Angel fans are sure to be in a frenzy this morning as Jon Heyman of CBS Sports reported yesterday that the Halos are jumping into the Zack Greinke sweepstakes. In an attempt to put a championship ring on the finger of every Angel player, and more importantly on the finger of the owner himself Mr. Arte Moreno, GM Jerry Dipoto will have his work cut out for him in the coming days trying to put the final touches on a deep playoff run and ultimately a 2012 world series title.
It’s no secret the bottom three fifths of the Angels starting rotation limped into the All Star break. Dan Haren has pinned his first half struggles on a back injury he sustained in his final Spring Training start and currently sits on the DL for the first time in his stellar career. His return to top form is still a major question mark considering the decline in his fastball velocity started two years ago while in model health. So is it his back that’s hurting him, or could it be a skills erosion caused by that old grouch Father Time? Jerome Williams is also on the DL but is eligible to return when play resumes this weekend in New York. He is coming off of a rather serious health scare experiencing shortness of breath. Ervin Santana has no health issues of note but perhaps could use his neck checked by a specialist after spinning his head around so often to follow the flight of the ball deep into the outfield seats. All kidding aside, Ervin has been extremely unreliable this season and represents a significant question mark going forward. As surprising as it may be, what looked to be the Halos major strength coming into the 2012 season, now appears to be their Achilles heal.
Good thing the trade market for starting pitching is so deep. Zack Greinke highlights a strong list of starters that may also include Matt Garza and Cole Hamels. The Angels have the pieces to get one of these top of the rotation starters, but should they part with those pieces and risk a more uncertain future for the luxury of adding another ace to their staff today?
Yes they should. Period. Here’s why: Arte Moreno recently invested $250 million dollars in Albert Pujols, $85 million dollars in Jered Weaver, $77 million in CJ Wilson, a combined $75 million on Howie Kendrick and Erick Aybar, $82 million on Vernon Wells and millions more on other recent additions such as Scott Downs and LaTroy Hawkins. The Angels are all in on a championship run, and shouldn’t stop now.
Mike Trout in center, Mark Trumbo in left and Torii Hunter in right have proven to be an excellent outfield trio and have relegated former center fielder Peter Bourjos to a bench role that will only get compromised further with the return of the virtually untradeable Vernon Wells later this month. Bourjos could provide value to other teams far greater than what he currently brings to the Angels. He’s a nice player that has proven he can hit a little bit and plays an elite centerfield. Re-signing Torii Hunter or promoting the capable Cole Calhoun in 2013 would further protect the Angels from the loss of Bourjos down the road. Frankly, moving him is not nearly as risky as many Halo fans believe. Bourjos has become expendable.
It always takes top prospects to land proven commodities at the deadline. The Angels’ top ranked prospect (#43 overall according to Baseball America) is middle infielder Jean Segura. Erick Aybar and Howie Kendrick will be patrolling shortstop and second base respectively for years to come, as they’ve both been signed to extensions. Once again, we have an expendable trade piece worth more to other organizations. I’d turn him into something now that is more worthwhile to fill the needs of my club today.
Trading away Bourjos, Segura, and Jordan Walden could be enough to land a top notch starter such as Cole Hamels, Zack Greinke or perhaps even Matt Garza, who is under team control through 2013. In the cases of Greinke or Hamels, who will be free agents after the season, renting can always be upgraded to owning. Ervin Santana and Dan Haren can both be let go after the 2012 season freeing up some $30 million in 2013 payroll. After trading for Hamels, Greinke, or Garza and presumably steam rolling into the 2012 playoffs, the Halos could use that cash and positive momentum to make a significant effort to re-sign whichever pitcher they may have traded for. Would you want your 2013 starting rotation to be Weaver, Wilson, Greinke/Hamels/Garza, Richards and an affordable 5th starter that can be picked up this offseason? Better yet, wouldn’t you want that as your 2012 starting rotation?
If winning a World Series this year isn’t reason enough to make a big trade then winning the division should be. With the new one game playoff wild card scenario in effect the Halos would essentially be risking a $150 million dollar payroll on a one game playoff where anything can happen. The addition of another ace on the staff would give the Angels a much better chance at catching the Texas Rangers and winning the AL West. Oh and by the way, Texas is flush with cash and owns the best farm system in the game so they’ll be active at the deadline too. Acquiring the available ace and putting him on the Halos starting staff keeps him out of a Texas uniform.
Go get any of those three premier starters and then make your very best effort to re-sign or extend them in the offseason. If it were me, I would go after Garza as my top target. He is signed through 2013 making him slightly less risky albeit slightly more expensive when trading current players. But I believe Theo Epstein would love to get Segura to pair alongside Starlin Castro and Bourjos could play center in Wrigley for a long time. Jordan Walden has a live young arm and the three packaged together could probably get this deal done. One more prospect with upside splashed in most certainly would. Garza’s numbers aren’t spectacular this year, but he’s suffering from an abnormally high home run rate and playing games that mean virtually nothing. Throw an Angels uniform on Garza and you have the same pitcher that was worth 5.0 fWAR last season. His competitiveness is legendary and is always on full display as he wears his heart on his sleeve every time out. He’s proven he can pitch in the AL during his time in Tampa and he’s gone on record saying “I’ll pitch on the freaking moon,” in order to stay in this game. That is the kind of guy I want on my team.
Any of the three (Hamels, Garza, Greinke) are massive upgrades in terms of who can win you a World Series this year over the benched Bourjos, the minor league prospect Segura and the middle reliever Walden. That to me would almost be reason enough to make the deal, even if all the other situations I’ve mentioned didn’t exist. But they do, and that’s what why pulling the trigger on such a deal makes so much sense today.
Making deadline deals is difficult and no trade is guaranteed to go down. A lot of teams will be in the market for the services of an Ace starting pitcher so the competition will be fierce. But I firmly believe GM Jerry Dipoto will be active at this trade deadline and I hope he’s able to secure a player capable of helping bring wins immediately. We will soon see what unfolds and in the meantime we’ll be watching and waiting in great anticipation as the Halos pursue their second World Series Championship precisely ten years after winning their first.
Follow Drew Mumford Jr. on twitter @jrjantreshunt.