The Angels again find themselves in a difficult position with the trade deadline just more than a month away. At 38-40, Los Angeles sits ten games back of the division-leading Astros. They’re eight back in the AL Wild Card race, with four teams in between them and the Athletics, who currently hold the second Wild Card spot.
Barring a fantastic run in the coming weeks (at least three of which will come without superstar center fielder Mike Trout), the Angels don’t look like a team that’ll be seeking to acquire impending free agents for the stretch run. Even if they wind up out of the market for rentals, general manager Perry Minasian suggested the Angels could acquire players with years of control remaining beyond the 2021 season.
“There’s short-term and long-term [buys], depending on what you’re buying and how much control it has,” Minasian told Jack Harris of the Los Angeles Times last weekend. “If you’re looking at shorter-term rentals, then obviously we need to be in a position where we feel like that add is going to really push us. If we’re looking at players with control that can not only help us throughout the rest of this season, going into next year, it’s something we’ll entertain. I’ve been with clubs that you might not necessarily think are buyers, per se, but then a certain player pops up and makes sense for the long-term for that club and they go and buy. So I don’t really categorize it as buyer or seller. I think we’re looking for ways to improve our team, both short-term and long-term.”
Unsurprisingly, Minasian didn’t tip his hand as to how a flexible approach to the deadline could manifest itself. Looking at the Angels financial outlook beyond this season, though, it seems the starting rotation is the area most open to some creative management. Each of Dylan Bundy, Alex Cobb, Andrew Heaney and (current reliever) José Quintana is slated to hit free agency at the end of the year.
If multiple members of that group wind up signing elsewhere, the Angels would have a void to fill over the winter as they retool for 2022. (There’s certainly no thought of rebuilding with Trout, Shohei Ohtani and Anthony Rendon in the fold). If the Angels don’t make much headway in the standings over the next few weeks, it’s possible Minasian and the rest of the front office trade away one or more of the impending free agents while exploring acquisitions of starting pitchers who are under team control in 2022 (and perhaps beyond).
Such an approach would allow the Angels to bolster the roster for future seasons without completely punting on this year, especially with Trout tracking towards a mid-late July return. That kind of balancing act can be tough to strike but isn’t unheard of; the out-of-contention Reds acquired Trevor Bauer just before the 2019 trade deadline with an eye towards 2020, to give one prominent example.
As Minasian was quick to point out, much can change for the Angels during the next month. The front office’s exact course at the deadline will no doubt be shaped by how the team performs in their next 25 games, many of which will come against teams in front of them in the AL postseason picture. The Angels have three more games against the Yankees this week, followed by sets against the Orioles, Red Sox, Mariners (twice), A’s (twice), Twins and Rockies before July 30.