Wednesday, July 30, 2008

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By David Saltzer - Columnist

When the pundits talk about what this trade means for the Halos, most likely they will talk about what effect it will have on the Angels heading into October and beyond. What they most likely won’t talk about is how this is a smart and bold organizational move.

By making this trade, Reagins sent multiple messages both inside and outside of the organization. Inside the organization, the message was twofold. First it sent the message that this team is committed to winning it all this year. Second, it sent the message that the Angels are willing to make moves to clear logjams within the system.

Winning it all this year is a strong and different signal from management than in previous years. It means that unlike previous years, management recognizes the talent this team has and is willing to gamble on it. No longer are we going to hear about how a certain trade proposal was “too high”, we’re going to hear how much Teixeira will help us reach the ultimate prize. So far, the players interviewed about the trade understand this and have been more than receptive of the message==the’ve been enthused by the message.

Additionally, with this move, Reagins sent the message that we will clear organization logjams as talent emerges below it. In the worst case scenario for this trade, one in which Teixeira only stays for 2 months, trading Kotchman relieves pressure inside the organization and nets us 2 more draft picks. Since our draft philosophy is to draft the best talent available, regardless of position, we have built up several logjams within our system. While not as gifted defensively, both Kendry Morales and Mark Trumbo may have higher offensive ceilings.

With our tendency to draft younger players, it makes it easier for us to continue to sign them to reasonable contracts by opening pathways for those who perform well. A talented prospect may be reluctant to sign with us if he foresees his upward path blocked and a management that is unwilling to clear it. He can use that logjam to negotiate a higher signing bonus or may be more tempted to reenter the draft by going to college.

By extending Teixeira, we can ensure that we will have the heart of a lineup that will allow us to promote players like Brandon Wood and Sean Rodriguez to insert into our lineup without relying entirely on them. Thus, we can have a steady mix of young an inexpensively talent to fill around a an offense that does not solely rely on Vlad. This will maximize our return on our investment in our prospects and maximize our investment in our veterans.

While the some fans may miss seeing a home-grown talent like Kotchman play, in order to maintain a perennial championship team, we will need to continue to develop players within the organization. And, as we develop the players, we cannot let our talent languish in the minors beyond its peak and risk potentially losing it when the player runs out of options or becomes a minor league free agent. It doesn’t do us any good to develop players only to see them succeed for other teams.

Outside of the organization, the messages are even more loud and clear. When Reagins was first announced as the new GM, many openly questioned whether or not he would clearly be pulling the strings. While we may never truly know the inner workings of the Angels management, on the surface this trade says that this is Reagins’ team and that he is running the show. As it stands, it appears that he convinced Arte Moreno to go against his policy of trading for potentially rental players to win it all this yar.

More importantly, this trade said that unlike some of his predecessors, Reagins is willing to move players that he has developed and he, or the organization, may have grown attached to in order to win it all. Reagins appears to understand that it is worthwhile to become attached to the players that we have developed. However, management’s ultimate loyalty needs to be to the fans who want to see a world champion team.

Additionally, it says that the Angels are once again willing to battle it out for supremacy of the LA baseball market. With the Dodgers struggling to hold onto a 500 record in a weak division, the Angels, with the best record in baseball, are in a position to gain fans and market share. Getting Teixeira and the attendant press associated with him will generate free publicity and buzz both locally and nationally.

Winning another World Series will make the Angels the top team to cover on the West Coast, will result in more nationally televised games, and more lead stories on newscasts. With the team nearly sold out in terms of potential season tickets, the best way for the Angels to increase revenue is to increase its market share. Through increased advertising dollars, fans will be able to still enjoy a day at the ballpark at a reasonable price while management can afford the payroll of an upper echelon team.

Finally, with this trade, Reagins is able to fulfill Arte Moreno’s statements about wanting to have a perennial championship team. Since his purchase of the team, Angels fans have languished at every trade deadline while watching other teams make deals. For a decade, the passage of the trade deadline without a major upgrade was a fait accompli. This deal sends the message that we aren’t willing to just “roll the dice” in the post season. Instead, we’re willing to take matters into our own hands to improve the odds.

As constituted, this team has the pitching and defense to more or less guarantee the post season. What it lacked was the hitting—especially the hitting to compete with the other AL contenders. The window for keeping all of this pitching together is dwindling, as we may lose K-Rod and Garland as free agents at the end of the season and the window on Vlad’s hitting may be closing as well. As any poker player knows, sometimes you have to go all in and risk it for the big payoff. With this trade, the Angels are making a bold organizational move for both now and the future by going for the big payoff.
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