The Angels -- 15 games below .500 and 16 1/2 games out of first place -- will no doubt be sellers this month.To what extent remains to be seen.First-year general manager Billy Eppler recently emphasized that a total rebuild was not in the Angels' plans, saying: "With the position of
The Angels -- 15 games below .500 and 16 1/2 games out of first place -- will no doubt be sellers this month.
To what extent remains to be seen.
First-year general manager Billy Eppler recently emphasized that a total rebuild was not in the Angels' plans, saying: "With the position of this organization, and the financial strengths of this organization, it's not in the DNA to rebuild."
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Asked how he defined "rebuild," Eppler laughed, shrugged his shoulders and said: "Punting everything?"
So, no, the Angels will not do that. They have the game's best all-around player in Mike Trout, a forthcoming Hall of Famer in Albert Pujols, and a lot of money tied to them both. They can't necessarily clear the decks and start over, like the Astros and Royals did to eventually build the powerhouse rosters they now have.
But they are also self-aware.
The Angels finished the first half with a 0.1-percent chance of making the postseason, according to FanGraphs. So July 2016 will probably look a lot like July '13, when they traded away spare veteran pieces for controllable assets in their farm system.
The Angels didn't reach the .500 mark beyond April 3 in 2013, then came right back to boast the game's best regular-season record in '14. They'll hope for a similar turnaround now. But several obstacles -- a budget that is close to maxing out, a farm system that remains thin, a free-agent class that promises to be underwhelming, and two promising starting pitchers, Garrett Richards and Andrew Heaney, who could miss all of next season -- could derail those aspirations.
"We'll continue to invest," Eppler said. "We'll invest throughout this season, with a mind for this season, with a mind for the future and this winter, with a mind towards competing and contending year in and year out."
The Angels' desire to remain competitive may keep them from trading important, controllable players like Kole Calhoun, C.J. Cron or Andrelton Simmons. But they'll likely dangle some of their veterans, like third baseman Yunel Escobar, late-inning relievers Joe Smith and Huston Street and catcher Geovany Soto. The Angels have some appealing starting pitchers -- Héctor Santiago, Matt Shoemaker and Nick Tropeano -- but it would be difficult for them to part with any, given their potential rotation needs next year.
WHAT ARE THEY PLAYING FOR?
To begin carving out an identity. The Angels' new front office needs to take a hard look at the organization and determine when it can truly contend again. Mortgaging the future simply to appease Trout and Pujols is not a pragmatic approach.
THE ROAD AHEAD
At 575 career home runs, Pujols should soon pass Mark McGwire (583) and Frank Robinson (586) and will probably finish the 2016 season ninth on the all-time list. He also has 2,749 hits and has a very good chance to reach 2,800 by the end of the year, if he stays healthy.
Tyler Skaggs is 23 months into his recovery from Tommy John surgery, and he may finally be getting close. Skaggs, who just turned 25, has made back-to-back five-inning starts for Triple-A Salt Lake and he could be ready to rejoin the Major League rotation by the end of July. He is a big part of the Angels' future.
PROSPECTS TO WATCH
Nate Smith, who represented the Angels in the SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game, posted a 3.07 ERA in his last seven Triple-A starts, and he is nearing his first Major League callup. The 24-year-old left-hander is the Angels' top pitching prospect, according to MLBPipeline.com.
Alden Gonzalez has covered the Angels for MLB.com since 2012. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook, and listen to his podcast.