Monday, June 8, 2015

By Robert Cunningham, Staff Writer - 

As of Friday, June 5th, 2015, FanGraphs Projected End of Season Standings has the Angels a hair ahead of the Tigers, Rays, and Twins for the 2nd Wild Card spot.

On the assumption that these projected standings continue to hold, as Major League Baseball approaches the trade deadline, what will the Angels do to try and shore up a lineup that, in the first 1 ½ months of the season, ranked dead last in hard hit contact rate?

Can we solve the woes the Angels are currently experiencing in Left Field, Catcher, 2nd Base, 3rd Base and DH? Does the team need more veteran starting pitching depth (the proverbial ace)? What about the bullpen?

The answers aren’t necessarily clear and easy.

When you’re making a run at the playoffs you generally want to acquire proven, veteran players with strong track records. Those types of players have a price and Jerry Dipoto is likely limited by team payroll and loathes gutting the farm system to pay that costly bill.

Identifying younger players that can contribute immediately is also difficult because success is fleeting in baseball, particularly for inexperienced players. You may find a bargain but the truly elite prospects cost just as much as the veteran players in some cases.

Ultimately, however, when you have a chance to push your team over the top and secure a playoff berth you take it. Dipoto’s “moving window of contention” is supposed to be exactly that: Making a run for the playoffs each and every year.

With that in mind what are the Angels immediate and long-term needs?

In the short term the Angels badly need a regular, everyday left fielder (the recently acquired Nieuwenhuis is strictly a platoon option that may not stick), more stability at 2nd base, better defense at 3rd base, better offense at catcher (although that has picked up in the last 3 weeks), improved on-base ability, more hard-hit contact, and possibly more relief help.

Long term (1-4 years) the Angels need to acquire/develop a replacement for Erick Aybar at shortstop, potentially a 2nd baseman if any of the current crop of candidates don’t work out, starting and relief pitching, and they need to start considering a full-time replacement for Pujols at 1st base.

The core of this team, over the next 4-5 years, includes Mike Trout, Kole, Calhoun, Albert Pujols, Kyle Kubitza, Garrett Richards, Andrew Heaney, and Sean Newcomb.

Cases could be made for other players, such as Carlos Perez or Nick Tropeano for instance, but the group above is about as close to long-term locks as you can get for the Halo’s at this point in time.

Preamble aside we’ll examine some potential trades that could solve some of our woes in a series of potential trade target articles to follow over the coming days, starting with two targets on the Brewers roster.

Keep in mind, when reading these articles, that if Arte Moreno makes the Luxury Tax Threshold a ceiling the Angels will approximately have $10MM-$13MM available in 2015 payroll space.

Finally this next month will really determine the Angels fate. The trade market is nonexistent right now with so many teams still in contention and it is really up to the current group of players to step up and play good baseball.

If at the end of this month the Angels are still in the mix for a Wild Card spot or even the Division, you’ll see Jerry make moves, like some you are about to read about, to shore up the offense and bullpen most likely.

However if the Angels don’t pull it together soon you’ll hear players like C.J. Wilson, Hector Santiago, Erick Aybar, Chris Iannetta, and David Freese mentioned frequently in trade talks and, ultimately, moved in trade before the deadline.
Love to hear what you think!

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