By: Chris Larson
The Angels window to win is right now and there is no denying that, considering that their star outfielder and the best player in the game, Mike Trout, hits free agency in 2020. Over the last couple of seasons, Angels General Manager, Billy Eppler and the rest of the Halos front office, have focused on putting the best team possible around Trout in hopes of getting the team to the postseason and better yet to the World Series. At the start of this year, it seemed as though everything was going right for the Angels, however, over the past month thanks to injuries, the chance of the Angels making the postseason is being put into question.
As it stands right now, the Angels have a 41-40 record and sit 12 and 1/2 games back of the division leading and World Series Champion, Houston Astros, in the American League West. To date, the Halos have a positive run differential (+15), but have lost 5 games in a row and have a 3-7 record over their last 10 games. In terms of the Wild Card race, the American League Wild Card picture is pretty much set, but the Angels will battle out two other division foes, the Seattle Mariners and Oakland Athletics, for that second spot. Regardless, if the postseason started today, Seattle would win the second Wild Card spot, while the Angels would finish 7 games back of that spot. None of that is good news for a team that is destined to win now and must do everything possible to try to get Mike Trout a ring.
With that being said, the question now becomes: What should the Angels do at the trade deadline? It's a difficult question to answer because you could practically make an argument that they should be all in and focused on trying to make the postseason, but you could also argue that they should sell. However, if they were to sell, that would damper the outlook of the team over the next two seasons, when Mike Trout is on their 25-man roster, and potentially lessen the chance of the Halos being able to make it to the World Series.
If you have listened to their General Manager, Billy Eppler, and read articles about the team as of late, you know that they will be focused on adding, so for this article let's assume that the Angels will be all in and doing everything possible to upgrade their roster substantially. The problem is that the Angels are basically upgrading their roster for a one-game play in rather than for the division. The Angels are not going to catch up to the Houston Astros by the time the postseason rolls around because the Astros are significantly better, but they certainly can make enough upgrades to try to put a halt on the Mariners and prevent the Athletics from sneaking into the postseason picture.
Over the last few seasons, the Angels have had one of the games bottom third farm systems. However, during that same period of time, it has gotten better thanks to some successful drafts and the vision of Billy Eppler at the helm as General Manager. While that is certainly good news for the Angels and their entire fan base, it doesn't take away from the fact that the team will likely be limited in what it can do at the trade deadline and the quality as well as quantity of prospects that it will be able to include in trades.
Heading towards the Trade Deadline, the Angels will likely focus on bolstering their pitching staff given the amount of injuries they have experienced once again in the starting rotation as well as the uncertainty in the bullpen especially at the back end. Remember, the Angels went into this season without an official closer and they still don't have an official closer, which is a problem for any team and especially for one that wants to make it to the postseason. Based on the past few years, if any team wants to play deep into October, they need to have that lockdown bullpen and a handful of guys at the backend that can for sure close out games and win those low scoring games as well. Right now, it doesn't seem like the Angels have that on their 25-man roster or even down in the minor leagues.
That would mean that the Halos would need to go out and find relief help. Given the fact that Alex Colome and Kelvin Herrera, two of the top relief acquisitions on this summer's trade market, are already off the board, Los Angeles will have to continue to scour the market for affordable options. Luckily, as we see every year at the Trade Deadline, there is plenty of relief help to be had and teams will find a way to target those guys that none of us are even talking about.
For the Angels, that will likely be the route they will go and look for guys that fall in the B Class of relievers and starting pitchers instead of the A Class. The Halos are not going to be able to compete with offers for top relievers like the, Atlanta Braves, Philadelphia Phillies, or the Los Angeles Dodgers, will be able to. Some relievers that the Angels will likely be connected to include: Ryan Tepera of the Toronto Blue Jays, Kyle Barraclough and Brad Ziegler of the Miami Marlins, Kirby Yates and Craig Stammen of the San Diego Padres, Kyle Crick of the Pittsburgh Pirates, or Kevin McCarthy of the Kansas City Royals. As you can see from that list, almost none of them are household names, but every one of them has been successful to this point this season and could provide a boost for the Angels especially at the backend.
On the starting pitching front, the same message will probably reign true as the Halos will be involved in the starting pitching market, but likely won't be able to go after any of the big fish such as Cole Hamels, Michael Fulmer, JA Happ, or even Blake Snell, should he become available. That means that the Angels will instead have to focus on names such as: Carlos Rodon of the Chicago White Sox, Tyson Ross of the San Diego Padres, or Matt Boyd of the Detroit Tigers. Again, not the most well known names in the book, but guys who can add depth to the starting rotation and help the Angels find a way to get to the postseason.
When you look at both of those lists, there are a lot more names in the relief market and that will likely be the case for any seller come the trade deadline. There will be starting pitching available, but it's going to be for those names that will cost quite a bit in return and that is just something the Angels likely won't be able to do quite yet given the state of their farm.
Of course, you could make the argument that the Angels should be all in and willing to do whatever it takes to get Mike Trout and the team to the postseason, preferably to the World Series, but that would mean having to gut the farm and hope that all of the acquisitions end up panning out at the big league level. That's certainly a huge gamble to take, but one that we have seen other teams take in the past so it can't be entirely eliminated from the equation. Still, it's fair to think that Billy Eppler and the entire front office, will take a cautious approach to the trade deadline and look for ways to get trades done without having to include those top prospects in any of the deals.
No matter how you look at it, the Angels will likely continue to be in the conversation for the postseason mix as the Trade Deadline approaches, but this next month will be very telling about how the team decides to approach the decisions that are made at that time. However, the Angels need to keep in mind that their window to win is now and they could potentially be wasting the prime years of Mike Trout, if they don't do everything possible to make the postseason and play deep into October.