When it comes to the Major League Baseball trading deadline, there is a propensity to put all the teams into one of two columns. Teams are either “buyers” or “sellers.” Truthfully, the “standing pat” list is not terribly exciting. The Los Angeles Angels must be buyers, but they do not have the classic traits of a team that is in the mood for shopping. Under the circumstances, the Angels may be quietly tempted to stay out of the marketplace around the trade deadline. If a label is required, perhaps it is appropriate to call the team “stuck.”
Angels GM Jerry Dipoto knows what the team will be doing. Recently, he was quoted as says, “We’re not buyers. We’re not sellers. We’re the Angels.” That is a profound statement, but ultimately it is completely unhelpful in terms of gauging team strategy. Do you get the feeling that Dipoto is a bit unsure?
Dipoto has reason to be uncertain about what the Angels will do at the deadline. After all, this team was arguably supposed to contend for the division title this season. The Angels weren’t exactly preseason favorites to win the World Series, but when you add Josh Hamilton to a lineup that already has Albert Pujols, Mike Trout, Mark Trumbo and Jered Weaver, there should be some expectation of success.
Truthfully, other outlets are not sure either. Can you blame them? As of July 11, the Angels were 11 games out of first place in the American League West. A disappointing year, to be sure. Statistically, that is a number that is hard to evaluate in terms of the rest of season. Could the Angels overcome the deficit? Certainly. However, nine games starts to get into dangerous territory. A losing streak of reasonable length could doom the season.
The Angels have not spent the same money in terms of payroll as the free-spending Los Angeles Dodgers ($220 million) or the New York Yankees ($203 million). However, the Angels have the seventh-ranked payroll ($127 million) and a number expectation-creating contracts. It isn’t as if there is a clear rule about payroll in baseball, but when you consistently sign the big names, there is an assumption from fans that contention is a year-by-year pursuit.
The offense is arguably in good shape, even with Josh Hamilton’s .229 average. He does have 14 home runs. For the Angels, the problem is pitching. Los Angeles is 24th in batting average allowed (.260), 27th in team ERA (4.31) and 25th in WHIP (1.37). Translation? The Angels need pitching.
Do the Angels go out and get an above-average starter by giving up a package of mid-level minor league talent, some of whom could be future pitching assets? Unfortunately, some of those deals end up on “worst trades” lists. Yovani Gallardo of the Milwaukee Brewers has a no-trade clause that includes the Angels. Ricky Nolasco has already been traded to the Dodgers. Might the Angels be able to get Matt Garza from the Chicago Cubs?
Certainly fans can come up with players for a “we just need to get rid of” list. If only it were that simple. Unfortunately, teams are not going to take the players that are expensive and unproductive. Specifically, teams are not going to be lining up to get Joe Blanton (2-12, 5.53 ERA). The Angels would probably like to have a do-over on the Josh Hamilton deal, but that is moot now. Even with the recent power surge, no one is taking that contract.
Ultimately, the Angels have really built their team with a plan of winning now, or at least being in contention. This was supposed to work. Jered Weaver and C.J. Wilson were supposed to be an effective one-two punch. Jason Vargas and Joe Blanton were supposed to provide a reliable veteran presence. Unfortunately, Weaver and Wilson have been less than stellar, Vargas has been hurt and Blanton has been dreadful. The bullpen has been a work in progress.
Because of the age of the stars, the Angels have put pressure on themselves to make a run every year and be buyers at the deadline. Pujols (33) and Hamilton (32) are not getting any younger. It would different if the roster was filled with 21-year-old Mike Trout-type players. Then the Angels would be in a position to be a bit more patient.
Even if Dipoto would rather not be pressured into making a deal for another starter that will hopefully solidify the back of the rotation, he may not have a choice. Owner Arte Moreno went after the big stars in Pujols and Hamilton. The team must be buyers, even if they have to give up more prospects. This is Major League Baseball, and when you have the seventh-ranked payroll, you go shopping at the deadline.
More from this contributor:
Worst #1 NBA Draft Picks of All Time
The Best Baseball Catch I Ever Saw In Person
My First Trip to Yankee Stadium