Monday, July 26, 2010

By David Saltzer - Senior Writer

I like this trade. It’s the kind of trade that a fan should be excited about. It’s the kind of trade that meets the three criteria for being a good trade: It makes sense now; it makes sense for the future; and lastly, it was a fair deal.

Why It Makes Sense Now
While the starting pitching, particularly that from Joe Saunders, has been getting better this year, if the Angels are going to go anywhere in the post season this year, the Angels will need a formidable one-two punch in the playoffs. More importantly, if the Angels are going make the playoffs, they are going to need to take matters into their own hands and win more games and more series, particularly against Texas.

Pairing Dan Haren with Jered Weaver at the top of the rotation gives the Angels a much greater chance to do exactly that—win more games. Dan Haren is far more likely to give the Angels a quality start over the remainder of the season than Joe Saunders. With several days off remaining for the Angels in the second half, the combination of Jered Weaver and Dan Haren could account for almost 50% of the remaining games for the team this year. Having nearly half of the remaining games started by “aces”, particularly those against Texas, will have a dramatic effect on the race this year. This season just may come down to the final series between the two clubs, and having Haren may make a big difference in those final four games.

Similarly, the combination of Jered Weaver and Dan Haren will make for a more potent tandem in the post season than the Angels have had in the past. It will allow the Angels to decide between Ervin Santana and Joel Pineiro as the third starter, depending on the matchup, rather than forcing the team to start both. Having either Santana or Pineiro in reserve will bolster the bullpen (a major source of weakness for the team this year) while also allowing the Angels to have options if they are forced into a 1-game playoff or a long series.

In making this trade, the Angels did not exhaust all of their trading chips. The Angels still have plenty of options to consider for improving their offense presently (which is still a big need), such as trading Juan Rivera, Howie Kendrick, or Mike Napoli, along with some minor leaguers to improve their offense right now. I do not believe that Tony Reagins is done, and believe that more help for the offense is coming.

Finally, trading for Haren deprives several of the Angels’ opponents, such as the Yankees and Red Sox, from getting him. That will make their run for the playoffs easier and will make their chances in the post-season greater.

Why It Makes Sense For The Future
Besides Joe Saunders, the Angels traded prospects Patrick Corbin, Rafael Rodriguez and a Player To Be Named Later (PTBNL). Rumor has it that the PTBNL is left-handed pitcher Tyler Skaggs. While lost Corbin and Skaggs will dent the Angels’ minor league depth in pitching, it still leaves the organization with top pitching prospects Fabio Martinez-Mesa, Garrett Richards, Trevor Reckling, Tyler Chatwood, Michael Kohn, and Jordan Walden (just to name a few). The Angels could afford to give up three pitchers for Haren because they have been drafting and developing a bevy of players who are all recognized for being talented pitchers. The trade for Dan Haren is as much a tribute to the scouting and drafting work of Eddie Bane and his staff as well as the developmental work done by Abe Flores and his staff.

In getting Haren, the Angels got an ace pitcher signed to a reasonable contract for the next two seasons. They even have a reasonable option for Haren in 2013, meaning that they will have a bona fide ace for the next few years to go along with Jered Weaver. That will make the Angels the odds-on favorites for the next few years as Texas is unlikely to be able to afford to keep Cliff Lee and Seattle and Oakland are unlikely to be afford an elite pitcher. If the Angels can get Scott Kazmir to return to form, they could be ranked with the Yankees or Red Sox as the odds-on favorites to win it all in 2011.

More importantly, though, having secured Haren, the Angels can turn their attention to improving other areas of their team during the upcoming offseason such as improving their offense and third base. While the Yankees may have to engage in a bidding war for Cliff Lee—a war that they will have to win—the Angels can focus their attention to players such as Carl Crawford. The Yankees may have to commit more in resources than they would like to obtain Lee, which may make them more hesitant to engage in other bidding wars for luxury items for their team.

In recruiting elite free agents, it is easier to land them if they believe that the team is committed to winning in the future. Having Dan Haren in the rotation is a great way to show potential free agents that the Angels are committed to winning now and in the future.

Why It Was A Fair Deal
No doubt the pundits will call this a salary dump for Arizona. And, no doubt, the money issues played a big role in why the deal was made. But, realistically, Arizona was not in a position to compete for the N.L. West and needed to retool the team. Unfortunately, they did not have the pieces they needed internally to do so, and needed to make more drastic changes than they could do in the offseason.

In getting Joe Saunders, the Diamondbacks got a middle of the rotation pitcher who will most likely perform better in the National League. More importantly, they are getting two young left-handers in Corbin and Skaggs and a fringe prospect in Rodriguez. The Diamondbacks will be able to build around Corbin and Skaggs over the next few years while having Saunders hold down a spot in their rotation. They will get salary relief while they begin the process of building in a new direction.

For the Angels, they got an improvement in the rotation without creating future holes in the organization. The Angels have the talent on the farm to continue to feed players into the Angels rotation without bloating their payroll. The Angels have held onto their key prospects while making the team better for now. In short, both teams gave and received talent and filled their needs.

This deal was a deal that was a good for now and a better deal for later. The Angels solidified themselves for 2010 both on the field and with their fanbase. They showed that they have not abandoned 2010 while not handicapping themselves for the future.

It was a good deal.
Love to hear what you think!

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