then it is the ole' "get'em next season—and beyond." It's a rebuild—and that's cool.
If there is push for one of the big names floating on the market, or possibly even a few smaller pieces to get the team over the edge, then there is hope.
If it's a little of both...well, then there is a little of both, though usually the fans see it as throwing in the proverbial towel (of course, sticking with the same group of players can mean things are rolling—and those same fans would chastise change).
Regardless, each possible move, miss or ponder will be dissected by everyone—from the national writers of our pastime down to the meager pushers on the blogosphere looking to get a rise out of a fanbase.
With each rumor unturned, we are there to watch and listen. With each possibility, we are there to give an opinion.
In Anaheim, things are no different. In fact, things have been escalated this season.
The Los Angeles Angels have been a roller-coaster ride of confusion, weighted by true baseball talent and a reality of overpriced pressure, all wrapped up into one-half of wonderment.
They have been good.
They have been great.
They have been bad.
They have been terrible.
They have been injured almost the entire time.
And as the first half ends, nearing the All-Star break, the Angels are in a difficult predicament. They are a good team with potential, no question. But do they have the necessary pieces that it takes to make a solid push into September? To that, do they have the money, or the talent, that it would take for a deal to come their way?
It's like reality television at its best, warped into a month-long (or more) special on cable.
Live from somewhere in Los Angeles—by way of Anaheim—starring Jerry Dipoto as "the general manager" and Arte Moreno as "the owner"...it's the Angels' trade deadline special.
Will the Angels...sell,
Will the Angels...buy?
How will it end...selling and buying?
With the pressure mounting as July 31 comes rushing to an end, let's take at look at what the Angels should do, what they will do, and what it all means in the end.
What they should do
As strange as it sounds, the Angels should build off of the signing of Venezuelan left-hander Ricardo Sanchez—continuing to restock the entire system is smart.
True, it's never easy to look at a team so talented that has underachieved so greatly—like the Angels—and say they should stick with the current roster. I'm in complete agreement with you.
Unfortunately, there have been too many big moves in the past few seasons, and none of the moves have produced anything but missed playoff chances. For the highly coveted rights from such deals as Scott Kazmir, Zack Greinke and Dan Haren, all the Angels really affected was the farm system.
Remember Jean Segura? Of course you do. He is currently hitting .323 for Milwaukee—not the Angels. Thank you, Zack Greinke.
The signing of Josh Hamilton cost them a draft pick this season. His heavy salary, combined with Pujols' salary, will also make it difficult to do any top-tier bidding this trade deadline.
However, the front office seems to be learning from the past. Instead of making a bunch of noise when asked about the trade possibilities, GM Jerry Dipoto had this to say LA Times' Mike DiGiovanna:
You’re always looking for ways to get better, to maybe find some smaller pieces to contribute, but the high-profile moves? I wouldn’t suspect that we’re looking for those. I don’t know that we can acquire a better starting pitcher than Jason Vargas, and the bullpen has been very good.
True, as he explained, smaller pieces could be sought. Possibly using Scott Downs and Vargas as bait could work. But I really do believe that the first-half of this year has collectively scared the Angels upper decision makers.
There is a real fear: They don't want to do anything now, especially highly questionable, that could be another hole in the sinking ship later.
Which brings me back to Ricardo Sanchez.
It has definitely been the Angels' operating style in past seasons not to make a jump at the highly recognized players from Latin America. But the first-year man in charge of rebuilding that system, Carlos Gomez, seems to be changing the culture (literally) in Anaheim.
The Angels shelled out a $580,000 bonus—out of their $2 million pool—to sign Sanchez, according to MLB.com's Alden Gonzalez. The signing not only signals that the organization is ready to make a stronger effort in the area, but also shows they will be willing to spend (wisely) when it makes sense.
With that said, very much like the Los Angeles Dodgers and Carlos Marmol, I wouldn't be surprised to see the Angels test the market, making small moves that would give them international slots, or pool money.
What they will do
I seriously doubt the Angels sway to far from what most already think—they will look to make small moves, if anything, without making things worse, at any level.
As for the possibility of a complete rebuild?
Rebuilding from scratch with such big names/cash consequences—like Pujols and Hamilton—and Mark Trumbo, Mike Trout and Howie Kendrick in future plans would be difficult.
Actually, it's almost impossible.
It's a "what you see is what you get" kind of situation. And that isn't necessarily a terrible scenario.
The offense, namely Josh Hamilton, is clicking and producing the way some had predicted they would. Trout is...well, Trout. And Hank Conger is silencing his critics (me) with his bat and unexpected defense.
With the increase in Jered Weaver's velocity, leading to more solid pitch sequences and results, the pitching staff now has the much-needed No. 1 and No.2 (C.J. Wilson) starters at the top of the rotation. Tommy Hanson is coming back, post-surgery, as well as left-hander Sean Burnett.
Add in the impressive—oddly unnoticed—job Ernesto Frieri has done as the closer and you have a few things to be excited for in the second half. All of it without trading away any major components of the team, in the major or the minor leagues, or without spending any more money—which they don't have, regardless.
Summing it all up
I think Buster Olney explained it best during his podcast on ESPN (listen here). He said the general perception with other teams is that the Angels' farm system is "as barren as Death Valley."
Got the picture? Yep, me too.
With that kind of depleted system, and that harsh of a perception, you would have to be crazy to think the Angels stand any chance (even if they wanted to) of landing anything substantial on the trade market.
Again, what you see is what you get.
As it stands today, the Angels are 43-46, 10 games back from first in the AL West. They have a combined 26 games remaining with the two teams ahead of them in the standings (the Oakland Athletics and the Texas Rangers).
So there is hope—both of those teams may not have the same offensive firepower down the stretch, like the Angels possess. Sure, the Athletics (first in ERA) and Rangers (third in ERA) may have the pitching, but a hot Angels' lineup is hard to beat.
It's that sort of thinking that has the Angels GM confident, and not necessarily willing to jump at every piece of trade-bait dangled by the end of July. He told Mike DiGiovanna, "This is our team."
Unfortunately, or not, it's the Angels community's team too.
Will it work? You will just have to tune into the next episode to find out.
Note: All stats provided were courtesy of baseball-reference.com unless otherwise noted.
For more—of everything—from Rick Suter follow him on Twitter@ rick_suter.
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