Every year around this time, teams that aren’t playoff bound begin dreaming of scenarios in which they trade their only good player(s) for a package of prospects that will turn the entire organization around. Meanwhile playoff bound teams, or at least fans of teams that THINK they are playoff bound dream up trades in which they can send a package of mediocre prospects for the biggest stars in the game that will lead them to a World Series championship. The entire purpose of this article is to attempt to take a rational, non-bias look at the situation the Angels find themselves in and if a trade is in the works.
First thing’s first. Where are the Angels? At the all-star break they’re sitting at 48-38, four games behind the division leading Texas Rangers and in sole possession of first place in the Wild Card standings, three games ahead of the Tampa Bay Rays or a half game behind the second Wild Card team in Baltimore (whom the Angels have taken five of six games from in the last couple weeks). After a rough April, the Angels have been the best team in baseball. So what does this say for their second half outlook? If things continue the way they’ve been going, the Angels should be a indeed-heat with the Rangers for first place in the West and should be the favorite to win one of the Wild Card spots.
Second, what do the Angels need? What was supposed to be their strength has to be a serious weakness. After Jered Weaver and CJ Wilson, the oration is very unsteady. Ervin Santana is as likely to give up 9 runs in two innings as two runs in 9 innings. Dan Haren was being thrashed before going on the DL with back issues. Garrett Richards, despite having incredible “stuff” has been hit hard and is missing his spots. Jerome Williams is having trouble breathing and Brad Mills was getting shelled in AAA. Their bullpen is rounding into form with LaTroy Hawkins and Kevin Jepsen magically transforming into legitimate 7th inning setup men. The offense, including third base has been more than adequate. So the Angels need a starting pitcher. As a long shot, the Angels could pick up a reliever, as Dipoto loves relief depth.
Third, what is available? According to the definitive source of all things awesome (The Outside Corner) Cole Hamels, Zack Greinke, Wandy Rodriguez, James Shields, Felix Hernandez, Anibal Sanchez, Matt Garza, Edinson Volquez, Ryan Dempster, Jeremy Guthrie, Francisco Liriano, Brandon McCarthy, Joe Blanton, Joe Saunders, Jonathan Sanchez, Bartolo Colon, Kevin Millwood and Randy Wolf may all be traded. In essence, there’s a TON of starting pitching out there.
Fourth, what’s the price? Obviously this varies, and Dipoto himself said the market has not taken shape yet, so it’s impossible to decipher. But if any of the previous deadlines have taught us anything, it’s that two to three good prospects will usually get a contending a good rental. However, this could change because of the new collective bargaining agreement. Before, if a team traded for a player that left via free agency, that team would receive compensatory draft picks in return. According to the new rules, the team that the player began the season with would instead receive the compensatory picks, not the team that traded for said player. This means that teams probably cannot ask as much in return for key players at the deadline.
Fifth, what do the Angels have? At the major league level, Maicer Izturis. At the minor league level, the prospects that would hold value are OF Kole Calhoun, SP Ariel Pena, SS Jean Segura, OF Travis Witherspoon, 1B C.J. Cron, 2B Taylor Lindsey, 3B Luis Jimenez and 3B Kaleb Cowart. Peter Bourjos? No, Jerry Dipoto already made it clear he is completely unavailable.
Sixth, what is likely? The Angels have a glut of outfielders. Even if Hunter walks in free agency and Wells is traded or DFA’d, Trumbo, Trout and Bourjos would be the starting outfielders while Calhoun and Witherspoon would provide depth. Chances are, one of Witherspoon and Calhoun can be traded, most likely Witherspoon, because Calhoun fits the Dipoto mold and hits left handed. Dipoto was quick to lock up Kendrick and Aybar and with Stamets and Yarbrough being drafted this year and looking good in Cedar Rapids, it seems entirely possible that both Segura and Lindsey could be dealt. The Angels don’t have a lot of 3B depth, but Jimenez just doesn’t fit the Angels need (patient LHB), and Cowart does. C.J. Cron probably won’t be traded because he seems destined to take over DH if/when Kendrys Morales leaves.
So there it is, Witherspoon, Jimenez, Lindsey and Segura are the expendable pieces. That’s enough to land whatever piece is necessary. But now comes the big question, what is necessary? The Angels fortunes could change within the next month, but the most likely candidates the Angels would pursue would be pitchers that don’t cost a lot of money (the Angels are already sitting at 154 million in payroll) and won’t cost a tremendous amount of prospects. Considering that the offseason free agent market is flush with available starting pitching, it seems the Angels wouldn’t hesitate to pull the trigger on something short term.
Given that the ball club is veteran oriented, chances are Ervin Santana and Dan Haren will be given every opportunity to prove themselves and stay in the rotation. So the Angels won’t be looking for the one missing piece in any deal. It remains more likely that the Angels will bring in a starter that can either spend time in the rotation or bullpen and can keep Richards and Mills in AAA where they can further hone their craft. The most likely targets for the Angels are RHP Anibal Sanchez from Miami, Ryan Dempster from Chicago, Francisco Liriano from Minnesota, Jon Sanchez from Kansas City and Joe Saunders from Arizona.
Given his relatively low salary, familiarity with the Angels, left handedness (balancing the rotation) and Jerry Dipoto’s contacts in Arizona, I believe that Joe Saunders is the Angels most likely trade target. If Arizona falls any further out of contention, they’ll make him available. The D-Backs are already very strong in terms of starting pitching depth thanks to the Dan Haren trade that Dipoto made when he was the interim GM in Arizona. The D-Backs do appear to have a need at third base, shortstop and second base though. In their minor league system, they have three very good options at third base, but no strong options to back up Stephen Drew and Aaron Hill up the middle.
It’s doubtful the Angels would trade Jean Segura for a few months of Joe Saunders, but I do think Arizona would find some intriguing pieces in the Angels minor league system. I believe the Angels will trade 2B Taylor Lindsey (Arizona native) and OF Travis Witherspoon for LHP Joe Saunders.