Angels land two prospects on quiet trade market
Dipoto's search for starting pitching postponed as non-waiver Deadline passes
ARLINGTON -- The Angels were able to pull off a couple of relatively minor deals prior to the non-waiver Trade Deadline, flipping Scott Downs to the Braves for Minor League reliever Cory Rasmus and sending Alberto Callaspo to the Athletics for Minor League infielder Grant Green.
The potential big moves, which would involve swapping position players for cost-controlled starting pitchers, will likely have to wait until the offseason.
The trade market wasn't a very favorable one this July.
"I don't know if I can classify it as a buyer's market at all," Angels general manager Jerry Dipoto said after a Deadline that saw few notable deals completed. "It was a slow market. The changes to the [Collective Bargaining Agreement], the way clubs have locked up and controlled some of their young players, it's all put a little bit of a drag on the trade market. This was a particularly slow July Deadline; I think it was a particularly uneventful day."
The Angels spent Wednesday in active discussions with teams regarding second baseman Howie Kendrick, who's signed to a team-friendly extension and is one of few assets -- particularly with Jason Vargas and Peter Bourjos hurt and the farm system depleted -- that can help boost their needy rotation.
Shortstop Erick Aybar and right-handed slugger Mark Trumbo weren't players the Angels were looking to deal, according to a source.
The Angels can certainly explore more deals in the offseason, when time permits and more teams can get involved. And in August, they can try to use waivers to find a trade partner for Vargas, who's a free agent at season's end and is slated to return from a blood clot in a couple of weeks.
The search for rotation upgrades is far from over.
"We were very aggressive in our search for young, Major League-ready, controllable pitching," Dipoto said. "Obviously it's a very difficult thing to acquire. And that doesn't mean that we're not going to look at it again."
The Angels were interested in D-backs starter Ian Kennedy on a buy-low deal they hoped would only cost them prospects, until the Padres acquired him for reliever Joe Thatcher, Minor League right-hander Matt Stites and a 2014 Competitive Balance Round B Draft pick.
Aybar was linked to the Cardinals, Trumbo was lumped in with the Pirates, and on the final day, multiple teams -- the Dodgers, Blue Jays and Royals among them -- were reported to have expressed interest in Kendrick.
But nothing happened.
Kendrick delayed his free agency in January 2012, signing a four-year, $33.5 million extension to stay with the club that drafted him, but he understands the Angels' position. They finished Wednesday 10 games below .500, don't figure to have enough money to spend big on a free-agent starter -- there aren't many to be had -- and they don't have much in the way of attractive prospects to trade.
That makes him a valuable chip.
"Am I mad about that? No, because I understand," said Kendrick, who could block deals to 12 teams in 2013 and six teams in 2014. "My job is to go out and play. It's not to worry about what's happening off the field or in the front office. They pay me to play the game; they don't pay me to worry about those kinds of transactions. I just want to go out and play and enjoy the game."
Green becomes the Angels' third-best prospect, as ranked by MLB.com. He's 25, athletic and has played multiple positions throughout his Minor League career, though he's primarily played second base in 2013. Green isn't considered a strong defender, but the former 13th overall pick has hit at every level, batting .325 with 11 homers and 50 RBIs for the A's Triple-A affiliate this season.
"He can swing the bat and is capable of moving around to a lot of positions," said Dipoto, who will initially play Green at second base for Triple-A Salt Lake and later get him acclimated at third base. "We envision a versatile, athletic player with an offensive game that fits at the Major League level, and we're going to find out where he fits defensively."
Rasmus, also 25 and still looking to stick in the Major Leagues, throws his fastball between 92-94 mph and features a swing-and-miss changeup, which helped him rack up an 11.8 strikeouts-per-nine rate in the Braves' Triple-A affiliate in 2013 -- where he also had a 1.72 ERA and a 1.15 WHIP despite walking 5.4 batters per nine.
Both could be up in the big leagues relatively soon.
"Obviously they're both 40-man [roster] players and we're hopeful that they can contribute at Salt Lake and take the next step in their own development," Dipoto said. "Our hope is to allow them to transition and to adjust to the organization, and we'll make an opportunity available to them at the appropriate time."