The Angels are expecting some major reinforcements to their lineup, though the exact timing of at least two of those bats is still up in the air. GM Perry Minasian told MLB.com’s Rhett Bollinger (Twitter links) and other reporters that the team hasn’t yet determined a start date for Mike Trout’s minor league rehab assignment, while Justin Upton might need a rehab assignment of his own before he is activated from the 10-day injured list.
A right calf strain sent Trout to the injured list back on May 18, and a subsequent shift to the 60-day IL meant that Trout won’t be able to return until July 17 at the earliest. Given the long layoff, a rehab stint certainly seems necessary for Trout, and the exact length of the assignment will be determined by both the condition of Trout’s calf and how long it will take the superstar to get fully ramped up for big league game action. Trout has already been participating in baseball activities, so if the rehab assignment gets underway soon, it is possible he might be ready to go when first eligible to be activated from the IL a week from today.
Upton has been on the IL since June 25 due to a sore back, and he has already missed more time than expected with what was initially thought to be a fairly minor issue. The outfielder will now be sidelined through the All-Star break, though there still isn’t yet any indication that Upton won’t be eligible for reinstatement in time for the Angels’ first second-half game on July 16. (Upton could do any necessary rehab work in minor league games during the break.)
In better news for the team, Minasian said Anthony Rendon should be ready to return by the time the second half begins. Rendon was retroactively placed on the 10-day injured list on July 5 due to a left hamstring strain, so he’ll end up missing a minimal amount of time if he does indeed get activated on July 16.
Needless to say, getting Trout, Upton, and Rendon back as quickly as possible will go a long way towards determining the Angels’ fate for the 2021 season as a whole, and in the more immediate near-future of their trade deadline plans. Despite multiple key injuries and well-documented pitching and defensive problems, Los Angeles still has a 44-43 record, and is a modest 4.5 games back in the AL wild card race. No deadline addition could compare to getting Trout and the red-hot Upton (with an 1.020 OPS in 112 PA since becoming the Angels’ leadoff hitter) back in the lineup, and while Rendon has struggled with injuries and inconsistency this year, the third baseman has a superstar track record.
With this in mind, Minasian said his front office is considering adding players before the trade deadline, though the GM stopped short of using a traditional “seller” or “buyer” label to describe his team. All options appear to be under consideration, however, as Minasian said the Angels were open to acquiring rental players under contract only for the remainder of the 2021 season.
Fangraphs gives the Halos a 16.5% percent chance at reaching the playoffs, though the x-factors of Trout, Upton, and Rendon could change the equation considerably. If all three are in form upon returning from the IL, the Angels will have one of the scariest lineups in baseball, so Minasian surely has to be focusing on pitching upgrades in his trade explorations. One would imagine that the Angels might still lean towards buying at the deadline even if they’re still hanging around the .500 mark come July 30, though Minasian isn’t likely to make a full-on shopping spree if L.A. is still something of a longshot for the postseason.