The MLB Trade Deadline sits just nine days away, meaning teams must make a determination about where they stand for the remainder of this season. Teams that are in contention for a World Series generally are “buyers,” meaning they will give away prospects for Major League players that help them win right now. Meanwhile, teams towards the bottom of the standings generally “sell,” meaning they give away Major League players for prospects who can help them in the future.
The Los Angeles Angels are in one of the most difficult places to be as a franchise for what feels like the sixth season in a row. As of July 21, they sit 7.5 games out of the Wild Card race after a brutal two-game stretch against the Oakland Athletics, the current holders of the second wild card spot.
Because they are 7.5 games out, there are good arguments to be made that the team should buy to try and get to the postseason this year. There are also equally strong arguments that the team should sell and look ahead to next season. However, the Angels — regardless of their recent woes — simply cannot afford to be sellers at this year’s deadline.
Who they could sell
If the Angels do decide to go on the prospect-collection route — and we’ll argue soon why they shouldn’t — they actually may have some pieces with value. Pitchers, starting and relief, are at a premium right now due to the league-wide need for them among contending teams.
The Angels have Alex Cobb and Raisel Iglesias in the midst of remarkable seasons, meaning they could immediately impact a team with championship aspirations. Meanwhile, Andrew Heaney, Dylan Bundy, and Jose Quintana are all cheaper pitchers on expiring deals, giving them some value in the market despite their struggles.
Offensively, they also have shortstop Jose Iglesias who could be a boost for anyone trying to contend. He contributes both with his bat and his glove, and is on an expiring contract.
If the Angels sell, it’s because they got incredible value for the players they’re offering.
Why they shouldn’t sell
At 7.5 games out, the Angels are certainly not out of contention. It may feel that way given their recent string of losses, but there are still 68 games left, and the Angels figure to be far healthier in those 68 games.
Mike Trout and Justin Upton are both within shouting distance of a return, with Upton on a rehab assignment and Trout about to start one. Getting those two back will not drastically improve their already elite offense, but it could give the whole team a huge momentum boost as they try to make a run.
Beyond that, there’s Anthony Rendon, who could return within a couple weeks. All of this to say that the Angels are going to look like a much more complete offensive unit within a short time.
More importantly than that, the Angels would look more dysfunctional than ever if they punted on this entire season with two months remaining. Shohei Ohtani is putting together one of the all-time great campaigns. Jared Walsh is an All-Star. David Fletcher had a 26-game hit streak. And all of this was with Trout, Upton, and Rendon mostly out.
If the Angels sell, they are admitting that all of those incredible moments were a waste. While it makes less sense logically, Perry Minasian and the front office owes it to the players who have been at their best to do whatever it takes to contend this season.
The likeliest scenario is that the Angels do some combination of buying and selling. They could only sell the players they feel netted them truly great returns, while also trading away lesser prospects for players that can help this year, especially in their bullpen.
Simply put, it’s too early in the season for the Angels to host a fire sale. Nine days from now, they likely won’t have much more clarity than they have today, and selling essentially means they don’t believe in a team that — at their best — features five All-Stars.