Trade deadline looming... must talk trade... must throw crap against wall... must see what sticks...
Yep, it's that time again, trade speculation time! But rather than make up ideas like I did earlier this week, let's take an actual real logical look at the Angels trade needs and who their actual targets that totally didn't come from my imagination might be. Yeah, I know, it seems like less fun, but it is probably going to be a lot more informative and useful.
Catcher may not be the Angels' biggest need since they figure to get Chris Iannetta back... eventually. But until that day comes, they need to look for some help to tide them over until Iannetta recovers and then to stick around as insurance in case he goes down again. The only name I can think of for this is John Baker. I've lobbied for Baker before to no avail, but I'm going to try again. I'm sure everyone would prefer fellow Padre Nick Hundley since he is young and at one point was good. However, he now stinks and is in the minors with a long-term contract that is suddenly less attractive. That brings us back to Baker. I'll save the full rehashing of my argument for him and just summarize it by saying he swings a left-handed bat and can kind of hit, which makes him a nice reserve once/if Iannetta heals up or a reasonable platoon partner for Wilson while Iannetta is out. Or they could just recall Hank Conger, I'm good either way.
There is is the only name on the list for a few reasons. For starters, Alberto Callaspo has actually been pretty decent of late, so the need to upgrade over him isn't pressing. I know, I'm kind of surprised too. Anyway, since Callaspo is holding it down, Dipoto should only be looking for third basemen if the player is a clear upgrade and also more than just a half-season rental. Chase Headley is the only guy who fits that criteria (I promise to suggest a trade with a team other than San Diego soon). Headley has always been a strong fielder with a good eye, but this year, he's finally realizing his power, something that he should be able to tap into even further once he gets out of Petco Park, which he is allegedly very much in favor of doing. The bonus is that he is under team control for two years after this season, but that is also the catch since it is going to make him expensive. Like three quality prospects expensive (i.e. Segura, Calhoun and Schugel perhaps). I like Headley a lot, but not sure the Halos' thin farm system can handle that kind of a payout.
In middle relief, the only lefty the Angels have is Hisanori Takahashi. He has been much better lately, but with virtually identical platoon splits, he is really more of a long man than he is a left-handed specialist. As such, the Halos need a real lefty specialist. They could shoot for the stars with former Halo Darren Oliver. I like the Blue Jays (other than Brett Lawrie), but I am actively rooting for them to fall out of contention. As of today, they are planning on being buyers, but it would be in the Angels' best interests if they weren't. Frankly, I miss Darren Oliver. He's not flashy, but he continues to be a fantastic middle reliever despite his old age. He's kind of like a Scott Downs, only older and with a better tan.
Alas, the Jays probably won't move him so I am also rooting for the Marlins to tank as well so they will trade Randy Choate (they appear to be complying thus far). Wanting a reliever from the Marlins bullpen is like seeing a tasty piece of cake lying on top of the garbage can. It is surrounded by trash, but it isn't really touching it, so you might be able to take it out of there and enjoy its yummy goodness, though you do run a minor risk of food poisoning. Now that I have revealed far too much about my eating habits, I will simply say that Choate is death on lefties. He's the LOOGYest LOOGY that ever LOOGYed. He also probably won't cost too much, which is nice.
If all else fails, there is Brian Fuentes. Hey, look who might be available for free! No trade needed, though the Halos might want to throw some spare change at the A's in order to make sure they get Fuentes. Now, I know Angel fans road Fuentes out of town on a rail after his stint in Anaheim, but that was because he was a lousy closer. However, the Halos would only be bringing him ack as a left-handed specialist to pitch in the middle innings. Based on his horrific season in Oakland, that might even be asking too much, but when the price is basically nothing, what could it hurt to give it a try?
I'm not sold the Angels really need another righty reliever but it is rumored that they are exploring their options in this space. Adding a top setup arm would be nice, but it is a luxury, one that tends to be very expensive this time of year. Guys like Brandon League, Francisco Rodriguez and even Grant Balfour all could be available but with the Halos having greater needs, they really shouldn't be spending their resources here... with one exception, Brett Myers. I kind of hate Myers actually. I think he is overrated as a pitcher and underrated as a woman-beating scumbag. However, he has shown as Houston's closer this season that he can be a decent (not good) reliever, but the real reason I want him is that he is a converted starter. That makes him sort of two acquisitions in one. He can work in the bullpen at first, but the Angels can dust him off and stretch him out if their rotation depth gets tested further.
Thanks to Dan Haren copping to having a balky back, this just went from luxury to potential need. At a minimum, the Angels need some depth that they can stash in the minors and/or the bullpen. One such option could be Jonathan Sanchez. The Myers idea got me thinking about other two-for-one targets. Sanchez is such a candidate. He is also terrible right now and rumored to be on the verge of being released, thus making him cheap. My hope here would be that the Angels could try and salvage him by converting him to a reliever who would only be forced into the rotation. Again, he only makes sense if the Angels can get him for virtually nothing (seriously, dude's ERA is almost at 7.00). A less stomach-churning option would be Jeremy Guthrie, who has been similarly bad to Sanchez but carries with him the hope that he can revert to being semi-useful if he can just get out of Coors Field. The Rockies supposedly tried giving him away earlier this season but found no takers, I suggest they give the Angels a call. In fact, I think he might be the most likely option given Dipoto's former relationship with the Colorado front office.
Now, if the Angels are deeply concerned about Haren's health or Santana's crappiness, they'll have to up the ante and target more established pitchers. The catch here is that all the top targets like Zack Greinke, Cole Hamels and maybe Matt Garza carry large remaining salaries. After their off-season spending spree, it is unlikely the Halos can afford to take on much salary and they don't have the prospects to overpay for an ace pitcher in order to have the other team pick up the salary tab. That means going after less flashy names. Bartolo Colon would make for a great strike zone-pounding, inning (and other things)-eater. Francisco Liriano could be had for a discount after he struggled up until recent weeks. At best, I can see the Angels targeting Ryan Dempster once he gets healthy.
So what will the Angels do?
This is where gaving a rookie GM kind of sucks in that we don't know his modus operandi just yet. From what we've seen so far, he is not afraid of the bold move (Pujols) nor is he content to sit idly by and let an obvious problem fester (the Frieri trade). The early returns suggest he has a bias for action. However, as mentioned before, he could be hamstrung by a maxed out budget. With all that in mind, here are my guesses for what he will do:
Catcher - Nothing. If he was going to upgrade here, he would've done so already.
Third base - Nothing. He'll sniff around Headley, I suspect, but ultimately the price will be too high.
Lefty reliever - I am sensing a Frieri trade part II here. By that I mean he will snare some youngish southpaw most of us have never heard of out from the back of someone's bullpen.
Righty reliever - Nothing. Just not a need.
Starting pitcher - Guthrie. It just makes too much sense as a low-risk, low-cost addition.
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Thoughts on Carlos Ruiz? He has one year left in Philly where they have indicated they are sellers. He can hit, can get on base, is throwing out about 40% of runners, and has real post season experience. Each of those is a pure upgrade over our current backstops. He is 33. He may opt for an extension here instead of testing the waters at 35. Iannetta will come back, but his wrist is definitely going to linger the rest of the year.
Hmm...interesting. Guthrie is better in every way when separated from Coors field except his SO/BB ratio. I always liked the guy, I wonder how he would be in Anaheim. Certainly no worse than Santana, maybe even Haren. They'd have to be giving him away, though, as the problem with ANY trade concerning prospects is that the Angels have so few (as rightly pointed out by Mr. ™). Fuentes won't work, LHB are actually hitting 29 points higher against him than Takahashi this season (who'da thunk it?).
Other than prospects, the other problem for a couple of these positions is there's nothing available due to an overall MLB shortage at the position (3B, C). Bummer for us.
Man, I love Charles Krauthammer.