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What Everyone Is Talking About

There has been so much second-guessing going on with the moves the Angels made over the last few seasons that it comes down to one thing: because they didn't make the playoffs. Every team has a long list of prospects they would like to have back; however, the Angels have been put in the spotlight regarding this issue, because it has fans talking. But since fans, media, etc. keep talking about it, let us really examine this. 

 

The Debate

Argument: IF the Angels had not traded away Jean Segura, Patrick Corbin, and Tyler Skaggs, they would have a stronger starting rotation, and a solid future SS that could've allowed them to deal Erick Aybar for more pitching, or perhaps Alberto Callaspo for the same, and start Segura at third base.

Counter-argument: First of all, Jean Segura is a shortstop. He has not played one game at third base during his professional career.

Where would the Angels have been in 2011 had they not traded Corbin and Skaggs for Dan Haren? And where were Corbin and Skaggs ranked as prospects when that trade was made? 

Neither prospect was highly regarded by much of baseball when that trade was made. However, Jerry Dipoto, general manager of the Diamondbacks at the time, saw something in Patrick Corbin and considered him as the center-piece. But the trade would probably not have been made without Joe Saunders being involved. Corbin and Skaggs found their success, and built their overall value, in the Diamondbacks' system. Regardless, it is still a valid argument to say claim those two could be helping the Angels right now.

Other moves could have been made. But which moves? No one ever seems to go that far with this argument. 

The Angels made that trade because they needed to. The team needed to return to playoffs, and that's what teams do to get back to October. The Rangers are doing it right now, as they acquired starting pitcher Matt Garza from the Cubs for Mike Olt, one of their best prospects, among other prospects. Now Texas is going after Alex Rios, Hunter Pence, and former Angel Kendrys Morales. Picture the Rangers' farm system if they do in fact make that trade as well.

But if the Angels made the playoffs, none of this would matter, would it?

Argument: IF the Angels had kept their prospects, they would have more to offer on the trade market. 

Counter-argument: That's not exactly true, but still valid. The system has been depleted; however, the Angels did have a plan in place there. 

Seven of the nine players in the Angels' regular starting lineup, including Hank Conger, are homegrown, and all nine are locked by arbitration, or under contract, through at least 2015. So there's no immediate need to dig into the farm system right now for position players. 

On the pitching staff, everyone but Scott Downs, Jason Vargas, and Ryan Madson are under club control through at least 2014. However, this part of the roster needs improvement, mainly in the middle of the starting rotation, and the back end of the bullpen. This is where the Angels would need to pluck from their farm system. Unfortunately, they are in fact thin there, so outside help is likely the best solution. 

But if the Angels made the playoffs, none of this would matter, would it?

Argument: IF the Angels had not signed Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton to those ridiculous contracts, the team could have more pitching; those contracts will hurt them in the long run.

Counter-argument: Yes, this is true, to an extent. But no, they were not dumb signings. 

When you have the chance to sign the best player/s on the market, and you have the money to keep building around them, you do it. There is so much convenient second-guessing in hindsight here as well. I don't believe most of it. 

Are you really going to tell me you would've been disappointed in your team signing Albert Pujols? He is the greatest player of the past 11 years. You would've love it.

But if the Angels made the playoffs, none of this would matter, would it?

Argument: IF the Angels sell, they can replenish their farm system.

Counter-argument: Yes, they can. But who do they trade? Aybar? Kendrick? Trumbo? 

Playing along with that, I would package a deal around Trumbo. I love his power, but playing half his games at the Big A, he doesn't hit the doubles needed to be a successful middle of the order hitter with the Angels. From Vladdy, to Garrett Anderson, to Tim Salmon, to Don Baylor, all the best power hitters the Angels have had were great doubles hitters. And any time those players ventured into a hitters ballpark like Texas, they raked. Pujols actually adjusted last season, and hit 50 doubles, which was his highest total since 2004. That's what the Angels need in the middle of their lineup.

But if the Angels made the playoffs, none of this would matter, would it?

 

Conclusion

The Angels probably would've traded Segura, Corbin, Skaggs, and even Alexi Amarista and Tyler Chatwood any way. Here's why...

Let's say Nick Adenhart (RIP) is in the Angels' rotation right now. Let's say Kendrys Morales never broke his ankle. Right there are two tragedies that pulled this franchise back, perhaps all the way back to 2003, which was their last losing season before 2010, which was the season Morales' injury took place. 

Had those two been in the mix this whole time, I would bet a LOT that a healthy Morales eliminates the desperation that led to the Vernon Wells trade. Then, the Angels have up to $23 million to play with for pitching depth. 

So one can argue that Corbin, Skaggs, Amarista, and Chatwood would've been traded any way, because they likely would've been blocked by the pitching depth the Angels could've acquired in place of Wells' salary alone. Then, add Adenhart, and perhaps Haren to that depth, and baseball could've been looking back on a much more successful Angels franchise from 2010 to right now. 

Also, last season no one could've predicted that Albert Pujols would have such a terrible slump to start the season. It was just an unfortunate event that CJ Wilson suddenly developed a bone spur in his pitching elbow last season, which made his second half a stark contrast to his brilliant first half, and hindered his effectiveness in the first two months of this season. The fact that Dan Haren developed back and hip issues, which has turned him into a mediocre pitcher, is just out of everyone's control. And you can't tell me you knew Josh Hamilton would have such a miserable first two months of 2013.

These issues regarding the veterans stand alone by themselves, and are the realities of the game. They are the reason the Angels had to make the Greinke trade as well. It could happen to any high-market franchise. It's actually happening to the Yankees right now as well.

 

One Last Thing

What the Angels really need right now is better starting pitching, and more bullpen depth. They can go with the same approach they did last offseason, they just can't sign another Joe Blanton! Vargas and Tommy Hanson made sense. But everyone knew what was coming with Blanton. Now he's 2-13 with a WHIP of almost 1.60! 

Plus, Hanson just returned and looked like the pitcher who came up with the Braves. Vargas is set to return in a couple of weeks. Since the Angels are 32-25 in their last 57 games, and 14-9 in their last 23, that's like acquiring two starting pitchers for just two twenty-fifth men they can send to AAA or designate for assignment.

Sean Burnett will also be back soon, so there's the bullpen piece for the stretch run.

Jered Weaver has also been proving lately that had he been healthy during the seven weeks he missed, a lot of losing streaks would've been stopped. Even with Blanton's struggles, the Angels would be much closer with a healthy Weaver, and would likely be buyers right now.

The Angels may need to sit tight and just evaluate how the team performs through the end of the season, to see where they should focus in the offseason. The only big move I would really suggest is removing Blanton from the rotation. Perhaps a starter who can at least deliver league average numbers can be claimed off waivers -- the Angels just added JC Gutierrez off waivers from the Royals, and he could be a valuable depth piece.

Sure, there are issues, and a list of prospects the Angels might like to have back. But every team has issues, and every team has a long list of key prospects that got away. Talk to Rangers fans about Chris Davis and you might just bite your tongue. And remember, the only realistic outlook in sports is that anything can happen.

And if the Angels made the playoffs, none of this would matter, would it?