ANAHEIM -- There are two weeks to go until the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline, but general manager Billy Eppler has refrained from putting any labels on the Angels just yet. The Halos will play 11 games between now and then, each of which represents an opportunity for Eppler to
ANAHEIM -- There are two weeks to go until the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline, but general manager Billy Eppler has refrained from putting any labels on the Angels just yet. The Halos will play 11 games between now and then, each of which represents an opportunity for Eppler to gather more information that will help guide the club's decision-making at the Deadline.
"I think we don't have to make any declarations or specific directions right now," Eppler said Monday. "I think how we plan the next seven-to-eight-game window will give us a clearer look into our outlook for the final two months. While it is only 8-10 percent of what we've played so far, it's 8-10 percent more information than I have today."
After dropping two of three games to the Rays in their first series of the second half, the Angels are 46-49 and entered Monday 3 1/2 games behind the Yankees for the second American League Wild Card spot, though four teams are currently ahead of them in the standings. The rest of the July schedule won't get any easier for the Angels, who host the Nationals and Red Sox, two first-place teams, at Angel Stadium this week before embarking on a six-game road trip to Cleveland and Toronto.
"The teams coming in, they're good clubs and clubs that kind of control their own destinies," Eppler said. "So I think it'll be a good test for us."
How the Angels perform over that tough stretch will determine whether they buy or sell at the Deadline. Even after Michael Trout's return, the Halos remain a flawed team that could use reinforcement in more than one area of its roster.
One obvious hole has been second base, a position that has yielded an MLB-low .528 OPS for the Angels this season. After designating Danny Espinosa for assignment Sunday, the Halos plan to use a platoon of Nick Franklin and Cliff Pennington for now, though Eppler said he'd ultimately like to find a more permanent solution there.
"Clearly with the moves and the names inserted in the lineup at second base, I think that's an area that we'd like to have some stability," Eppler said. "In the short term, we've been going with Nick and Cliff in the lion's share of games there at that position, and so we'll continue to see how those guys man that position. Speaking in generalities, I always try to remain as opportunistic as possible where we can improve the club in the current season, or even in not-so-distant future seasons. I think we've shown that we're open to doing that."
There will be a handful of second basemen available on the trade market should the Angels opt to fill their void through external means. They've already been connected to the Marlins' Dee Gordon and the A's Jed Lowrie; the Phillies' Cesar Hernandez and the Pirates' Josh Harrison could also be good fits for the club.
The Angels figure to be limited in their maneuverability by their thin farm system, but Eppler said there are a growing number of prospects within the organization who are drawing inquiries from rival clubs.
"I usually use other clubs and other GMs that I'm speaking to as kind of a litmus test," Eppler said. "When I'm provided with names from different GMs and a name gets brought up in more than one conversation, I think that's fairly comforting for us to know that there are players that are attractive to outside organizations within our farm system. So that's a pretty good feeling."
If the Angels begin to fade in the Wild Card race, they'll likely switch gears and deal some of their veterans with expiring contracts such as Cameron Maybin, Yunel Escobar, Bud Norris and Yusmeiro Petit. While the Halos don't have to decide which way to pivot right now, their path should become clearer in the next fortnight.
Maria Guardado covers the Angels for MLB.com.