If the Angels Are Close at the Deadline, Will They Be Buyers?


DISCLAIMER: I knew full and well that it is barely mid-May, and it is probably way too early to be talking about possible deadline news, but in the spirit of “We don’t know anything about what the future holds,” how’s about we get a little speculative.

May 1, 2013; Cleveland, OH, USA; Philadelphia Phillies starting pitcher

Cliff Lee

(33) throws a pitch during the first inning against the Cleveland Indians at Progressive Field. Mandatory Credit: Eric P. Mull-USA TODAY Sports

After last night’s win over the Chicago White Sox, Angels fans were filled to the brim with posivibes (Trademark: Ricardo Marquez). For the second time this season, this team has pieced together three wins in a row, so of course, World Series or bust, right? Let’s pump the brakes for a minute though. This is still the same team that lost two of three to the Houston Astros, and has not resembled a team that should be thinking about what they are going to purchase with the playoff share they will receive in November. But that doesn’t mean we can’t dream, right?

After the game was over, Chuck Richter who is the founder and editor of Angels Win, posed a question to the legions of Angels fans on twitter. That question went something like this:

Whoa, right? Cliff Lee is legit, and is one of the few pitchers that I would slot in front of Jered Weaver in a rotation. He’s also pricey. But let’s run with this for a minute. Arte Moreno is the last stop for any and all deals. It’s his money, and after watching Alden Gonzalez’s Google Hangout chat last week, we were reaffirmed that Arte has no desire to pay any kind of luxury tax. According to Cot’s, the Angels current payroll sits at $137.3MM this year. Thank you, Yankees, for taking Vernon Wells. But that is not the figure that Major League Baseball uses when it comes time to tax the teams. MLB uses the average annual value of all contracts. So, even though Albert Pujols is making a measly $16MM this season, his AAV is still $25MM, the latter number is the one used for tax purposes. With that in mind, that makes the taxable team payroll at somewhere just north of $150MM. Add in the rest of the players on the 40-man roster, plus staff, and the Angels are right below the luxury tax threshold for 2013. That wiggle room to add payroll disappeared quick, didn’t it.

So, money is an issue, but so is the talent pool in the minor league system. We have Garrett Richards and Luis Jimenez who are contributing. We also have players like Taylor Lindsey and Alex Yarbrough, but this cupboard is especially bare. This is all, of course, depending on the Phillies continuing to look like a team that is destined for a third place at best finish in the NL East. They did lose Roy Halladay for the next three months, but there is still quite a bit of talent on that roster. Not to mention, Chase Utley is back to being Philadelphia’s favorite son, and he alone is capable of carrying a team for a couple of weeks at a time. But, for the sake of argument, let’s just say that Cliff lee is available. Do they Angels try to make a move?

No. And here’s why.

1.) Lack of talent

We love our players, and of course we are biased in determining value. Just because the Phillies might need a second basemen after this season, and might like Lucho, and of course would take a pitcher in the trade, the Angels simply do not have the talent of nearly big league ready players to swing this deal. They did five years ago, when the system was still considered one of the top systems in the game, but now it’s filled with a bunch of career minor leaguers and prospects surrounded by question marks. There is a reason why Baseball America ranked the Angels system 30th out of 30 this spring.

2.) Cash money, yo

Arte isn’t paying a luxury tax. And Cliff Lee still has guaranteed years through 2015 in which he is making $25MM each season. And the club option in 2016 becomes guaranteed if Cliff Lee simply continues to be Cliff Lee (He has to not be hurt, and throw 200 innings in 2015 for it to become guaranteed). Arte has been to known enjoy making a big splash and grabbing headlines, but he’s always done it with a maximum budget in mind. Trading for Cliff Lee would explode that budget.

3.) Current players

This piggy backs on the money issue. This team has a few of it’s own players that are going to see some serious pay increases in the next few years. Mark Trumbo, for one, is arbitration eligible after this season. Peter Bourjos is arbitration eligible after next season. There’s also this Mike Trout kid that everyone keeps talking about. Trumbo himself could be a good candidate for an extension. These three cornerstones will command contracts of varying values, and adding Lee to the mix would force one of these players out, maybe even two of them.

If the Angels were to make any moves at the deadline (obviously, assuming they are at least within spitting distance of the Rangers), I would expect the move to be for a role player of some sort, or maybe even just bullpen depth. There’s no way that the Angels pull of a deal for any big name stars for a playoff push. I’m not going to say with 100% certainty that the Angels wont make this kind of a move, because I went to the Angel Hernandez school of Plausible Deniability, but I’m 95% certain that there is no way that a move for a player like Cliff Lee coming this season. The Angels are going to have to Win, or lose, with what they got.