Angels not pressing to add starter at Trade Deadline
After strengthening bullpen, general manager Dipoto keeping tabs on pitching market
ANAHEIM -- It looks like the Angels did their shopping early this year.
"We really like our team," general manager Jerry Dipoto said Friday, when asked about continuing to add before Thursday's 1 p.m. PT non-waiver Trade Deadline. "The likelihood is that we'll do nothing."
Dipoto has already done plenty. He added three key relievers in 22 days, sending Ernesto Frieri to the Pirates for Jason Grilli on June 27, acquiring lefty specialist Joe Thatcher from the D-backs in a four-player trade on July 5 and shipping four prospects to the Padres for closer Huston Street on July 19.
With that, the Angels' bullpen went from a primary concern to a formidable strength.
But winning a division has been at a premium since the addition of a second Wild Card, and the first-place A's have shown no signs of slowing down. The Halos have made it clear, through offseason signings and recent trades, that they're all about winning now.
And that raises the following question:
Will the Angels -- and should they -- add a starting pitcher?
Speaking in generalities, Dipoto said the front office "will stay in touch with what's happening in the market, because you never know what's going to happen and you have to be aware," but he also added that the Halos "don't have any single or specific need to go out and look for right now."
They inquired on Rays ace David Price, but they couldn't offer up the package of prospects that would get a deal done. They expressed interest in Ian Kennedy of the Padres, but there wasn't a match there, either. And now they're at a point where they don't believe acquiring a starting pitcher via trade before Thursday is either realistic or altogether pressing.
The Angels still have roughly $15 million of wiggle room before surpassing the luxury-tax threshold, but they're hesitant to part with more prospects from an already-thin farm system and they won't bother trading for a starter who isn't a definite upgrade over any of the six they currently have.
"I think that's right," Dipoto said of the latter point.
Garrett Richards is enjoying a breakout season at age 26, going 11-3 with a 2.62 ERA in 21 starts, and staff stalwart Jered Weaver has allowed just six runs in his last 23 innings, dropping his ERA to 3.36.
Beyond them, though, there are questions.
Matt Shoemaker has filled in beautifully, going 7-2 with a 3.90 ERA in 11 starts, but he's a Minor League journeyman who spent almost all of the last two years mired in Triple-A. Tyler Skaggs has developed quickly, posting a 4.49 ERA in 108 1/3 innings, but he's 23 and in his first full season as a Major League starter. Hector Santiago has impressed since rejoining the team, but the left-hander started the season 0-6 with a 5.19 ERA before temporarily being removed from the rotation.
And then there's C.J. Wilson, rehabbing a sprained right ankle and working to recover from a 10.26 ERA in four starts before landing on the DL.
When Wilson returns -- he's on track for early August -- he may be the Halos' most important player.
"There's no doubt that C.J. Wilson is a very important piece of our rotation," Dipoto said of his No. 2 starter. "For the first 2 1/2 years he's been here, he's been a terrific contributor. We need him to get back to that."
Dipoto has finally executed the blueprint he strived for heading into the 2013 season. With Grilli, Thatcher and Street joining Joe Smith, Kevin Jepsen, Mike Morin and company, he's built a deep bullpen, capable of shortening games and putting far less stress on the starting rotation.
"We've talked about it multiple times since we've been here," the third-year GM said, "and this is the first time we've had the group that can actually do it."
Heading into Tuesday's game in Baltimore, the start of an eight-game road trip against the Orioles, Rays and Dodgers, the Angels ranked second in the Majors in winning percentage and run differential. But they just so happen to play in a division with an A's team that leads the Majors in both those categories; a club that got much stronger with the addition of Jeff Samardzija on July 5 and has a far more favorable schedule the rest of the way.
There are worse scenarios for the Halos, who have missed the playoffs the past four years, but having their season come down to an AL Wild Card Game -- especially one pitched by someone like Felix Hernandez -- certainly wouldn't be an ideal one.
And that's why they're at least keeping their ears open.
"If you think too far ahead, and play for what-ifs and how-tos, you'll talk yourself into bad decisions or moves," Dipoto said. "We've played very well and we've put ourselves in position as a contender. Sure we want to win the division, and that part hasn't changed all year."