Thoughts On The Trade Deadline: The Angels

los_angeles_angels_of_anaheim_logoAnother trade deadline passed, another swirl of rumors connecting the Angels to nearly every premium player out there, and disappointingly but not unexpectedly – another stretch run in which the Angels have decided to sit on their hands and stand pat.

Last year’s acquisition of Mark Teixiera not withstanding, the Angels have been quiet more often than not on deadline day, despite owner Arte Moreno’s demonstrated willingness to take on payroll.

But while their annual post-season rivals in Boston and New York are constantly tinkering with their rosters, the Angels have demonstrated a cautious reluctance to part with their own prospects.   So season after season, the Angels have clung onto highly touted prospects like Dallas McPherson, Jeff Mathis, Brandon Wood and Howie Kendrick, only to see their values plummet as they’ve failed to live up to lofty expectations.

To get over the post-season hump that’s plagued the Angels since winning it all in 2002, is it necessary for them to be more aggressive…. and more willing to part with their prized prospects?

The Angels success this season –  while playing significant stretches without their two best hitters and two best pitchers, and suffering the tragic death of teammate Nick Adenhart – speaks to the depth of talent in the organization.

Maicer Izturis of the Los Angeles Angels of An...
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But while top tier prospects Howie Kendrick and Brandon Wood have struggled, lower ceiling organizational products like Erick Aybar and Kendry Morales and lower-budget acquisitions like Juan Rivera and Maicer Izturis have lead the team to within percentage points of the best record in baseball.

The departure of Teixeira, Francisco Rodriguez and Jon Garland provided a bounty of 2009 draft choices – 5 of the top 48 picks –  with which to re-stock the system.  And with Morales putting up similar numbers to Teixiera at a fraction of the cost, they could have afforded to add a difference maker like Roy Halladay – even at the exorbitant price that JP Ricciardi was reported to be asking.

Halladay presented an interesting opportunity for the Angels.  With Toronto’s expressed preference to trade him outside the division, despite Boston’s last minute aggressive pitch – rare is the opportunity to acquire a highly coveted player that the Angels have a leg up on the Yankees and Red Sox.  Last season, they couldn’t compete for Teixiera or Sabathia.  If Halladay gets to the free agent market after 2010, the Angels will be bidding against two teams with much deeper pockets.

ANAHEIM, CA - APRIL 7:  Pitcher John Lackey #4...

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Combined with the pending free-agency of Angels’ ace John Lackey, the Angels had a pressing need to add a front line arm for the playoff push and beyond – but apparently not enough for Reagins to pull the trigger.

While it’s hard to come down too hard on Reagins for not making a deal when we don’t know what was being asked of him, he and his predecessor Bill Stoneman have a clearly demonstrated preference for the free agency pool, where they’ve had more hits than misses.  But you could probably count the number of Angel in-season moves this decade on one-hand.  This is a team built to win in the regular season… not necessarily the post season.

Baseball, Bobby Abreu, Philadelphia Phillies, ...
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The success of the team in the absence of key contributors has only reinforced the high opinion of the Angels talent evaluation skills.  Teixeira leaves and they don’t miss a beat with Morales.  Kendrick disappoints and Maicer Izturis carries the load and a plus .300 average.  The game turns it’s back on Bobby Abreu, and the Angels get the free agency deal of the year – and an OBP setting example that has influenced the offensive approach of the entire team.  The historically impatient Angels are #2 in OBP in all of baseball… percentage points behind the Yankees.   The top 3 pitchers go down with injuries, and Matt Palmer comes from out of nowhere to win his first 6 games consecutively.

With that kind of track record in evaluating talent, Reagins and company can afford to be a little bolder in the future when opportunities occur at the deadline.

This is my first guest post for . Peter Schiller has assembled a really unique and informative baseball site by attracting an eclectic group of bloggers, and I’m grateful to be a part of it.

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