It’s never too early in the season to start thinking about trades or upgrades.
In fact, clubs break Spring Training knowing what works, what doesn’t and what could be better. So, when games in June come around, teams really start to take a hard look at themselves in the mirror.
Everyone in baseball knows that the next month will determine how teams will approach the Trade Deadline on July 31. Here a few questions front offices in the American League West are pondering.
Despite another MVP-caliber season from superstar Mike Trout, the Angels have dealt with a number of injuries and haven’t been above .500 since April 13, when they were 8-7. But that could change soon. Upton (left turf toe) is expected to make his season debut this month. Simmons (left ankle sprain) is a few weeks away from a return.
The Angels have been a streaky team this year, and the additions of Upton and Simmons could help catapult them in the race for an AL Wild Card spot, as the Astros are running away with the division. It’s clear the Angels need pitching, especially a starter to help a staff that has the struggling Matt Harvey and Trevor Cahill on the injured list, but the biggest moves might come from within the offensive ranks.
Question: Do they have enough starting pitching?
Yep, that’s a real question. We all know the Astros have a solid 1-2 punch at the top with Justin Verlander -- the frontrunner for the AL Cy Young Award -- and Gerrit Cole, a strikeout machine. Then there’s Wade Miley, who has proved to be a very dependable option as the third starter and has recent playoff success. Brad Peacock has pitched well lately, but do they want him making playoff starts?
If the Astros acquire another solid starter, they could bolster the rotation and push Peacock to the bullpen and a role in which he flourished in 2017. The fifth starting spot has been a revolving door that includes rookie Corbin Martin and lefty Framber Valdez since Collin McHugh got injured. So yes, even the Astros look at their starting rotation and think, “We could be better.”
The question: Can the club depend on their sometimes erratic bullpen to help them make another run to the playoffs?
That said, the club is still very much in the AL Wild Card race as they entered Wednesday night just two games back of the second spot. The A’s front office needs to decide whether it has to beef up the back end of its bullpen to avoid the late-inning drama that has become a common theme this season, or stand pat. For now, the relievers have to pitch better.
The question: How big is the market for their veterans?
Surprise! Jerry Dipoto wants to make a deal. The GM will be looking to move the remaining veterans who are on short-term contracts as he continues looking ahead to 2020 and beyond. He’s already dealt Jay Bruce to the Phillies, and with the Mariners cooling off after their hot start, he’ll see what he can get for Edwin Encarnacion, Mike Leake, Dee Gordon and Tim Beckham.
Encarnacion has proved again to be one of the premier sluggers in MLB, even at 36, but the challenge is finding a team that needs a first baseman/designated hitter, and can afford him. The Mariners are willing to eat some of his remaining $20 million salary for this season and a $5 million buyout (or $20 million option) for 2020, but how much?
The question: Do the Rangers have enough pitching to compete for a Wild Card spot or is it time to start rebuilding?
Drew Smyly was just moved to the bullpen where he joins Shelby Miller. Edinson Volquez is on the injured list until sometime after the All-Star break. If not for the emergence of Adrian Sampson and Ariel Jurado, the starting rotation -- which is already a starter short -- would be in even more trouble.
It’s time -- or it’s close to time -- for the Rangers to decide who they are, take a good look at themselves and the standings and decide on the next course of action. Do they give Joe Palumbo a shot as the fifth starter? Or do they make a trade for the short term that could have long-term implications? The answer will become clearer in the next few weeks.