The Angels supposedly have one of the worst farm systems in baseball and have already made two trades, both of which they seemingly overpaid in, and yet their name continues to come up in trade rumors.
How can this be? What could they possibly have left to deal?
Sometimes rumors have a way of getting out of control and losing all touch with reality. How else do you expect writers to say in one column that the Angels “gutted their farm system” to get Huston Street and then mention in another column a few days later that the Angels are in the mix to acquire Cliff Lee. These would see to be mutually exclusive events. Either that or the writers are just interested in pushing “bad farm system” narrative and/or trolling for pageviews by putting a high profile team like the Halos in a rumor with a high profile player like Cliff Lee. We all know that writers would NEVER do that, right?
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Where was I? Right, trade assets.
If the Angels actually were going to make a trade, the rules of trading annoyingly insist that they give things up in return. That could be a problem for the Angels since they’ve already traded Taylor Lindsey, Jose Rondon, R.J. Alvarez, Zach Borenstein, Elliot Morris and Joey Krehbiel. They also have insisted on not trading anyone off their big league roster, taking Tyler Skaggs, C.J. Cron, Mike Morin and Grant Green off the table. All told, that takes five of their top ten prospects entering the season off the table.
But wait! There’s more! Or, more accurately, there isn’t more because of the top remaining prospects, some of them are likely not available either. The Angels have been desperate to get some actual rotation prospects in their system, so high-end arms like Hunter Green, Ricardo Sanchez and Sean Newcomb (who can’t be traded for several months anyway) are almost certainly off limits. The pickings, they are getting slim.
Another issue facing the Angels is that in many cases, the selling teams are not just looking for prospects, but prospects who are at least nearing big league readiness. The Halos actually do have some assets in this scenario. Cam Bedrosian is a top relief prospect, which is great except for the part where there is a cap on how valuable a relief prospect can be. Behind him are a collection lower ceiling guys with live arms like Cory Rasmus, Trevor Gott, Michael Kohn, Danny Reynolds and Jairo Diaz. If they want real upper-level starting pitcher prospects, there is Michael Roth, who was DFA’d and went unclaimed already this year, and Kyle McGowin, who is good but also currently injured. The only semi-legitimate arm they have to move is Nate Smith, an under-the-radar guy who has taken off this year. That’s about it.
On the upper-level position player side of things, it isn’t quite as bad. Alex Yarbrough is a solid second base prospect. Eric Stamets is having a down year, but still possesses value as a glove-first shortstop. Kaleb Cowart might be an interesting piece to the right kind of team, but would probably only return pennies on the dollar. Then there are a few lower-profile guys like Michael Snyder and Jett Bandy.
If the Halos are going to make any impactful deals, they are going to have to match-up with a team that is not in a rush to see a return on their trade. In High-A and below, the Angels, believe it or not, have several interesting options at their disposal. Austin Wood, Michael Clevinger, Tyler DeLoach, Keynan Middleton, Victor Alcantara and Jonah Wesely all at least have some intrigue, though none project to be front-end starters. Similarly, there are plenty of bats like Wade Hinkle, Cal Towey, Chad Hinshaw, Mark Shannon, Eric Aguilera, Miguel Hermosillo and Natanael Delgado who look like they could be big leaguers, but none of them seem much of a threat to become All-Stars. None of these players figure to be centerpieces of a deal, but could certainly fill out a “quantity over quality” trade package.
As you’ve likely surmised by now, the Angels aren’t going to be knocking anyone’s socks off with an offer of prospects. Probably the best they could cobble together at this point is a Bedrosian, Delgado, Smith and Cowart package. I’m not sure even sure if that is better than what the Halos sent to San Diego for Huston Street.
The only thing they can do to improve the offer is use the one best asset they have: Arte Moreno’s wallet. Moreno has never been shy about his willingness to spend if it brings the Angels closer to a championship, so throwing money at a team shouldn’t scare him off, within reason. There might be some limitation this year on that willingness if only because Arte prefers to avoid paying the luxury tax and they only have a few million dollars of wiggle room before they breach that threshold. Of course, that might be something Moreno is willing to do if the return is good enough. However, it also means finding the right kind of trade partner as not every team will be greatly swayed by financial savings. The Rays would much rather have prospects than a few extra million bucks. However, the Phillies might persuaded to accept a lesser return on Cliff Lee if the Angels eat his whole remaining contract. That’s really the best the Angels can hope for with what their farm system has left.