New GM Tony Reagins began his reign with a bold trade with the Chicago White Sox to bolster his already deep rotation, acquiring SP Jon Garland in exchange for shortstop Orlando Cabrera.
Cabrera, coming off his second finest season as a major leaguer, will depart and create an opportunity for the Angels to go with youth in their infield.
At 33 years of age, Cabrera is a year away from free agency—and I can't help but think that this is the right moment to trade him and not let him walk away with nothing in return.
While a solid defender, Cabrera is not a superior bat. He was a quality bat last season, with his .345 on-base percentage ("OBP") driven by a career high .301 average.
He was a solid 2nd hitter, but he would have been better served hitting 7th, given his unspectacular OBP. At 33, Cabrera is performing at his peak, and the decline is coming soon.
With, say, Maicer Izturis as the Angels' starting SS, the Angels upgrade their team OBP, as Izturis is a patient hitter. If they chose to go with Eric Aybar (a mistake, his bat isn't ready), they get even younger, while also putting a solid defender in there at short.
Simply put, this deal made sense, and I give GM Reagins a grade of B for this move.
I haven't even mentioned Garland, because in this crazy market, getting any decent pitcher (which is what Garland is) deserves a positive mark.
Garland gives the Angels the flexibility to trade a young arm to get a needed power hitting bat. Garland doesn't fit my definition of an ideal pitcher, but his durability is unquestionable, and he has shown flashes of brilliance before.
His low career strikeout rate (4.79 K per 9 innings) and so-so strike zone dominance (1.61 K/BB) signal Garland's reliance on pitching to contact. He does not induce as many groundballs as I'd like to see, considering how often hitters make contact against him (1.27 GB/FB)—but going to Anaheim will help. Angels Stadium is a far better pitcher's park than Chicago's U.S. Cellular, so his HR rate should shrink.
In the end, Garland is about league average, and Angels' fans should be wise to realize this and remember that he's a #5 starter, nothing more. With that in mind, a 4.40 ERA over 210 innings is perfectly acceptable from the bottom of the rotation.
This is a good acquisition, keeping in mind what it cost to get Garland. As long as the Angels don't re-sign Garland (free agent after 2008) to a 5+ year deal worth big money, this move is a fine one.