The Angels biggest and boldest moves lately have been through free agency involving Brinks trucks full of TV money but the art of the trade is still an important cog for any organization. The Angels and Mariners pulled off a trade just before Christmas swapping Kendrys Morales for Jason Vargas. It could be looked at as a win-win in the sense that both teams traded spare parts for areas of need. The Halos made arguably the biggest July trade of 2012 moving prospects for Zack Greinke. That one doesn’t look so hot after the Angels missed the playoffs. Plus Greinke is pitching in the other Los Angeles (the one in Los Angeles) now and Jean Segura looks like a solid major league short stop for the Brewers. But as Hardball Talk reminds us, the Angels pulled off a big winner not too long ago. As long as 15,000 days isn’t that long ago for you, grandpa.
Nolan Ryan’s Face (Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports)
The day was December 10, 1971. Jim Fregosi was coming off of his worst full season as a major leaguer hitting .233/.317/.326 and playing only 107 games. Fregosi, a short stop by trade, also played some first base and left field in 1971 as he dealt with a tumor in his foot. It was a bad year. He missed the All Star game for the first time in five seasons and didn’t show up on an MVP ballot for the first time in eight years. Then Fregosi, as popular as he was productive, was dealt by the Angels to the Mets for four players. Fregosi hit .232/.311/.344 in 1972 for the Mets and .234/.340/.282 to start 1973 before New York sold him to Texas.
Frank Estrada never contributed to the Angels major league team. Don Rose pitched 42.2 innings in 1972 for the Halos. His 4.22 ERA was unremarkable. Leroy Stanton actually played all over the outfield for the Angels for five years and then two more with the Mariners. But Lynn Nolan Ryan, Jr. established himself as a future Hall of Famer in 1972 and made the Angels look pretty smart for trading a face of their franchise. Ryan pitched 284.0 innings with a 2.28 ERA but baseball took notice to his league leading 329 strikeouts. He also led the league with 157 walks and 18 wild pitches but, hey, when you’re cooking with heat some edges might get burnt.
In 1973, Ryan ramped up to 326.0 innings and a 2.87 ERA but that wasn’t the story. He set a major league record with 383 strikeouts but that wasn’t the story. He walked a league high 162 and only threw 15 wild pitches but somehow that was never the story. Ryan threw his first of seven no hitters on May 15 striking out 12 Royals but that wasn’t the story either. On July 15, Nolan Ryan threw another no hitter against the Tigers. He struck out 17 Detroit batters including Norm Cash thrice. Ryan was so unhittable Cash approached the batter’s box with two outs in the ninth with a table leg instead of a bat. Now that’s a story. He finished second in the Cy Young behind Jim Palmer despite his 7.4 bWAR to 5.9 bWAR advantage. *cough*Bert Blyleven*cough*9.4 bWAR*cough*
Ryan tossed his third no hitter in 1974 and his fourth in 1975. He left as a free agent after the 1979 season. Ryan posted a 37.6 bWAR (roughly Mel Stottlemyre‘s career) between 1972-1979 with the Angels and struck out 2,416 batter (exactly Luis Tiant‘s career). Of course, Ryan pitched 14 more years for Houston and Texas and throwing three more no hitters and beating up Robin Ventura. He spends his days now running the Angels’ division rival Rangers and making this face.
But wow, what a trade.
:7[ That’s emoticon I bet Ryan used when he found out Josh Hamilton signed with the Angels. Unless there’s a way to make its cheeks puffier.