At the beginning of the season, it would have been foolish to assume that the Angels would be looking for starting pitching at the trade deadline.  With the addition of C.J. Wilson to a rotation that already included ace Jered Weaver, reliable workhorse Dan Haren, and no-hitter hurler Ervin Santana, the Angels were poised to take their place as one of the main superpowers in MLB.  However, after a rough start by new franchise face Albert Pujols and struggles within the bullpen, the Angels found themselves more than a handful of games back from the first place Texas Rangers.

Though things have gotten better for the Angels with the emergence of rookie phenom Mike Trout and closer Ernesto Frieri, things aren’t exactly perfect.

Despite all the pre-season hype, the starting rotation has not been able to live up to its expectations.  Until just recently, a lingering back problem had left Haren largely inadequate for most of the first half while Santana’s inconsistencies have Halo fans pulling out their hair.  Garrett Richards and Jerome Williams have been less-than-reliable filling the 5th spot in the order, while newly-acquired Brad Mills was fantastic in the one and only start he was given this season.

While Weaver (13-1, 2.26 ERA) and Wilson (9-6, 2.89) have been superb in 2012, the rest of the rotation – excluding Mills who was sent down to AAA immediately following his debut – holds a 20-27 record with a 4.84 ERA over 59 games.  These are hardly what you would call quality numbers. 

The Angels can’t afford to go into the postseason with a rotation consisting of just two reliable starters: especially if they are forced to contend in the one-game wild card play-in.  If they are to have any real chance of catching the Rangers and avoiding that wild card game, now is the time for the Angels to make a move that will bolster their pitching staff. 

With the trade deadline less than 5 days away, here’s a quick look at the starters who have been linked to the Angels most frequently and how they stack up against the competition in the AL.

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James Shields (TB)

2012 Stats: 8-7, 4.52 ERA, 134 SO, 1.46 WHIP

Career Stats: 80-69, 4.00 ERA, 1151 SO, 1.25 WHIP

Postseason: 2-4, 4.98 ERA, vs TEX: 6-2, 3.32 ERA, vs CWS: 3-3, 4.95 ERA, vs DET: 5-1, 3.66 ERA, vs NYY: 6-13, 4.85 ERA

Contract: ’13: $9MM Club Option, ’14: $12MM Club Option

What is Tampa Bay looking for? Rumor has it the Rays are looking for a long-term solution to the impending OF vacancy which will open up after B.J. Upton presumably leaves the team via free agency this winter.  They also appear to be in the market for a catching prospect and someone to fill Shields’ spot in the rotation.

What does that mean for the Angels? Sources had the Angels in talks to send Peter Bourjos, Hank Conger, and Ervin Santana to Tampa Bay for Shields earlier in the week.  While those rumors may have slowed down, many believe there is still a possibility that the two teams can reach an agreement.  The Angels previously made a trade with Tampa Bay in 2009: sending IF Sean Rodriguez to the Rays for LHP Scott Kazmir.  The bad taste left after that trade and Kazmir’s subsequent collapse might cause the Angels to take a closer look at Shields before agreeing to anything this time around.

Overview: Shields is a reliable pitcher who put up fantastic numbers in 2011 when he went 16-12 with a 2.82 ERA and finished 3rd in Cy Young voting.  However, he has struggled at times this season and may be showing signs of aging.  While his club options are considerably less than those the Angels are considering for Haren and Santana – making him a possible long-term solution – he has struggled in his 6 career postseason starts: a trait that makes me weary as the Halos seem to be approaching a return to the playoffs.

 

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Zack Greinke (MIL)

2012 Stats: 9-3, 3.44 ERA, 122 SO, 1.20 WHIP

Career Stats: 85-76, 3.79 ERA, 1254 SO, 1.25 WHIP

Postseason: 1-1, 6.48 ERA, vs TEX: 3-5, 2.81 ERA, vs CWS: 7-10, 3.98 ERA, vs DET: 11-6, 2.84 ERA, vs NYY: 2-4, 6.45 ERA

Contract: ’13: Free Agency

What is Milwaukee looking for? Reports had the Brewers also looking for help from the catcher’s position.  This may or may not still be the case after activating Jonathon Lucroy from the 15-day DL and designating George Kottaras for assignment this morning.  Martin Maldonado has also been more than serviceable in the back-up role: batting .275 with 5 HR and 19 RBI in 49 games.  Additionally, the Brewers are said to have serious interest in Angels IF Jean Segura.

What does that mean for the Angels? With both Erick Aybar and Howard Kendrick signed to 5-year contracts, one would assume that Segura might become disposable.  His recent call-up to the big leagues may serve as more than just an attempt to increase SS depth, but rather as a way for the Halos to showcase the 22-year-old Domincan SS/2B.  While many within the Angels organization might be opposed to dealing Segura, the opportunity to add a top-tier arm like Greinke might change their minds.

Overview: While the Brewers don’t seem to be as fitting a trade partner as the Rays, this doesn’t necessarily put the kibosh on any on-going discussions.  Greinke has come out to say that he admires the Angels organization and, if traded to Anaheim, would consider signing an extension at the end of the season.  The price tag on Greinke will undoubtedly be higher than the club options on Haren and Santana, but it is my belief that the upside to the former Cy Young winner will also be substantially greater.

 

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Josh Johnson (MIA)

2012 Stats: 6-7, 4.14 ERA, 105 SO, 1.34 WHIP

Career Stats: 54-30, 3.14 ERA, 772 SO, 1.34 WHIP

Postseason: n/a, vs TEX: 0-0, 1.29 ERA, vs CWS: 1-1, 3.72 ERA, vs DET: n/a, vs NYY: 1-0, 1.29 ERA

Contract: ’13: $13.75MM Contract, ’14: Free Agency

What is Miami looking for? Who the hell knows?  I’m not even sure the Marlins know what they’re looking for.  Reports came out today saying that Miami was interested in a package similar to the one the Braves sent to Texas in exchange for Mark Teixeira back in 2007: a package which included Elvis Andrus, Matt Harrison, Neftali Feliz, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, and Beau Jones.  While Miami might not get the type of haul Texas received, they may just be crazy enough to trade Johnson anyway.

What does that mean for the Angels? I imagine a trade with the Marlins would be for the usual suspects we’ve heard about in the past.  However, the emergence of Justin Ruggiano might lessen the need for an OF like Bourjos in Miami.  A prospect like Segura could be a long-term upgrade over Emilio Bonifacio at 2B and the Fish could always use more pitching depth and help at first base, with Kendrys Morales being a possible upgrade over aging veteran Carlos Lee.  Would a package consisting of Segura, Richards, and Morales be enough to sway the Marlins?  Would the Angels even offer such a trade package?  We’ll have to see.

Overview: With the exception of two injury-shortened seasons, Johnson has been one of the more reliable pitchers in baseball over the last few years.  While he has only pitched over 200 innings once in his career, there is no reason to believe that he can’t hit that mark again this season.  Johnson has come out to say that he would prefer to pitch near his home in Oklahoma or his wife’s home in Southern CA, but Angels fans might be weary of a 28-year-old pitcher with a history of shoulder issues and already one Tommy John surgery under his belt.

 

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Wade Davis (TB)

2012 Stats: 1-0, 2.70 ERA, 52 SO, 1.18 WHIP

Career Stats: 26-22, 4.06 ERA, 306 SO, 1.34 WHIP

Postseason: 1-0, 2.45 ERA, vs TEX: 0-2, 19.29 ERA, vs CWS: 3-1, 1.91 ERA, vs DET: 0-0, 3.42 ERA, vs NYY: 2-3, 4.28 ERA

Contract:  Signed thru 2014, 4 yrs/$10.1M; ’15: $7MM Club Option; ’16: $8MM Club Option; ’17: $10MM Club Option

What is Tampa Bay looking for? See above.

What does that mean for the Angels? See above.

Overview: Davis is a decent young pitcher who has spent time as both a starter and reliever over the course of his career in Tampa Bay, and has seen success as both.  Rumors began to circulate this morning that the Angels were not only checking in on Shields, but Davis as well.  The thinking seems to be that Davis would be a middle-of-the-road back-end starter who could also serve to add depth to an Angels bullpen which struggles at times.  However, given the fact that he is currently under team control through 2014 with club options for 2015-2017, I have a hard time believing the Rays would actually let him go.  Unless, that is, the price is right.  And if we’re going to be giving away the moon to get a young Rays pitcher with a long-term team-friendly contract, I would much rather have Jeremy Hellickson.

 

So, there you have it, folks!  The list of notable suitors for the Angels at the 2012 trade deadline.

Tell me: who would you like to see join the starting rotation?