Help, I've fallen and I can't get up!
Boy, it's tough being an Angels fan. With little to no cap flexibility and the most barren farm system in the league, the Angels have little to look forward to. Sure, they have Mike Trout but who else outside of that? Arguably, their two best pitchers could be out for Tommy John Surgery, which would put them out for 2016 and 2017. Acquiring Andrelton Simmons came at the cost of the farm's top 2 prospects (the one glimmer of hope). International signee Roberto Baldoquin has been laughably subpar, and 2015 draft pick Taylor Ward is looking more like Jeff Mathis with every passing day.
As much as I hate to admit it, this season is a wash. As I am writing this, the Angels own a 32-45 record and are 17.5 games back of the division lead. This is due to a plethora of reasons, but the overlying cause was a lack of meaningful rotation arms. Outside of Richards (DL), Heaney (DL), and Shoemaker over his last 8 starts, our pitchers have been throwing batting practice to opposing batters all season long - and the bullpen's not much better.
"Let's let this club play a little bit longer. There's no rush to make a decision right now." -Billy Eppler, Angels GM
If the Angels were competitive this year, wouldn't Eppler just say 'we are not sellers'? Instead, he couldn't give a definitive answer despite being so far below .500. Is Eppler trying to gain leverage in order to get better prospects during trades? Seems a lot like it.
We cannot continue to compete with the Astros and Rangers (and now, Mariners) unless we make drastic changes to the roster. It doesn't help that our best pitchers are injured, BUT we can take tangible steps to strengthen the ballclub for the long haul by August 1, the trade deadline.
I'll examine who the Angels could be looking to trade in the coming weeks, and the likelihood of doing so.
Yunel Escobar - Very High
Very high? More like 100 percent. Slashing .310/.359/.768 with a 114 OPS+, Escobar carries real value to playoff teams. His fielding is downright bad, but his patience at the plate and consistent contact shows that he can really help a team. Through 69 games played this year, he has a 1.4 oWAR. At 33 years old, he won't be around for the Angels next playoff run. He has a team option for an affordable $7 million next year with a $1M buyout. He could net us a valuable top prospect if packaged, or possibly several mid-level prospects to rebuild the farm and send reinforcements by 2017. Apparently, he already has potential suitors in the Giants; the Mets are also a potential fit.
Joe Smith - High
In 2014, Joe Smith looked like a steal by Dipoto. Not anymore, though. Smith holds a 3.91 ERA through 25.1 innings. To his credit, he has had a sore left hamstring for a while now (which is why he is on the DL). Teams can always use relief depth - and since Smith has had such a lengthy career, buyers of Smith may believe he could return closer to his 2014 self than his 2015 one for the remainder of the season. It has been proposed that Smith and Escobar could be packaged together: and I approve of this, because it would net a bigger return for the Angels. Let me ask you a question about prospects, would you rather have 3 Kyle Kubitza's or 1 Trevor Gott? Exactly.
Matt Shoemaker - Medium
Nobody has rebuilt their trade value over the past two months quite like Shoey. Our beloved bearded one currently holds a 4.12 ERA in 87.1 IP. That is much better, though, than the ghastly 9.15 ERA he had in April. His May was 3.28 ERA and June was 2.50 ERA. He has gotten on track by using his splitter much more effectively, and his mechanics appear to be much improved. It is unclear, though, how big the return for him would be. The knock on him is his consistency, but he has been near Kershaw-esque over his last 8 starts - and in the process, he has lowered his ERA to a respectable level.
That being said, he won't be a free agent until 2021; He is in the prime of his career at 29, however, and he has only 3 years of wear & tear on his arm. This makes him cost-effective to keep, but is it worth it if the club isn't contending? My guess is, if Eppler gets an offer that blows him out of the water, he will pull the trigger.
Huston Street - Low
A closer is a luxury that a losing team cannot afford. And as much as I don't like to hear it from others, the Angels are not set up to contend this year or next year. Our earliest window will be 2018 but in all likelihood it will be 2019. Street has not lived up to his contract this year (, and it's hard to imagine getting equal value for him this year. The best we can do is hope that he pitches well the remainder of the season and move him in the offseason for prospects.
3-1 with a 3.68 ERA in 14.2 IP is quite underwhelming for a guy that's being paid $8M this year, $9M next year, and has a $10M team option for 2018. We'll root for him to rebound the rest of the way.
Besides, we can make Cam Bedrosian a closer, right?
If we can reload the farm without sacrificing our core pieces, this will have been a successful offseason.
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