Mike Trout is slashing a ridiculous .307/.456/.603, with 26 home runs and a 7.2 WAR in just 101 games. Andrelton Simmons is having the best year of his career offensively, and is still an incredible defender (12 DRS, 18.5 UZR/50). Shohei Ohtani made a graceful transition to Major League Baseball, looking dominant on the hill (3.10 ERA, 11.1 K/9) and solid at the plate (.279 BA, 8 HR, 23 RBI). Yet, the Angels are now facing the harsh reality that they could miss the playoffs again for the fourth time in five years.
The Angels have stumbled into the second half at 49-48, nine games back from this year’s surprise Cinderella team, the Seattle Mariners. They are also trailing the Oakland A’s, another surprise contender. A few games into the second half, they’ve dipped under .500 (50-52 record). With a stacked farm system and an unpredictable front office, they could bolster their roster and make the final push to the playoffs. Amidst the AL West bloodbath, the Angels have three options – buy, sell, or stand pat.
Why the Angels Should Buy
The Angels have Mike Trout, and that should be sufficient reason to drop everything and aim for the playoffs. Also, the window is running out. Waiting to make another splash means several things; one less season of Mike Trout, the continuing decline of Albert Pujols, and the loss of core pieces to free agency. For the Halos to make a deep run and hopefully catch up to the big teams in the West, they’ll need to bolster their bullpen and add rotation depth.
To paint a picture of the Angels’ lack of pitching depth, here is their current rotation:
You may be wondering, who is Deck McGuire? Isn’t Felix Pena a reliever? McGuire was a pickup from Baltimore, and in his homecoming start, he served up 5 home runs en route to an 8-3 loss. Pena was a waiver claim from Chicago, and has been making 5 inning or so starts as a reliever-turned-starter. For a team looking to crack the postseason, this simply won’t do it. On a positive note, Shohei Ohtani has been cleared to throw and has a chance to pitch down the stretch. Instead of relying on Ohtani, though, they should go out and add a healthy arm.
Also, the Halos could use some help in the 9th. While the relief corps has been better as of late, they’ll need a more intimidating top three than Blake Parker, Cam Bedrosian, and Justin Anderson. Hansel Robles and Jose Alvarez have been serviceable, but upgrades can soften the blow of this year’s big injuries.
Perhaps the strongest reason for adding is that they still have a solid core to work with. Mike Trout and Andrelton Simmons are having fantastic seasons, Tyler Skaggs and Andrew Heaney have impressed, Ohtani has had success hitting and pitching, and Kole Calhoun’s bat is finally catching up with his glove after a brutal start. Justin Upton has been as streaky as you’d expect, but on a good week, he’s a high caliber bat. If Ian Kinsler, Albert Pujols, Kole Calhoun, and Upton find consistency, their offense can be much improved and more ferociousl. The Angels certainly need depth, but could be a few quality pieces away from matching their March/April highs.
Who they could target:
- Raisel Iglesias: Go big or go home. The Reds’ flamethrowing righty would anchor the Angels’ struggling ‘pen, moving Blake Parker into a setup role. Iglesias has had a solid season, posting a 2.36 ERA and a 1.2 WAR in 42.0 innings. Only three relievers have a lower ERA, and two of them (Keynan Middleton and Blake Wood) underwent season-ending surgeries. Acquiring Iglesias would also take the innings load off of rookie Justin Anderson and lefty Jose Alvarez. The biggest plus is that Iglesias is controllable until 2021. With the Angels nowhere near a full rebuild, Iglesias provides a long-term solution for their short term problem.
- Mike Moustakas: the infield seemed basically set for the Angels this year but a lot has gone awry. Zack Cozart had a season-ending surgery, Ian Kinsler has struggled, and Luis Valbuena has been like he was last year, albeit with less pop. Moose would give the Halos a lefty bat in the middle of the order, something they sorely need. The caveat is that he is only under contract for the remainder of the season.
- Ivan Nova: The Angels need depth…badly. Enter Ivan Nova. The Pittsburgh right-hander isn’t cheap money-wise, but shouldn’t cost much for a serviceable middle of the rotation arm. Nova has pitched 102.2 innings, posting a 4.38 ERA and a 0.5 WAR. If they can swallow the remaining salary and $8.5M next year, he can give the Angels some much needed depth.
- J.A. Happ: Once again, a cheap but effective middle-of-the-rotation arm is just what the Angels could use right now. An All Star this year, Happ has posted a solid but unspectacular 4.29 ERA in 109 innings. The Jays are fading fast, so he’ll be readily available to those willing to take on his remaining salary this year.
Why the Angels Should Sell
2018 has been a tough year, and with the Mariners and A’s showing no signs of stopping, it may be a good idea to lay low, ship off some pieces, and prepare for a run in 2019.
The Halos have struggled mightily in the ‘pen, been ravaged by injuries, and suffer from an inconsistent offense in 2018. Pending free agents and potential trade chips Luis Valbuena, Ian Kinsler have had brutal years, leading to questions of them returning to Anaheim at all. Plus, Garrett Richards, their most movable piece, had TJ. So, for the rest of the year, they’ll be without: Garrett Richards, Zack Cozart, J.C. Ramirez, Alex Meyer, Keynan Middleton, Blake Wood, John Lamb, Jake Jewell, Matt Shoemaker, and Rene Rivera.
Phew. That’s a lot of names. With a core of their rotation and bullpen missing, it may make sense to play the season out and send off ancillary pieces to revamp for 2019. This also allows them to take more caution with rookie phenom Shohei Ohtani, who was revealed to have a Grade 2 UCL sprain. He’s been cleared to throw, but the Halos can be extra careful to hopefully clear up his uncertain future. Selling off smaller pieces also allows them to bolster a much improving farm system headlined by Jo Adell, Brandon Marsh, Griffin Canning, Jahmai Jones, and Jose Suarez.
The Angels, in selling off veteran pieces, can open up more playing time for rookies David Fletcher and Jose Briceno, along with young pitchers Felix Pena and Justin Anderson. Fletcher and Anderson have been pretty solid, so giving them more playing time will benefit their progression.
2019 could be a big year for the Angels. Once again they’ll have the one and only Mike Trout, Andrelton Simmons, Shohei Ohtani (at full health), Justin Upton, a healthy Zack Cozart, Tyler Skaggs, Andrew Heaney, Jaime Barria, David Fletcher, and others. Investing into next year and protecting their minor league assets could benefit their future.
Who they could trade:
- Blake Parker: Parker broke out with the Halos in 2017, eventually pushing his way to the closer role. This year, he’s been a bit shaker, but still effective. Parker has pitched to the tune of a 3.05 ERA in 44.1 innings, whiffing 50 and walking 15. A reason for concern could be his 7.5 H/9, which is up 2.6 from the last year’s. Some teams who could be interested include the Atlanta Braves
- Martín Maldonado: the catching options currently in the MLB are, well, not too great. Maldonado isn’t a step above the rest, but could garner interest (like Kinsler) as a depth piece. While he’s been fairly pedestrian with the bat, he is one of the stronger defensive backstops in the league. ‘Maldy’ won his first career Gold Glove in 2017, and led AL catchers in games started. If a team is willing to look beyond his offensive output, he could be an option to sell.
- Ian Kinsler: an upcoming free agent with mediocre numbers, Kinsler would probably garner little interest. It’s a bit of a stretch to sell him, but a team could look for depth in a playoff run. Kinsler still has an impressive career over 13 seasons, posting a .271 BA with 245 home runs and 233 stolen bases. He’s a four-time All Star with five seasons in the top 10 for dWAR. On pedigree alone, he could be sent off to a team with playoff hopes.
The trade deadline is a tricky situation for the Angels; They are stuck in between contention and mediocrity, so they’ll need a big couple months to turn it around. They can go for it and hope to leapfrog Oakland and Seattle, or stand back and look towards the future. Either way, Billy Eppler and Co. have a lot of work on their hands.
(Image via Yardbarker.com)