The bullpen has easily been the Angels’ biggest weakness this season, so for the second consecutive week, the front office sought made a tweak to hopefully improve the unit. On the heels of last night’s A’s-Cubs mega-deal, the Angels and Diamondbacks completed their own blockbuster trade, with the Angels receiving left-handed reliever Joe Thatcher and outfielder Tony Campana in exchange for outfield prospect Zach Borenstein and pitching prospect Joey Krehbiel.
Okay, this trade probably can’t tip the balance of power in the American League like the A’s trade might, but it still should improve the Angels and strengthen their position for a run to at least the Wild Card coin flip. The 32-year-old Thatcher owns a 2.63 ERA and 3.28 FIP — he has also struck out 25% of hitters and walked only 3%, the latter of which would mark a career high. With the Angels already owning a decent stable of right-handed relievers in Joe Smith, Mike Morin, Keven Jepsen, and recently acquired Jason Grilli, it’s likely Thatcher will take over the role of left-handed specialist. In his career, Thatcher has struck out 33.2% of lefty batters and held them to a .213/.280/.341 slash line.
Thatcher is under contract only through the rest of this season, so if he flames out for the Angels at least there isn’t any additional money attached to him. Unlike, say, Jonathan Papelbon, another reliever rumored to be on the trade market — he is owed $13 million in 2015, and possibly another $13 in 2016 if his option vests. Yeah, no thanks.
Already rostering four solid outfield options in Mike Trout, Josh Hamilton, Kole Calhoun, and Collin Cowgill, it’s doubtful Tony Campana makes the 25-man roster, but he is at least a solid addition for depth. He can’t hit a lick, as his .262 career wOBA can attest. But he’s fast, which helps him steal bases and play defense. In his career he’s stolen 66 bases on 74 attempts (89.2% success rate) and UZR rates him as a plus defender, particularly in the corner outfield spots. His presence in the trade is more shrug-worthy than anything, but it never hurts to have a player that can play defense and pinch-run late in games.
Heading the other way, Borenstein was rated the #9 prospect in the Angels’ lackluster system by Baseball America before the season. In 78 games between Triple-A Salt Lake and Double-A Arkansas, Borenstein has struggled with a .262/.316/.402 slash. In 18 innings of relief work in the lower rungs of the Angels’ developmental system, Krehbiel has a 2.00 ERA with 23 strikeouts and seven walks. Neither of these players will probably haunt the Angels down the road, so it’s a worthy gamble for Jerry Dipoto and the Angels to trade them for a proven relief pitcher that can help end the Angels’ October drought.