With the trade deadline just over a month away, the Angels still find themselves in a holding pattern as to whether or not they intend to sell, buy or stand pat. Typically, a last place team with a bloated payroll and no minor league system would be an easy call, sell everything you can and start from scratch. But it isn’t that easy for the Angels. The problem, whether its a good problem or not, is that the organization still doesn’t know if they’ll be competing in 2017, and much of that rests on the results of Garrett Richards‘ and Andrew Heaney‘s palette rich injections they received earlier this year.
Richards and Heaney, the Angels formidable ace and number two starters went down early in the season with that was thought to be non-serious issues, but after further test results revealed a tear in the elbow ligaments, were shut down indefinitely. After each opted for a second opinion (assuming the first opinion was Tommy John surgery), Richards and Heaney received a “PRP” shot (palette rich injection), which has shown in certain studies to help improve the healing process of the damaged ligaments without surgery and a lengthy rehabilitation. The best example of the success of the approach is Yankees ace Matsuhiro Tanaka, who opted for the shot and subsequent shorter rehab. The end result was approximately six months of diminished, yet workable velocity, followed by a full recovery, which is in stark contrast to the 12-18 month timeline for Tommy John surgery.
If Richards and Heaney’s shot are indeed successful, we can expect the Angels “one-two punch” to be fully healthy entering the 2017 season. A fully healthy top of the rotation would allow the Angels to fill out the remainder of their rotation with Nick Tropeano, Tyler Skaggs and Matt Shoemaker, giving them one of the better, younger pitching staffs in the game. With a pitching staff fully capable of supporting a position player core with young stars such as Mike Trout, Kole Calhoun and Andrelton Simmons, as well as almost 50 million in salary coming off the books after the 2016 season, the Angels could emerge as one of the better teams in the American League. However, without Richards and Heaney, we see an incomplete pitching staff lacking upside, and little reason to spend any of the 50 million saved in the expiring contracts of C.J. Wilson, Jered Weaver, Joe Smith, etc…
If the Angels are indeed competing in 2017, they likely won’t trade Yunel Escobar. starting third baseman who hit over .300 and only make 7 million a season aren’t entirely common and could be in high demand. Escobar is their leadoff hitter and spark plug. The Angels would also be widely expected to upgrade their offensive unit at second base and left field, with free agents such as Neil Walker (whom the Angels pursued via trade in 2015/16), Martin Prado, Yoenis Cespedes, Ian Desmond, Michael Saunders, Dexter Fowler, Carlos Gomez, John Jay etc… They would also be major players for significant bullpen upgrades, and if there’s one strength to the incoming free agent class, it’s that there are a plethora of proven bullpen arms.
However, if the Angels aren’t competing in 2017, it can be expected that the Angels could potentially trade Yunel Escobar, Hector Santiago, Huston Street, Joe Smith, Tim Lincecum, Geovanny Soto or even Kole Calhoun. Such a sale would preclude the Angels from returning to formidability for at least another three years until some of the farm system has been redeveloped.
And so, the balance of the near future of the Angels organization rests on the rehabbing elbows of Andrew Heaney and Garrett Richards, and a medical approach with promising results, yet a lack of tangible data to inspire any sort of certainty.