3 minor deals may prove major for Angels
HOUSTON -- Sometimes, the best moves are the small ones. Really good teams make them all the time. Taken one by one, they don't raise eyebrows. Seen as part of a larger picture, they can significantly position a team for a stretch run.
That's the best way to look at what the Angels have done the past couple of days in making three separate trades to acquire outfielders Shane Victorino, David Murphy and David DeJesus.
They already looked like one of baseball's best teams. Since June 27, the Angels have won 18 of 25 games to go from five games out to a first-place tie in the American League West after Tuesday's 10-5 loss to the Astros.
In that time, the Halos have had baseball's best rotation and highest-scoring offense. Just as they did last season, they seemed to be getting better by the day.
First, there's Mike Trout. He has used this past month to remind the world that he's still one of the two best baseball players on the planet, right there with Bryce Harper.
Trout's 1.261 OPS since June 27 is the best in the game. So are his 12 home runs. Trout didn't play Monday night because of a sore left wrist that prompted the Angels to send him for an MRI, and he's listed as day to day.
No damage was revealed, and manager Mike Scioscia is hopeful of getting Trout back perhaps as early as Wednesday.
And the Halos' rotation has benefitted from the emergence of a couple of young arms. Hector Santiago and Andrew Heaney are 8-0 with a 1.79 ERA during the 18-7 run. Garrett Richards remains solid, and with veteran Jered Weaver almost ready to return from the disabled list, a very good group is about to get even better, even deeper.
So why shake things up? General manager Bill Stoneman and Scioscia may have preferred to land an impact bat. But there may not be many of those changing teams between now and Friday's non-waiver Trade Deadline at 1 p.m. PT.
So the Angels made incremental improvement.
"It adds depth," Scioscia said. "It's going to give us a little more balance. Our bench is going to have a nice look with guys who can play and match up."
Scioscia's left fielders have a combined .213 batting average and a .588 OPS. That first number is the second lowest in the Majors. The second one is dead last.
Now the Angels can use a DeJesus/Victorino platoon in left. DeJesus has a .715 OPS against right-handed pitching. Victorino has an .896 OPS against lefties.
Designated hitter has been the other problem area. The Halos have gotten a .230 batting average and a .698 OPS from their DHs. Both numbers are among baseball's worst.
Acquiring Murphy allows Scioscia to perhaps line up a Murphy/C.J. Cron platoon. Murphy has a .774 OPS against righties. Cron has an .802 OPS against lefties.
This is the new normal in baseball. Offense is rarer than ever, so teams invest in front-line pitching and find ways to piece productive offensive platoons together.
In the end, the Angels are going to go only as far as their stars. If their rotation continues to produce quality starts and if closer Huston Street is healthy, the Halos will be in a great spot to fight out a division title with the Astros.
"I'm honored to come here and be a part of it," Victorino said. "If there's any chance of being in the postseason, that's what you play this game for. I've been blessed to have that opportunity and hope to have more of them."
The Angels and Astros have been separated by no more than two games in three weeks. One or the other has led the AL West since April 18.
The Astros have also been busy, acquiring left-hander Scott Kazmir for the stretch run. General manager Jeff Luhnow would like to do at least one more trade, that for a starting pitcher or a bat. As the Angels learned, bats have become the most coveted item on the trade market.
"The results will show up on the field, but I feel a lot better getting some guys who can play left field, feel a whole lot better about our chances," Stoneman said. "I especially like that we got some veteran guys who have been around. That sort of experience should help us as we approach September and the postseason."