Monday, August 1, 2011

So the Texas Rangers made two trades at the July deadline and the Angels sat by silently. The howls of discontent have begun. I can already hear Terry Smith’s post-game show on Tuesday. Regardless of how the game plays out, the first call is going to start with an irate fan from Orange County demanding to know why the Angels didn’t make a move and how Terry can defend it.

I understand that after three years of making deadline moves to improve the team under Reagins that Angels fans had gotten used to the idea that the team would constantly make moves late in the season for the stretch. The trades under Reagins for Teixeira, Kazmir and Haren stood in stark contrast to all the non-moves made by Stoneman.

After championing the need for trades in years past, this year, I’m okay with the lack of moves. The reality is that there weren’t any major moves out there for the Angels to make or that they could have made to dramatically improve the team, especially when the long-term costs are considered.

At 59-50, the Angels are just 2.0 games in back of Texas with 53 games left to play. Their biggest need is to improve their offense. The Angels have the pitching to get the job done—they just need more guys to get on base and more guys to drive them in. Their biggest holes in their lineup come from the catcher’s spot and the third base spot.

Looking at all the players who moved teams in the last few days, there weren’t many impact bats that changed teams. Those that did get traded by and large were outfielders. While the Angels outfield as a whole is underperforming, they don’t have any vacancies in those positions. So, the biggest need that the Angels had couldn’t be solved from outside of the organization.

As for the bullpen arms that moved, the Angels could have used one of them to help stabilize the pen. But, again, looking at the situation realistically, I don’t think the Angels could have or would have met the cost to get a reliever for the stretch drive. The long term consequences for making such a move would have easily outweighed any short-term benefit.

Simply put, the Angels have an upper tier farm club, but, most of their talent is in the lower parts of their organization. Perusing the 2011 Top-50 Prospect List (click here to view the list), many of the Angels’ top prospects have graduated to the Majors. Trout (#1), Conger (#3), Chatwood (#4), Walden (#5), and Trumbo (#7) have all made it to the Majors and will be part of the Angels’ future. Others, such as Segura (#2), Martinez-Mesa (#10), and Grichuk (#12) have all been set back by injuries. Most likely a good portion of the Angels Top-10 Prospects for 2012 are playing in Orem or Cedar Rapids.

The only Top-15 Prospects available in Double-A or higher are Richards (#6), Amarista (#9), Reckling (#11), Jimenez (#12), and Geltz (#15). While those players excite us at, they are hardly the impact players a team selling a Major Leaguer would consider as the centerpiece in a trade.

More importantly, moving any of those players could prove very damaging to the club long-term. With the way Pineiro is pitching (6.79 ERA in June and July combined), it’s likely that the Angels won’t resign him next year. That will force the Angels to seek another arm. With lots of teams in need of pitching, that may prove difficult to find. The Angels may need to go into Spring Training willing to let Richards and Reckling battle it out for the 5th spot in the rotation.

As for Amarista and Jimenez, they are critical to the depth in the organization. Amarista has already shown his versatility by covering both 2B and the OF. Jimenez will the backup for 3B. A bullpen arm—even one as good as what the Rangers got, is not worth the risk of having no organizational depth. Angels fans know all too well how a lack of organizational depth can hurt a ball club.

So, putting it all together, this year, there weren’t many players available who could have helped the Angels and the Angels didn’t have much in the way to offer. If they did make a move, they probably would have grossly overpaid (by trading Trout, Conger, or Richards) for someone who may not have contributed much to the team’s success in the next 53 games.

Mike Scioscia was right when he said that the improvements to the club have to come internally. The offense can be solved by having some of the veteran players pick up their game and having some of the younger players make some more adjustments to maximize their skills.

Don’t get me wrong: The Angels will need to address their needs. However, now was not the right time to do so. If there’s anything that can be learned from the housing and consumer bubbles that led to the current recession, it’s never wise to mortgage one’s future for a very short-term gain. The better time to address their needs will be in the offseason when they can add another impact bat or two to the lineup.

Overall, the Angels have been making the necessary adjustments to win the A. L. West. They have been winning series. They have gained ground on Texas. They have been one of the hottest teams over the past 35 games. The Angels can still control their fate because they have plenty of head-to-head games remaining against the Rangers. The race is hardly over.

For once, I don’t care that the Rangers made some moves and that the Angels did not. The games aren’t won or lost on paper or in the blogosphere. It’s time for the current group of Angels to step up their game and bring home another championship on the field.
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