The Angels Bleak Search for Pitching

In less than a month, the Angels have been dealt some two deadly blows to their starting rotation. Neither Tyler Skaggs not Garrett Richards will be pitching any time in the foreseeable future. Jeff detailed the devastating blow that their losses may have on their World Series chances yesterday. Today, I thought we could take a look at the potential pitchers that the team could acquire for the stretch run.

Let’s start with the starting pitchers that Dave listed back on June 25 as being potential trade chips. Some of them have been dealt, and some — like Ian Kennedy — perhaps weren’t ever really on the trading block. Which, as you can imagine, doesn’t leave a lot left. Here’s who is:

Bartolo Colon: The Mets should have traded Colon at the non-waiver trade deadline when they could have controlled the market. Now, things have changed. While the Angels are the team most likely to benefit from Colon, there are plenty of others who could use him. And even if they can’t, someone will likely block the elder statesman from reaching Anaheim. Seattle should certainly put in a block, and the A’s are also in a position to do so. Not to mention the Yankees, Orioles, Blue Jays, oh, and every other National League team. In fact, the Angels would get the very last crack at him. That’s probably not even possible.

Edwin Jackson: Jackson, however, is most certainly within the realm of possible. The Cubs have very little money tied up in the future to veterans — basically just Jackson and Ryan Sweeney. Given how much money is owed to him and his onerous ERA this season, it’s unlikely that anyone would claim him just for blocking purposes, and the Angels likely wouldn’t have to do anything more than assume his salary. He might not be the prize pick that he once was, but he was league average last year and his ERA overstates how bad he has been this season. Of course, he just landed on the disabled list with a lat strain, so the chances of him getting dealt have gone way down.

A.J. Burnett: Once again said to be contemplating retirement, and why wouldn’t you be when you’re stuck on the Phillies? When given the opportunity to pick his spots, Burnett has chosen to stay close to home on the east coast, but if he’s truly reached the end of the line, then perhaps he’d like to go out with a bang? Like with Colon though, the probability of him sneaking through waivers probably isn’t that high.

Erik Bedard: Unlike everyone else here, Bedard is already fair game, as the Rays released him at the beginning of the month. There’s a reason for that — Bedard has been terrible for awhile, and this year was his nadir. But he’s available, and he started games in the majors this year. And when you look at his game logs, you see he was either pretty decent or absolutely awful, it’s just that the latter started happening more frequently. Perhaps over the course of five starts, the Angels could get the former from him.

John Danks: It’s quite possible that the concept of “John Danks, major league pitcher,” is a thing of the past. Given that he has piled up just 0.8 WAR and a FIP in the 5’s for the past three seasons, it seems that he is simply trading on his name (and his contract) at this point. But if the Angels want to bet on past experience, then he could almost certainly be theirs for the taking.

Kyle Kendrick: His value is declining at the same time that his price is increasing, which is pretty much the exact opposite of the way you want things to go.

Just to be comprehensive, let’s look at some other pitchers who didn’t make the initial trade chip list.

Jon Niese: One of the few pitchers we definitively believe made it through waivers unclaimed, Niese would be a boon for the Angels given the options above. The Mets have a ton of pitching coming, and as I’ve stated previously, this may make Niese expendable, particularly if the Mets can get something good for him.

Scott Feldman: The odds aren’t great on Feldman sneaking through to the Angels, but they’re a little higher than they would be for Colon. He’s been worth roughly half of his $10 million salary this year, and he gets the same salary in each of the next two seasons. Whether or not the Astros are willing to move him is another story. While Feldman is unlikely to be an important part (or even a part) of the next winning Astros’ squad, selling him off for in the first year of his contract might create unrest in a clubhouse where management is already sweating the softer side of things.

Scott Baker: The Rangers have no reason to hang onto him, and he’s pitched well since he was moved to relief, so perhaps he’s not completely useless. Then again, his work as a starter since returning to major league duty hasn’t exactly been stellar, which is why he was moved to the bullpen in the first place on a team that’s in last place.

Could others be targets? Sure, but potentially tradeable guys like Jeremy Hellickson and Jorge de la Rosa are either valuable enough or have been deemed valuable enough to keep. Perhaps they could check and see if Jeff Niemann is still alive? But barring that, there’s not a lot out there.

The Angels may be better off trying to dig the next Matt Shoemaker out of their system. He wasn’t on either Marc Hulet’s or Keith Law’s top Angels prospects lists heading into the season, but he’s done very well for the Angels. Wade LeBlanc is going to get the first shot, but perhaps Nate Smith, Drew Rucinski or Michael Roth — all of whom have pitched well for Double-A Arkansas this season — are deserving of their shot.

The Angels didn’t have a ton of depth to start the season, and that was after trading for Tyler Skaggs and Hector Santiago. Garrett Richards papered over said lack of depth with his amazing performance, but now that he’s gone, the team’s pro scouting department is really going to need to earn its money. Whether they find their solution externally or internally, the Angels will need to act fast.

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Paul Swydan is the managing editor of The Hardball Times and a writer and editor for FanGraphs. He has written for the Boston Globe, ESPN MLB Insider and ESPN the Magazine, among others. Follow him on Twitter @Swydan.

31 Responses to “The Angels Bleak Search for Pitching”

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  1. Chris says:

    Not likely, but have to wonder if they’d claim Ubaldo Jimenez, and if the O’s would be willing to listen to a post-season competitor if he was unclaimed.

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    • APer930 says:

      They O’s might be thinking, “we can drop Jimenez’s contract AND face him in the postseason! What a deal!”

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  2. Aaron (UK) says:

    I reckon Niese looks the most likely of these, given the combination of ability and tradeability.

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    • leon says:

      What pieces do the Angels have to acquire him? I’m not an expert on the Angles system, but my understanding is that it’s a weak system that already shed several of it’s more promising guys for Street. Niese is a solid pitcher with a very reasonable contract, the Mets have no incentive to dump him for peanuts. Everyone knows the Mets have a pitching surplus so his passing through waivers, to me, says that teams had asked about him at the deadline and decided the asking price wasn’t even worth putting in a claim.

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      • Ty Webb says:

        The Angels have little to nothing, unless a team has fallen in love with a lower-level arm. After acquiring Gordon Beckham, I think the Angels are hoping someone bites on Grant Green (though I think he’s on the DL). Other than that….what do they do? They can move C.J. Cron, but he’s their best bat in the minors (when he’s actually not on the MLB roster). Would someone take a chance on Michael Kohn? Great stuff, needs to find his command. Or would the Angels trade Cory Rasmus and promote Kohn themselves? I’m sure hoping DiPoto can pull something out of a hat.

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    • LaLoosh says:

      Prob safe to assume the Angels will be scouting Niese tonite in LA vs. the Dodgers.

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  3. Ethan says:

    I believe Burnett has already made it through waivers

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  4. Thinking of Niese in particular, do the Angels even have the minor league pieces to make this work or would MLB players need to head back to the Mets? Seems that there can’t be much of value left for the Angels to deal away in the minors.

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  5. Mark says:

    I’d like to add Mark Buehrle to the list, unless you expect the Jays to rebound. Can’t imagine teams would claim him given his salary. They’d still have Dickey/Stroman/Hutch/Happ and possibly Sanchez, so their rotation could work without Buehrle going forward.

    Don’t expect it to happen, but he might be a better option than a few guys on the list. Depends on if LAA could afford him though.

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  6. Obey the Trout says:

    Unless it’s straight salary for just the remainder of the year I say the team stay put. They have the post-season locked up. None of the guys listed resembles any sort of guarantee that they will win the division. We’re talking about 4-5 starts and then depth in the post-season (if they make it past the play in). Don’t want to give up any real talent for such a minimal probability of improvement.

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    • Aaron (UK) says:

      Winning the division almost doubles your chance of the World Series. The division is on a knife-edge. Seems like a good time to invest.

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    • Ty Webb says:

      This is an interesting theory. With the Angels having a good pen, and showing a willingess to freaking use it, could they carry one more reliever and go with the strategy that they hope LeBlanc (or whomever) can go 4-5 IP, keep them in the game, then yank ’em? And if they get a comfortable lead by the 5th, roll the dice with said SP until he gets in trouble?

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    • LaLoosh says:

      I thought this too – that the Angels prob won’t make a panic move for a SPer since they are almost a lock to make the playoffs. But obviously winning the division is pretty important….

      Also, Niese is controllable for at least 2 more years at a reasonable deal. Colon also next year. So it isn;t hard to justify dealing something to get one of those Ps.

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  7. Tim says:

    As a Twins fan, I’d like to add Ricky Nolasco to the list.

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  8. LaLoosh says:

    Yeah Niese has catapulted Colon for the Mets if I’m reading the tea leaves correctly. Problem is always that Sandy Alderson overvalues his own players and isn’t active on trade market bc of it. Add that the Angels don’t have much to offer except maybe Grant Green plus some marginally interesting arms and maybe a lower level lottery ticket or two. We’ll see.

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  9. LaLoosh says:

    Regarding Colon, any team contemplating a block has to assume the risk that the Mets just let him go and the $11M he’s owed next year. I could maybe see Seattle or the Yankees for the block. Not sure about anyone else.

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  10. Plucky says:

    Mild correction on Feldman’s contract- his salary structure is actually front-loaded. His 14/15/16 salaries are 12/10/8, respectively

    You are however, 100% correct about the likelihood of management being unwilling to trade him, not just for the reasons you mentioned but also bc the extremes to which they cut payroll was getting them a lot of flak. The front-loaded nature of Feldman’s contract was partially a response to that, raising payroll now but not impinging on future flexibility as much

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  11. Brad Johnson says:

    For what it’s worth, I think Danks would be fine in say, Oakland or Pittsburgh or Tampa. Somewhere with a big park and an elite defense. Of course that’s true of many mediocre pitchers. But let’s not forget that U.S. Cellular Field is closer to Coors than average.

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  12. Dan Greer says:

    Use that September 40-man roster to assign 3-4 guys as the “5th starter,” turning that spot into a bullpen game. It may not help as much when they get to the playoffs, but you can still approach it similarly with Hector Santiago going once through the order and using relievers heavily for that start. Even marginal pitchers can be effective in small doses, no?

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