Much like the grey area that has been the Angels’ season, the decisions the organization made (or didn’t make) were put under the proverbial microscope and viewed with hindsight, leaving many to question the club's tactics leading up to July 31.
Mind you, that doesn’t mean the Angels failed. In fact, the club managed to take a rough situation—budget and lack of farm system to use as bait—and made the best of an unusual market.
They flip-flopped relievers with the Atlanta Braves, sending left-hander Scott Downs to the NL East contenders for right-hander Cory Rasmus. And they went within the AL West, dealing Alberto Callaspo to the Oakland Athletics for young prospect Grant Green.
As fans waited to see what pitcher the club might snag, the Angels quietly acquired Julio Concepcion and Andres Perez from the New York Mets for international bonus slot cash.
Though none of the moves would be considered a smash, it was a cost-controlled effort that has been rarely seen from Anaheim in past deadlines.
It was a refreshing and uncharacteristic twist.
Because of the money owed to Josh Hamilton and Albert Pujols, with random expenses like Vernon Wells next season, even the moves that didn’t get made left them in no worse of a position. (Some of the misses helped, oddly enough.)
And for those who have doubts in their mind, remember these few points:
- Replacing a risky Joe Blanton in the rotation with another risky right-hander who is carrying a plus-five ERA is not a smart move. So no time or room for you, Ian Kennedy.
- The Kansas City Royals would have never parted with top-tier arms—like Kyle Zimmer or Yordano Ventura—for Howie Kendrick, assuming he waived the no-trade clause in the first place.
- Alberto Callaspo, with any number of packaged pieces to be named whenever, would not have been enough to see the New York Yankees give up a pitcher like Phil Hughes.
- The Angels understood that switch-hitting shortstops don’t grow on trees.
Regardless of how it is spun, twisted or revisited, the Angels did what they could, and there is no real shame in the aftermath.
However, it’s also boring.
It’s too late to change any course of action/delay, or put a PR-laced Band-Aid on a mistake. But as the social media generation goes, the second-guessing is almost inevitable—considering the team’s position, I am surprised there hasn't been more couch coaching.
Even the Angels brass has hinted at the idea they are not completely satisfied or done searching. When asked about the deadline, general manager Jerry Dipoto told MLB.com’s Alden Gonzalez:
We were very aggressive in our search for young, Major League-ready, controllable pitching. Obviously it's a very difficult thing to acquire. And that doesn't mean that we're not going to look at it again.
That's a good call, Dipoto...let’s look at it again.
Without further ado, with my 20/20 hindsight vision in hand, here are two deals that actually could have improved the Angels, without burning the pocket book or farm system or anything else that is combustible on this current team.
Understand that "could" is a big word throughout this discovery.
Mark Trumbo to the Pittsburgh Pirates
This possible trade was quickly shut down because the Angels reportedly had zero interest in getting rid of their slugger. And I can’t argue with their thinking to be reluctant.
But I would also like to think that the right player (or players) in return for Trumbo could have made this deal a reality.
Sure, his stock is on the rise with the Angels—with Pujols on the mend and a power-hitting void at first base—but parting ways wouldn’t be terrible if it meant acquiring pitching.
Top-tier pitching, of course. Not just cost-controlled risks like Kennedy, but top-10 level arms that could help rebuild the farm system—like the Pirates’ right-handers Nick Kingham and Kyle McPherson.
It could have worked, as there was a willingness from the other side of the negotiating table. The Pirates had reportedly been open to part with a young arm for Trumbo, so why not go after these two?
Kingham has decent stuff—an above-average fastball (95-97 mph) with developing secondary pitches—and McPherson could be that middle-of-the-rotation guy the Angels need to complement C.J. Wilson and Jered Weaver.
Both pitchers are expected to be in the MLB by 2014 and, more importantly, getting them wouldn’t completely deplete the Pirates’ system, leaving their top arms for the NL Central to fear down the road.
It’s a win-win.
Had the Angels gone this route, exploiting the fact the Pirates need a power bat and probably are susceptible to panic-mode (it’s been over two decades since a playoff birth), I think they could have secured one of those options in return—with maybe another arm down the prospect chain.
It’s also worth noting: I have faith that C.J. Cron is close to becoming a full-time major league player, taking care of the first-base duties for years to come with the Angels. So replacing Trumbo would not be a desperate issue, during this season or in the future.
Howie Kendrick to the Toronto Blue Jays
Kendrick’s no-trade clause—that consisted of 12 teams—and the possible return product being Luke Hochevar or Ervin Santana certainly kept him out of Kansas City.
It was another case of the Angels not giving in for the sake of making moves, so I applaud the effort. But the Royals weren’t the only team looking for a second baseman.
The Toronto Blue Jays were one of the teams most interested in Kendrick, and they also happen to be a team loaded with pitching prospects in their farm system.
The deal made sense to pursue.
Kendrick was by far the most intriguing chip the Angels dangled out on the trade market, no question. He has that rare ability for a second baseman to hit for average, with decent power, while hitting in various spots of the lineup—third, second, sixth, etc.
He would have fit perfectly in the Jays’ lineup, and his contract would have given them an All-Star caliber leader for the next two seasons, for a relatively cheap cost.
On the other hand, trading Kendrick would have given the Angels a little breathing room towards total salary—not a ton, but a little—while netting them possible arms for the future.
What arms, you ask?
Any of the young hurlers currently in the Jays’ top 10—Aaron Sanchez, Roberto Osuna, Marcus Stroman, Daniel Norris, Sean Nolin, John Stilson—would have been another upgrade for the Angels.
The trade would also put Grant Green in his preferred position (second base) next season and beyond. That also allows Taylor Lindsey more time to mature, instead of rushing him as a quick fix.
Understandably, like the Trumbo deal, it wouldn’t be easy to part with such a great player like Kendrick. But the young arms the Angels could get in return outweigh the offensive production that clouds either deal.
In reality—where the fun is outweighed by the actual decisions a team has to live with—the deals that were made, not made or passed on to the winter, were exactly what we should have expected.
With the exact outcome: boring.
So, really there wasn’t much of a sell, as Dipoto told Gonzalez, "I don't know if I can classify it as a buyer's market at all...I think it was a particularly uneventful day."
Note: All stats provided were courtesy of MLB.com unless otherwise noted.
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