Here’s the million-dollar question “When the July 31 trade deadline approaches, will the Angels be good enough to make a run to add a piece to their team or will they be out of the race and start making trades?” Here’s my simple answer. They will be buyers.
This team has endured a lot already and it will help them.
This team already had good chemistry. However Tyler Skagg’s tragic death, the freak accident to Tommy LaStella the very next day causing him to break is tibia bone, and then not too long thereafter, the collision at home plate causing Jonathan LuCroy to be sent to the hospital, has brought this team even closer. The team has endured a nightmarish two weeks, but they got two very emotional and solid wins against the Seattle Mariners to begin the second half at home, which is very encouraging that this team doesn’t want to give up and will not give up.
The Angels’ offense is one of the best in the league
Of course, chemistry means nothing if you don’t have the talent, but when it comes to the offense, there is plenty of it and then some. Yes, they lost Tommy LaStella, who was a surprise 2019 American League All-Star and yes they lost Jonathan LuCroy due to a broken nose and concussion that Jake Marisnick inflicted on him. However, Luis Rengifo is really coming into his own at the moment to absorb the loss of LaStella. On June 1, Rengifo was batting .219. Against the Seattle Mariners on July 13, he went 3-for-4 and is now batting .271 and now has a .733 OPS, which is slightly better than Andrelton Simmons. Kevin Smith is healthy again and calls a good game while having a nice .294 batting average with an impressive .381 on-base percentage. He’ll fill in nicely for LuCroy with Dustin Garneau backing up Smith.
And if that’s not enough here are some more reasons to be excited about the offense:
Although Kole Calhoun’s average is not where it should be (.237), he still has 20 home runs and 48 runs batted in and aren’t afraid to take some walks here and there.
David Fletcher is hitting like a legitimate leadoff hitter (.302 batting average, 3 triples, and an on-base percentage of .418 in his last 15 games).
Justin Upton is back and always a legitimate threat. He has 4 home runs in 60 at-bats since coming off the disabled list twice. Once he can stay healthy, he’ll get his average and mash even more home runs.
And of course, you have Mike Trout, who is the MVP runaway at the moment with 30 home runs 75 RBIs, 1.124 OPS, and a .306 batting average.
Shohei Ohtani has 14 home runs in 205 at-bats and is hitting .298 while Andrelton Simmons is getting warm again while hitting .307 and a couple stolen bases in the past week.
“But what about the pitching??”
But of course, people will be saying “The Angels need pitching!” Well, let’s start with the strengths first. The bullpen is much stronger than it was last season. Hansel Robles leads the way as the closer with 12 saves and a 2.74 ERA. Ty Butrey has a 2.57 ERA with 50 strikeouts in 42 innings, Justin Anderson has a 3.38 ERA with 46 strikeouts in 32 innings, Cam Bedrosian has a 3.56 ERA with 48 strikeouts in 43 innings, and Noe Ramirez has a 3.43 ERA with 55 strikeouts in 44.2 innings. The relievers with the worst ERAs on the staff are Tayler Cole with a 4.15 ERA (but was just involved in a combined no-hitter) and Luis Garcia who has a 4.64 ERA. Garcia’s problem is his control (19 walks in 33 innings). Outside of that, the bullpen is pretty solid if you don’t count Trevor Cahill (6.82 ERA), who will only come in during mop-up situations now.
The biggest weakness is the starting pitching but there are some positive things behind that as well:
Griffin Canning has shown shades of brilliance, but he’s still a rookie. At the moment he’s 3-5 with a 4.43 ERA. What is eye-opening is his strikeout total since he has 69 strikeouts in 65 innings. Once he stays aggressive, he’ll be tough to beat.
Another rookie in the name of Jose Suarez is getting his chance to compete. He still needs to keep the ball down (he’s given up 8 home runs in 28.1 innings), but he also has 30 strikeouts in 28.1 innings with a 5.40 ERA. He’s promising and hopefully, he’ll get some experience this year and help contribute greatly in 2020.
Andrew Heaney is still trying to be the pitcher that everyone expected him to be. Since coming back from Tommy John surgery, he’s 1-3 with a 5.18 ERA. He had a solid outing against the Astros recently going 5 innings and only giving up 2 runs against a very dangerous lineup just a day after his best fan Tyler Skaggs passed away. Angels fans will hope that he can make this tragedy help him develop himself into a leader and take the reigns as the #1 starter on this team.
Matt Harvey had his first start since being in AAA to recover from an injury and then to work on his mechanics. Against the Mariners had pitched 5.2 innings, gave up 2 runs, walked 3, and struck out 3 batters. If the Angels can get more starts like that, that would help the club stay in the Wild Card race for sure. However, he also still had problems with pitch location. He had an 0-2 count on the last batter he faced against Seattle before throwing a ball right down the middle and giving up a single. He was then lifted for Justin Anderson.
Félix Peña endured 7 strong innings and helped contribute to a combined no-hitter (Taylor Cole pitched the first two innings) during the first home game since Tyler Skaggs passed away. He dealt with the emotions well and delivered a rousing performance. That was a character-building outing and it might give manager Brad Ausmus more faith that he can pitch without an opener.
So what will happen at the deadline?
Since the Angels will be buyers, the Halos will probably pick up a left-handed reliever or another strong bullpen piece. Since the Angels are already planning to compete in 2020, they won’t be making that much noise trading away their pieces for next season.
It’s been rumored that Matt Harvey will get traded if the Angels are out of the race, but he would have to string together another two or three good outings before that happens. And if he does that, the Angels will most likely be in the race anyway, so that scenario seems very unlikely. I’m sure the Angels would love to unload Trevor Cahill, but they wouldn’t get much in return for him.
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