"Now, now there... Just relax... Safe and sound now, back in good old 2013!"
It is that kind of year. The Angels and their fans are stuck and need to get back to the future to save their franchise for 2014! It will not require reuniting parents, nor will it will not take one-point-twenty-one gigawatts of electricity, it will take trading some veterans for young top prospects. By doing so, the Angels may get themselves an alternate reality, with good structure and a prize waiting for them at the end, if they do things right.
Considering how depleted the Angels' system has become, the state of the franchise is bringing back shades of the nineteen-eighties, when the Halos were building around Reggie Jackson, Don Baylor, Rod Carew, Fred Lynn, and Bobby Grich, but didn't have the starting pitching they needed to compete over every 162 game season. If the Angels lose 90 games in 2013, one can easily look at the teams of 1980, 1981, 1983, 1987, 1988, and 1990, and see similarities in both the Big League rosters, and the minor league system. It was time to take action.
Last Thursday, Angels General Manager Jerry Dipoto started the escapade by trading the Angels' international bonus slot for two A prospects: outfielder Julio Concepcion, and righ-handed pitcher Andres Perez. This was a controversial move among Angels fans.
On Sunday, the Halos traded lefty relief specialist Scott Downs to the Braves for a former first round draft pick, pitcher Cory Rasmus, who is Colby's brother, and a promising prospect. Rasmus was projected as a starting pitcher, but has been converted to a reliever, and is having a great season at AAA Gwinnett, with a 1.72 ERA / 1.145 WHIP. He had his first appearance for the Angels' AAA Salt Lake, and pitched a scoreless inning. This kid could perhaps become a late inning relief weapon, and maybe the Angels can groom him as the closer of the future. Either way, it's a great pick up for the future of Angels' pitching.
Last night, Alberto Callaspo was dealt to the A's -- an unusual inter-divisional trade -- for second base prospect, and another first round pick, Grant Green. Green has put up similar numbers to what current second basement Howie Kendrick did in the minors, so there's some promise, and some depth there.
This morning, the Angels were in on Diamondbacks starting pitcher Ian Kennedy, also a former first round pick by the Yankees. The Padres swooped in and took Kennedy, leaving the Angels to look elsewhere. Kennedy was a buy low option for the Angels, and despite having a 5.23 ERA / 1.419 WHIP, he was doing so in a pitcher's park that has rarely featured a Diamondbacks pitching staff anywhere the top of the National League, even in playoff years. The Big A would've helped Kennedy, and PetCo Park will certainly benefit him. Unfortunately, the Angels will have to look elsewhere for another starting pitcher.
Shortstop Erick Aybar was involved in talks with the Cardinals. St. Louis' shortstop Pete Kozma was the center of that trade, with 21 year old pitching prospects Carlos Martinez and Michael Wacha being the other pieces -- only one of those two would likely be included. This would've given the Angels the young, controllable starting pitcher they needed, with a young replacement for Aybar. These talks dwindled, however.
The Pirates inquired on Mark Trumbo, and were willing to give up some young starters, but the Angels said they were not interested.
Perhaps the Angels could've focused more on trading Kendrick and Aybar during the Kennedy talks, but even the clubs looking for offense are reluctant to give up young pitching. If that ends up being the trend in trade talks, there could be a lesson learned about holding to young prospects too tight.
It looks like Kendrick and Aybar are staying, but what would the Angels' roster look like had they traded Kendrick and Aybar, and acquired Ian Kennedy?
2014 Starting Lineup
CF Mike Trout, SS Pete Kozma, 1B/ DH Albert Pujols, LF Josh Hamilton, DH/1B Mark Trumbo, RF Kole Calhoun, 2B Grant Green, C Chris Iannetta, 3B Luis Jiminez.
2014 Starting Rotation
Jered Weaver, CJ Wilson, Ian Kennedy, Carlos Martinez, Garrett Richards.
That is just an idea, assuming the Angels got Ramirez from the Cardinals, non-tendered Tommy Hanson, and wisely kept Joe Blanton in the bullpen. In that scenario, the Angels could also bring in a third baseman instead of relying on Jiminez, among other depth moves.
Since Kendrick and Aybar are staying, Green could be used at third base.
Fans might be a bit nervous about the idea of going with such a young team in so many positions, but keep in mind that from 2005 through 2009 the Angels went young and at one point had Jered Weaver, Ervin Santana, and Joe Saunders in their rotation, all of which had less than two big league seasons under their belt by the time all three were fixtures in the Angels' rotation.
The Angels' infield was as young as well. Kendrick and Aybar were just coming up, and Chone Figgins and Maicer Izturis were just establishing themselves.
All of that worked because the Angels already had Vladimir Guerrero, Garrett Anderson, John Lackey, Scot Shields, and K-Rod as their centerpieces. The Halos have a similar core to build around, and possibly an even better core with Mike Trout at the center, and with the fact that Weaver is a better pitcher than Lackey. It is not like the early nineteen-nineties, when the organization turned over completely, and rebuilt the team from scratch without any centerpieces besides Mark Langston and Chuck Finley. The Angels can unload and reload and still be contenders in 2014.
What the Angels are doing now is both smart and safe enough given their core of superstars, especially Trout. Even though front office didn't accomplish all it set out to do at the non-waiver deadline, they will likely make more moves in the waiver period in August, as well as in the offseason. Who knows what will happen? But in the case of replenishment, the Angels are off to a good start...
... And are getting back to the future of the Angels.