The debate rages on as to whether or not the Angels actually can take on salary at the trade deadline, and if so, how much. Early reports stated that they couldn't add a dollar, but Tony Reagins is now claiming they have no budgetary constraints. Me? I tend to believe the truth always lies somewhere in the middle.
Arte Moreno is never going to be so cheap as to close his wallet for everything, but I tend to think that he is only going to be willing to add another million or two to the payroll this year. Maybe he'll make an exception if a superstar falls in their lap, but I'm not going to hold my breath for that. Instead, let's take a look at some of the bargain-priced players that the Angels could set their sights on come the trade deadline.
Let's be honest, when it comes to finding cheap help and filling a hole for the Angels, the only real logical fits are in the bullpen and at third base. Let's start with the hot corner, which, as it turns out isn't such a hot position in this market.
Casey Blake - Yup, this is pretty much the Angels' only option. Blake isn't much of a fielder, but he would give the Halos an option at third that has some actual pop in his bat. Plus he has a pretty sweet beard. I'm not sure he is an obvious upgrade over Callaspo and Izturis, but mixing him into the equation couldn't hurt, at least from a depth standpoint. Quality targets like Cuddyer, Ramirez and Wright just seem to be well out of the Angels' current price range, at least until this off-season.
OK, that was less than fun, but now we get to the real meat of the market, right-handed relievers. The Angels desperately need a high quality righty setup man to help out Scott Downs and to spare us more Fernando Rodney-induced nausea. Fortunately, there are quite a few potential targets for the Angels to chase after.
Koji Uehara - After that Takahashi signing, one would understand if the Halos were a little reticent to go after another Japanese reliever, but one should realize that racial profiling and baseball is probably a bad idea. Uehara has been absolutely sick this season with a high whiff rate, low walk rate and a probably unsustainable microscopic batting average against. His BABIP is bound to regress to the mean, but Uehara has shown that he has the chops to be a potential closer (especially since he has a vesting option for next season), so the Angels could do a lot worse than to grab him before some smart team wises up to Koji's potential. At this point, I would say that he should be right at the top of the Angels deadline wishlist.
Mike Adams - With an ERA of 1.14 and a WHIP of 0.661, Adams is bound to be a hot commodity on the market. With an annual salary of $2.535 million and one arbitration year left, that is only going to make more expensive to acquire in terms of prospects. I'd be ecstatic if the Angels landed Adams, but I wonder if they might not be better off going after a lower-profile target while everyone else gets into a bidding war for Adams.
Grant Balfour - I like that Balfour throws hard and misses bats, but he also is prone to walks, which has been the undoing of all the other failed Angel relievers. At least he is a veteran presence with good strikeout numbers who has mostly been pretty good the last few years.
Brad Ziegler - Ziegler is about to his arbitration, which means he could get a little more costly than the A's care for, but they might also decide he is worth it and hold on to him since they have him under control for three more years. He doesn't get a ton of strikeouts, but the submariner generates a ton of grounders and would be a stark contrast for hitters to deal with right before they face fireballing Jordan Walden.
Jason Frasor - Since Scott Downs worked out so well, why not try for his former righty counterpart in Toronto? Frasor isn't the least bit flashy, but he has been remarkably steady throughout his long career and should not cost much in the way of prospects since he is a low-profile rental player. Plus, don't the Jays kind of owe it to the Angels a little bit to toss them a little more help after the Wells trade? Consider it like an annuity of sorts. For the lifetime of Wells' remaining contract, the Jays should just hand over an average rental player at the trade deadline as a continued show of gratitude.
Jon Rauch - Rauch is a lot like Frasor, only about a foot taller. He hasn't been as consistent as Frasor, but he does seem to have settled into a groove the last few years and he even has a little bit of closing experience. Like Frasor, he also has a club option for next season, making him more or less a rental player. Ultimately, I am not a huge fan of Frasor or Rauch since they are both flyball pitchers with mediocre strikeout rates. I feel like guys like that are a dime a dozen, but if left with nothing else, the Angels could bring one on board solely for the more consistent performances from the vets.
Matt Capps - I hesitate to put Capps on this list as he has over $3 million due to him, which could be more than Moreno wants to pay. Then again, the Angels have never been shy about overpaying for an overated guy with a lot of saves on his resume (see Rodney, Fernando or Fuentes, Brian). Capps has an inflated ERA, but he doesn't walk batters and at least has experience working in pressure situations, unlike the kiddie corps the Angels have been trying to use this year.