The trade deadline is just a few days away, but nobody is exactly sure what, if anything, the Angels have up their sleeve. With so many confusing and conflicting rumors to sort through, the best way to figure out what embattled Angel GM Tony Reagins is planning is to take a look back through his history at the deadline.
We all know Reagins is not afraid to make a deal, but we can learn a lot about his trade-working train of thought by picking out the major patterns he has displayed over the last three seasons.
2008 - Traded Casey Kotchman and Steve Marek for Mark Teixeira
In his official trade deadline as the lead decision maker, Reagins swung for the fences by breaking from the standard Angel protocol by acquiring a big name rental player. Of course, the hope was that this would give them a leg up in signing Tex, but it didn't work out, though the Angels didn't end up giving up much to get those few months of Teixeira, though that was largely helped by Kotchman flaming out horribly the instant he landed in Atlanta.
2009 - Traded Sean Rodriguez, Alex Torres and Matt Sweeney for Scott Kazmir
With the upstart Rangers refusing to go away, Reagins waited all the way until the end of August to make this surprising move. We all know how well this trade worked out in the long-term, but it was considered a win at the time it was made since it supposedly made the Angels stronger in 2009 and in the years to come. Even though it didn't work out that way, it gave us a nice bit of insight into how Reagins was thinking.
2010 - 1) Traded Will Smith and Sean O'Sullivan for Alberto Callaspo; 2) Traded Joe Saunders, Tyler Skaggs, Patrick Corbin and Rafael Rodriguez for Dan Haren; 3) Traded Brian Fuentes for Loek Van Mil
First the Callaspo trade, a move that came out of nowhere, though that was at least partly due to the fact that Callaspo was fairly anonymous in KC, so nobody paid much attention to him. Some questioned the logic at the time since he wasn't a major upgrade, but he did help fill a major need at third by being something more than not horrendous (though not by much that year) and once again positioned the Angels well for the future since he is under team control through 2012.
Now Haren, once again conjured this deal out of thin air. When the deal went down, everyone in baseball called it highway robbery by the Angels, even after highly-touted pitcher Tyler Skaggs was revealed as the PTBNL. What really made everyone mad though was that other teams didn't even know Haren was on the trading block at the time the Angels swung the deal. Continuing the trend started with Kazmir, Haren was another guy who was under contract for multiple years, which helped this deal make a lot more sense considering that the Halos were seven games out of first at the time.
Finally, the Fuentes deal. The only notable aspect of this move is that it didn't take place until August 27th when the Angels were already well out of the race.
So what can we glean from all of this?
- Reagins likes to keep it on the down low. Save for the Teixeira move, nobody saw any of their big acquisitions coming, and that was largely because the Tex deal was just so obvious. None of the Kazmir, Haren or Callaspo trades were even hinted at in the rumor mill up until the deal was already submitted to the league office. We even saw the same MO on display when Reagins swung the infamous Vernon Wells deal this winter. What this means this season is that there is a good chance that if Reagins does pull the trigger on a deal, we probably won't see it coming.
- Reagins likes to gamble, like REALLY likes to gamble. All trades carry some risk, but Reagins seems to be highly amenable to trading for high-risk, high-reward players. With Teixeira, the talent was never in question, but he was taking a big gamble on the team being able to lock Tex up long-term after the season. Kazmir's health problems were a roll of the dice (and it came up snake eyes). Callaspo was not a risk as a player, but by trading Will Smith, Reagins was giving up on a player with a potential high ceiling while also putting the Angels in a precarious position by dealing away some of the little starting pitching depth they had in the high minors. As for Haren, he had been an ace through his career, but he was having a pretty bad season at the time he was acquired.
- Reagins is all about the future. If you are expecting Reagins to go out and snag a rental player, think again. Tony doesn't get much credit for it, but he has kept the Angels competitive by jumping the free agent market via the trade market. The prime example of this was snagging Haren a few months before free agency opened up with barely any top-tier starters available. The same goes for Callaspo as his presence prevented the Angels from being stuck without a third baseman after failing to sign Adrian Beltre this off-season. Even the Teixeira rental was made with the future in mind since he was acquired with the Angels fully anticipating being able to re-sign him.
- Reagins goes with who he knows. One thing about Tony is that he doesn't target players that he doesn't know much about. Teixeira was a guy the faced for years when he was a Ranger. Pitching coach Mike Butcher was intimately familiar with Scott Kazmir after working closely with him as Tampa's pitching coach (not to mention played for former Angel coach Joe Maddon). Callaspo was a former Angel prospect. Haren had been in the AL West for multiple years and was someone Reagins had been actively pursuing for over a year. If Tony doesn't know a player fairly well, he likely isn't going to trade for him, so keep that in mind when evaluating trade rumors.
- Reagins always thinks the Angels have a chance. I might be reaching a bit here, but he showed last year that he was willing to make moves even when it seemed like the Halos should be sellers. He literally didn't give up until almost the end of August before finally selling off Brian Fuentes, even though waiting meant getting a lot less in return. While the Halos aren't playoff shoe-ins this year, they are in better shape than they were at the same time in 2010, so don't expect Reagins to suddenly raise the white flag and start trading away veterans.
So how can we use this to predict what Tony will do this year? While he is under no obligation to continue the same pattern, I'm guessing he will since the Angels are still only considered fringe contenders. Even though they are hard up for cash, expect the Angel front office to focus on players that can help them in 2012, when they figure to be more competitive. For example, the Angels don't have any immediate help coming to step in as a right setup man for Walden, and the free agent relief market doesn't look great either, so Reagins could once again try to jump the market by making a move for a guy like Mike Adams even though they have been more closely linked with Heath Bell (an impending free agent). Adams even fits the bill of being known to Reagins since he should have a pretty direct pipeline to him since Bud Black, former Angel pitching coach, is Adams' manager. Adams even carries the proper amount of risk for Reagins since he has a worrisome history of arm problems.
A few other names to keep an eye on:
- David Wright. Reagins isn't that familiar with him, but he could be a bargain due to his recent back issues, but he would be a great help at third base prior to an off-season where there is a dearth of quality free agent third basemen.
- Aramis Ramirez. He is much like Haren in that he has been on the Angels' radar for years but they've never managed to get their hands on him. He also is under contract for 2012 and is a something of a risk since his play has been pretty inconsistent the last few years. The only red flag is that everyone has heard this rumor, making it more public than Tony is usually comfortable with.
- Huston Street. Signed through 2012 with a 2013 option. Long injury history. Former AL West foe. Checks across the board. Factor in that the Rockies aren't actively shopping him and this would be a vintage under-the-radar shocker trade by Reagins.
- Paul Konerko. Now this would be a shocker. The ChiSox are rumored to be on the verge of blowing their team up, and we all know the Halos would love to get Konerko since they have been chasing him since pretty much the turn of the century. While he is tearing the cover off the ball now, he remains a major risk due to his advanced age and big moeny contract running through 2013. I'd consider this one the favorite if not for the logjam at the 1B/DH slot the Halos would have once Morales comes back.
The one big problem with all four of those scenarios is that they all require big money, which the Angels and Reagins have been more than willing to spend in the past, but this year it seems like that is not an option. Then again, that could all just be part of Reagins' ruse.
The man does love surprises, so he could very well snare a player I haven't mentioned yet as well. While I can't be sure that of who he will trade for, I am sure he will trade. He has done so at every trade deadline and has used the trade route extensively in the off-season as well. Several of those deals have blown up in his face, but he hasn't shown himself to be gunshy yet and until he does, I fully expect him to swing some kind of deal, be it big or small.