The Angels have made two trades so far this offseason, and they could not differ more. The first one, the David Freese trade, most resembles the "big splash" transactions that have been a Halos' specialty dating back to 2009, where young talent and many years of team control are exchanged for a year or two of "proven talent." For those with short memories, here's a quick rundown on how that type of transaction has turned out:
Back on August 28th of 2009, the Angels acquired Scott Kazmir for three ‘scrubs' who never made a top 100 prospect list. The internet approved, generally. On the official Halosheaven poll, 66% of 1027 voters labeled the trade a "great move." Since then, Kazmir put up 0.2 b-WAR for the Halos at a cost of ~$20 mil, while two of those scrubs have combined for 9.7 b-WAR for the Rays. And the Rays still posses seven combined years of team control over Alex Torres and Sean Rodriguez.
On July 25th, 2010, Dan Haren came to the Angels from the Diamondbacks in exchange for Joe Saunders, Pat Corbin, Tyler Skaggs, and Rafael Rodriguez. I can't think of anyone who didn't like the deal for the Angels at the time (though please correct me if I'm wrong). Three years later, the Halos are still a bit ahead according to the B-Ref ledger, having enjoyed 6.6 WAR worth of Danny in exchange for 5 combined b-WAR from Corbin, Hokey Joe and Skaggs. However, Skaggs and Corbin combine for eleven remaining years of team control, so you can guess how this transaction will wind up looking.
The 2011 version isn't quite in the same category as the other trades, but hell, I'm practically trolling now, so I might as well do the math on the big splash. For the bargain basement price of $84 mil (ish. Don't want to do the research on the exact total right now since the Yanks complicated it), the Halos enjoyed .1 b-WAR of Vernon Wells. For that privilege, they shipped off Mike Napoli, who contributed 6.9 b-WAR over his remaining two cost-controlled years at a price of $15.2 mil, and Juan Rivera, who put up .5 b-WAR over the remainder of his contract for $5.2 mil. So .1 WAR at $840 mil per win, versus 7.4 b-WAR at the below-market price of $2.76 mil per win. Oof.
Then, on July 27th of 2012, the Halos shipped Jean Segura, John Hellweg, and Ariel Pena to Milwaukee in exchange for thirteen solid but ultimately futile Zach Grienke starts, which summed up to 1.4 b-WAR. 91% of HH'ers liked or loved this trade (though granted, there weren't really other options). Segura has already made us rue that day, posting 3.9 b-WAR in 2013, which more than balances out Hellweg's dreadful -1.3 b-WAR start to his big league career. Even if Hellweg and Pena never solve their control issues, five more years of Segura should turn the transaction into a Kazmir-sized debacle.
As Matt Welch put it so memorably, "win-now sucks when you don't win now."
By hemorrhaging so much talent, the Angels have dealt away both cash and, ultimately, playoff opportunities. The cost-controlled players that they discarded - the pool that Eddie Bane put together in his tenure as scouting director - contributed 18.4 b-WAR to their respective organizations in 2013 at a very reasonable cost of $13.8 million dollars, or $750,000 a win. The current market value of a win is under debate, but using a middling estimate of $6 million per, Angels' exiles delivered $96.5 million in surplus value in 2013. Sixteen MLB teams had payrolls lower than that.
All of which makes the Pete Bourjos and Randal Grichuk for David Freese and Fernando Salas trade so infuriating. I can stomach Freese for Bourjos: the latter is younger, cheaper, arguably better, and under control for an extra year, but for a team with Mike Trout and a hole (however self-imposed) at third base, Freese could actually contribute more to an Angels' playoff run than the Halos would have let Bourjos contribute. Even though the Angels have, I don't know, a 60-40 chance of loosing this trade by b-WAR and value on paper, they have a much better chance of realizing and leveraging a solid campaign from Freese than they did with flete Pete. I LOVE me some Bourjos, but could cope with his departure if this were the end of it.
What I don't understand, and what I can't forgive, is the addition of Grichuk. He'll never be a superstar, but he did make significant progress in 2013. He hits for legit pop to all fields, crushes lefties, doesn't strike out much, plays a fine right field, and won't embarrass himself in center. His ho-hum 2013 stats are due entirely to a 50 point swing from his career BABIP. He looks like a Sean Rodriguez/Jonny Gomes/Reed Johnson type role player to me, and those guys have made crucial contributions to some outstanding teams, even if they never start an allstar game. If he has a career that matches Sean Rodriguez', for example, he could return as much as $40 million in surplus value to the club over his controlled years. Value that the Halos will now have to replace on the free market.
And you have to remember who insisted on including Grichuk in the deal. Anyone who watches a fair amount of Texas League games knows that the Arkansas Travelers play the Cardinals-affiliated Memphis Redbirds like, I don't know, 100 times a season. Cardinals' personnel saw a shit-ton of Grichuk last year, so they know him almost as well as the Angels do. They are also already loaded with young outfield talent, so it's not like they were desperate to fill holes in their system. They liked Grichuk. Rumor has it that they've liked him since the 2009 draft. And remember that they're the f'en Cardinals, so are blessed with omniscience regarding which marginal prospects will turn to gold. And Jerry Dipoto rolled over for them.
You can see where this one is going. Blah.
However, there's also that second trade this offseason, the one where the Angels' traded "proven power" for youth. Dipoto delivered on his promise, and landed eleven years worth of cost-controlled pitching in exchange for two years of Mark Trumbo. Congratulations to him for executing what was surely the most tricky transaction of his offseason master plan.
Count me a fan of this trade. Back in 2010, Skaggs threw one of the most dominant games I've ever seen from a minor leaguer, and he was nineteen at the time. Sure, he comes to the Angels out of the damaged goods bin, but most MLB starters, even the best ones, have found themselves in that bin before. Skagg's blend of stuff and pitchability could pay huge dividends over the next six years.
And Hector Santiago throws gas for a lefty. I don't know much about him, other than he's capable of delivering mid-90's bullets backed by a deep, if mediocre, mix of offspeed pitches. He's young enough so that Angels probably aren't quite sure what they have, either. Regardless, he's a decent bet to eat innings at the back of the rotation in 2013, and that's exactly what the Angels need.
So by sacrificing two years of a beloved but volatile power bat, Dipoto has finally given the Angels a shot at sitting on the positive side of the transaction ledger, a shot at accruing significant long-term value in exchange for "proven talent."
But here's my question: does this represent an actual turning point in how the Angels approach roster construction? Or is it merely an inevitable accident in the face of overwhelmingly obvious organizational need?