When Tony Reagins made the trade to bring Vernon Wells to Anaheim, the Los Angeles Angels general manager may have thought he saved his team—and himself—from a disastrous offseason.
Six months later, Reagins' fate may hinge on the next trade he makes.
As the 2011 MLB trade deadline looms ever closer, the Angels stand on the precipice of triviality. One wrong step from here and they will fall too far below the AL West-leading Texas Rangers to be rescued.
One wrong move by Reagins, and it will be his last.
Reagins' tenure as general manager has been as brief as it has been disappointing. Since taking over in 2007, the Angels have gone from a dynamic squad that three-peated as division champs to a misfit band of aging vets and inconsistent rookies who struggle to play .500 ball.
Immediately after taking the reins from Bill Stoneman, Reagins sought to establish himself as a different kind of GM. He did so with the shocking pickup of Torii Hunter.
In the years that have followed, Reagins has made a number of other high-profile moves, all with varying degrees of success. He traded then-rising star Casey Kotchman for free agent-to-be Mark Teixeira, flipped a couple of stud prospects for a downward-trending Scott Kazmir and brought in two aging former Yankee sluggers in Bobby Abreu and Hideki Matsui.
All were attempts to address immediate shortcomings, but without much thought for the future. They were the kind of moves that you look back on and say, "they seemed like a good idea at the time.”
But none can be said to have really changed the fortunes of the Angels. They were leading their division by 10 games when Tex came aboard, and he did next to nothing for them in the playoffs. Kazmir failed miserably for a year-and-a-half before being cut.
Abreu seemed to have a positive effect on his teammates when he helped lead them through the dark days following Nick Adenhart's death and eventually into the American League championship series. But his follow-up performances have left much to be desired.
Matsui, meanwhile, had about as big an impact in Anaheim as Steve Finley.
Last year, Reagins traded five prospects and one big-leaguer for a starting pitcher and a utility infielder. The starter turned out to be a tremendous addition in Dan Haren, while infielder Alberto Callaspo is only a body to fill the hole at third base. And for whatever their merits may be, neither player has helped return the Angels to the top of their division.
Then came the Wells trade.
It was clear to anyone watching what had happened. Reagins embarrassed himself and his team at the Winter Meetings. Desperate to save face, he did what all good Americans do in our desperation: We try to buy our way out.
In this case, Reagins took on the vast majority of a wildly inappropriate contract in exchange for what he prayed was still a lively bat.
His prayers have not been answered. Reagins' personal savior in Wells has become the harbinger of his doom.
Wells' acquisition was so atrocious, the Angels' payroll now so egregiously high, that rumors have trickled out about owner Arte Moreno essentially closing his wallet and telling Reagins, “No mas.”
To this point, the only person to have refuted those rumors is, you guessed it, Reagins. He claims that there are no restrictions in terms of going out and acquiring a player—namely, a left-handed slugger—before the trade deadline.
Let's all hope that is the truth. As of right now, this anemic flock of Angels Reagins has cobbled together is in desperate need of a big bat, which won't come cheap.
If Moreno wants to win, he'll need to give plenty of rope to Reagins, who will either lasso the player he needs with the extra slack or hang himself from it.