The calendar has turned to July and suddenly the Angels are grinding out some tough wins. A perfect 6-0 road trip against familiar foes Detroit and Houston allowed the Halos to complete June with a 15-14 record, making it two straight months that the Angels have played better than .500. However, they still find themselves four games under the .500 mark, nine games out of first place in the AL West.
July 31 and the days leading up to it will be an extremely interesting time for the Halos. General Manager Jerry Dipoto certainly finds himself in a peculiar situation. When asked if he would categorize his team as “buyers” or “sellers” heading towards the MLB trade deadline, Dipoto dodged the question:
We are not a buyer. We are not a seller. We’re the Angels.
The Angels will soon be faced with a series of decisions that will tip their hand as to what kind of team the front office actually believes they have. At this point, nobody really knows what kind of team this, or what it can do over the next 80 games.
Injuries to key contributors have soured what might be a much better team. Jered Weaver, Erick Aybar, Peter Bourjos, Kevin Jepsen, Tommy Hanson, and Jason Vargas have all been bit by the injury bug, making it difficult to determine what kind of team the Angels really are. Can they be good? Can they be great? Or are they just poorly assembled and incapable of being an elite squad?
Nearly every prognosticator, including lines makers in Las Vegas, believed that the Halos were a World Series contender before the season began. Perhaps Dipoto thinks the club can get healthy, Josh Hamilton will begin swinging the bat, and the club makes a historic run into October. There’s a chance that things could go right, but it’d be a tremendous gamble on Dipoto’s part to head into August with 25 current players from the Angels organization and hope for the best.
Or Dipoto could further dilute the organization’s farm system to add a key piece for a playoff push. The Angels have a depleted minor league system, and tapping further into it to add pieces to a team that hasn’t been at .500 since the first week of the season would (in most circumstances) be considered nothing short of crazy. But is this team starting to find its stride? If so, would a bullpen arm, a proven bat at third base, or a quality rotation arm be enough to catapult this team into the postseason? Maybe, but not definitely. Rock, meet hard place.
This team has neither thrown in the towel nor has it made itself into a force to be reckoned with. A payroll that shouts contender, but an overall record that screams pretender. There isn’t a clear cut route to take and Dipoto is probably rooting for the next few weeks to tell him something definitive about his club. Keep winning as they have done over the past week and the decision gets easier. Or continue losing as they have done a ton of throughout the season and that too makes the decision clearer. Chances are, neither of those will happen and the Angels will play closer to the 15-14 mark they amassed in June. So at that point, what’s next?
Ryan Madson and Sean Burnett were brought in to shore up a bullpen that needed fine tuning. Madson has yet to take the field for the Angels. Chalk that one up to bad luck. Sean Burnett, on the other hand, has been an enigma. He is close to turning into the second coming of Ryan Madson. As in man-down, for good. So does Dipoto rely on Jepsen, Richards, Downs, and Frieri? Or does he sacrifice minor league talent for relief help? Someone like Jesse Crain from the Chicago White Sox could be an upgrade.
Is Alberto Callaspo good enough at third? An upgrade appears to be available in Milwaukee Brewers third baseman Aramis Ramirez. Ramirez packs some top notch pop in his bat, but is that worth the price of unproven talent? We all remember the Greinke deal and how that ended up. The 2012 Angels didn’t get a seat at the playoff table, and now former Angel Jean Segura is playing an All Star caliber shortstop for those same Brewers that could dangle Ramirez. Oh, and let’s not forget that Greinke didn’t re-sign with the Angels and now pitches for the rival Dodgers. Ouch.
So you want to be a General Manager in Major League Baseball? Are you sure about that? Jerry Dipoto will undoubtedly lose some sleep in the coming days. Is trading a potentially power bat like C.J. Cron worth the return of a Matt Garza or a starting pitcher of his ilk? To the fans it very well might be, but how about to a front office that could very well face the music if this season doesn’t eventually pan out as ownership and prognosticators expected?
Don’t take your eyes off of this team yet. There’s plenty more to see as two of the best teams in baseball roll into Anaheim this week. First a 3 game set against the St. Louis Cardinals and then the Boston Red Sox come into town. A successful performance against those elite clubs would further hope for the 2013 Angels. This is the route the Halo faithful hope this team takes. No Angels fan wants to see Howie Kendrick finally win a batting title for a different team, or Scott Downs pitching out of the bullpen in a playoff game donning a color that isn’t Halo red.
Make it easier for Jerry and stay hot, Angels.