Angels’ Win-Now Approach Has Sent Many Prospects Packing

The Angels have the 30th-ranked farm system again coming into this season. It’s a spot that they have gotten accustomed to as they also ranked 30th in 2013 (and 27th in 2015).

With the best player in baseball anchoring the middle of their lineup, Los Angeles has decided to go all-in year after year, trading away prospects to try to shore up the big league roster. That approach did help the Angels win 98 games in 2014, but that has so far been the only playoff appearance of Trout’s career. Four years into Albert Pujols’ 10-year deal, the Angels have yet to win a playoff game. The Angels’ 2013 free agent deal with Josh Hamilton came and went without much impact, although the Angels will still be paying him for a couple more seasons to play in Texas. There’s a reason the Angels are on their third general manager of this decade.

It’s hard to blame a big-market team for spending money to try to surround Trout with talent, but it is fair to ask if there was a better way. While the Angels have consistently ranked near the bottom of our organization talent rankings, they have produced big league talent. It just usually ends up being traded before it reaches the big leagues.

Many of the best players the Angels have produced this decade have ended up playing elsewhere.

As an exercise we looked at what an Angels’ roster could look like if a team was built around homegrown players who have not yet reached the six years of major league service required for free agency. There’s not a trade, a free agent signing or a post-free agent veteran (such as Jered Weaver) included. It does include a few nearly big league-ready prospects (Sean Newcomb, Mike Clevinger and Chris Ellis for example).

Position Player (Current Team) 2016 Salary
SP Pat Corbin (Diamondbacks) 2,525,000
SP Tyler Skaggs (Traded, now back with Angels) 515,000
SP Garrett Richards 6,425,000
SP Matt Shoemaker 532,500
SP Sean Newcomb (Braves) 507,500
SP Mike Clevinger (Indians) 507,500
SP Chris Ellis (Braves) 507,500
RP Mike Morin 525,000
RP Cam Bedrosian 510,500
RP Ariel Pena (Brewers) 510,100
RP R.J. Alvarez (Athletics) 510,000
RP Jordan Walden (Cardinals) 3,500,000
RP Nate Smith 507,500
RP Will Smith (Brewers) 1,475,000
C Hank Conger (Rays) 1,500,000
C Bobby Wilson (Tigers) 700,000
1B Mark Trumbo (Orioles) 9,150,000
2B Andrew Romine (Tigers) 900,000
SS Jean Segura (Diamondbacks) 2,600,000
3B Kaleb Cowart 507,500
MIF Alexi Amarista (Padres) 1,300,000
LF Kole Calhoun 3,450,000
CF Mike Trout 15,250,000
RF Randal Grichuk (Cardinals) 520,000
OF Peter Bourjos (Phillies) 2,000,000
DH C.J. Cron 525,000
Total 57,460,600
*Thanks to Cot’s Baseball Contract’s for salary information

Newcomb is currently the Braves’ No. 2 prospect, Smith is the Angels’ No. 3 prospect, Clevinger is the Indians’ No. 7 prospect and Ellis is the Braves’ No. 15 prospect. The rest of this group are all players who had big league time last year.

Remember, this is what the Angels could have had before they spent one dime in free agency to fix holes at third base, in the starting rotation, the bullpen and elsewhere. This group costs $57.5 million, giving the Angels more than $100 million to spend to match their $160+ million payroll they are expected to spend this season.

This also does not include the three first-round draft picks and the second-round pick the Angels forfeited to sign free agents in the past six drafts.

It might not be a World Series contender, but this Angels’ team is a very good starting point for a contender with an excellent outfield (Trout, Calhoun and Grichuk), plenty of additional power thanks to Trumbo and Cron and a useful nucleus of a starting rotation. Add in some reasonable free agent moves and it could be a team built for the long haul.

Instead Los Angeles will pay Hamilton and Erick Aybar nearly $28 million to play elsewhere this season. The club will have to hold its collective breath to see if Jered Weaver ($20 million) and C.J. Wilson ($20 million) can help the starting rotation and it knows it will be paying Albert Pujols $27.5 million a year for the next six years for his age 36-41 seasons.

The Angels have gone all-in with a win-now approach year after year. So far it hasn’t paid off. The pity is it may end up meaning that the best years of Trout’s career don’t bring playoff success.


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