Angels and Tanking: Hitting The Reset Button

There are a few things in life that you simply can’t attach words too. Sure, there are words that we have in our lexicon that we use to describe those situations, but it is my opinion that those words don’t truly encompass the feelings associated with those moments in life, no matter how broad the definition is. And, as in life, those moments can, and do, happen to sports fans. Don’t judge irrationality.

Angels fans got a double dose of one of those moments yesterday morning, and yours truly got a dose of it in a roundabout way.

That would be my friend Aaron Somers. But, here’s the thing, I hadn’t heard about Garrett Richards (or the somewhat related news regarding Andrew Heaney) and the impending Tommy John surgery thanks to his torn ulnar collateral ligament. Of course I went and found the news that was broken by Jeff Passan, and of course I went through that emotion that we call gut-wrenching, but which I am sure affects an area broader than just the lower abdomen.

But that emotion was fleeting. Unlike real life moments where this emotion involves people or things that affect us on a more personal and intimate level, this was still baseball, and we can’t dwell too long on these things.

Oh, who am I kidding. I stayed on top of this thing for most of the day. Seriously, Garrett, I had stuff to do. A lot of people had stuff to do. Search RIP Angels 2016 on Twitter, or just click the on the red letters. This was more than gut-wrenching, it was devastating. This season was hanging on by a thread as it was, and that thread wasn’t just cut today. That thread was cut, burned, cauterized, ripped from both ends it’d been tied to and then each one was thrown into separate oceans. The Angels are, as Grant Brisbee put it, hosed this year.

It’s so bad that some people immediately jumped on the trade Mike Trout train. Thank goodness for Nate, as he quickly dashed the stupidity of that idea both on this site and on Twitter. It’s not only a stupid idea, but a monumentally stupid idea. This season is hosed, and there’s good chance that next season could be a dumpster fire, but here’s the part where I try to convince you that’s not that bad of a situation.

Draft Picks for Days

The problem with having a good team, or even having a better-than-average team, is the draft. I like the setup, but I would like to see the Angels secure a high first-round pick. Not first overall, mind you, just a protected pick for the 2017 and 2018 drafts. Maybe grab a polished college pitcher or hitter with that first pick. You know, the kind that doesn’t need to spend four or five years in the minor leagues before he is mature enough as a ball player to have a positive impact on the Angels. By this standard, the 2019 draft would work the same way, but I have this theory considering the 2019 season…

Free Agent Bonanza

Ohhhhhhhh man. Jeff Passan wrote about this back in December, but there is a really good chance that the free agent market for the 2018 offseason is going to be bananas. Look at some of the names in that article. Now, some of those names will sign extensions, it’s impossible that all of those players reach the market. And it would be naive of me to think that they would all make it to free agency. But, that free agent class is still going to be ridiculous. And Jeff Passan leaves out the Angels in his article, but, they could be big players that offseason.

But why, Mike? Why would the Angels be big players in that free agent market when they play it stupid every season? Because the Angels, if they play it correctly, will have all kinds of money to throw around. Per Cot’s, The Angels have three guaranteed contracts on the books for the 2019 season: Mike Trout, Albert Pujols, and Andrelton Simmons. $75M is guaranteed to those players in 2019, but if the payroll tax remains the same for that season, the adjusted taxable payroll (i.e. the luxury tax) for those three is $56M.

Now, this doesn’t factor in arbitration contracts, but that’s because we don’t know what those figures will be before then. A trade here or there could save the team arbitration money, and in Heaney’s case, they will already save money with this elbow issue. In Tyler Skaggs‘ case, it is easy to see his figure remaining relatively low. I know it seems mundane and insensitive to talk about money concerning these players, but, separate yourself for a minute from our allegiances to the players on the team, and try to look ahead as if you were dealing with futures stock. Because you know Arte Moreno is.

Each and every one of us, as fans, has bitched and moaned and complained about Arte and his wallet. We have also done the same about what Arte has spent his money on. And, truth be told, he whiffed hard on two players that he pushed Jerry Dipoto to sign, Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton. Pujols has at least displayed some value, but nothing worth his 10-year, $240M contract. Hamilton was a tire fire from the start, and with an ending just as putrid. At the same time, players that he could be pushing for going into the 2019 season won’t have the same age concerns that those two had and still have. And, not that I am for the idea, but there is still the possibility that the Angels could be moving into a new stadium sometime in the near future. And, let’s be honest, a cavalcade of stars is a really good way to put butts in the seats.

So, What I’m Trying To Say Is…

Losing a lot for the next few seasons doesn’t seem like the ideal business model. But, it works. The Royals proved that, the Astros proved that, the Indians are abiding by that strategy. The Angels simply have to do it in a different way. They don’t have the luxury of time where they can tank, draft well, and then let those players season in the minors for a few years before contending again. What they do have is Mike Trout signed through 2020, and any roster with him on it has a chance to win. But just slapping together parts at the edges for the next five seasons, as the Angels have done the last three, doesn’t have the same upside as a hard reset—phoning it in for the short term while keeping an eye towards the future.

Arte isn’t dumb, he didn’t amass his fortune on dumb luck. He knows what he is doing, and you can bet that if I have thought about this, then he has thought about this. What he needs from us is patience. As fans, we need to step back and look at the long term. And, for god’s sake, don’t bring up trading Mike Trout. Never do that. If anything, trading Trout would actually hinder this plan. Instead of having one locked down position and then building around that, you would have zero positions locked down and a really messy situation.

Some of you survived the ’70s, most of us survived the ’90s, and neither one of those aborted decades gave fans a Mike Trout to watch while the team played at a level that would have had them destined for relegation in the Premier League. This is only a blip on the radar compared to those two decades. Enjoy the Los Angeles Mike Trout’s for a few years, then we can enjoy an Angels playoff run in 2019 together.

Mike Hllywa

About Mike Hllywa

Mike is an Internet vagabond who has written for Angels websites like Halo Hangout and LA Angels Insider. He also spent a short amount of time on Gammons Daily and Baseball Analytics. He still believes in the future stardom of Richard Brandon Wood and has been known to praise Gary Disarcina without shame.