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Los Angeles Angels Need To Focus On Rebuilding.

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May 2, 2016; Milwaukee, WI, USA; Los Angeles Angels manager Mike Scioscia removes pitcher Jered Weaver (36) in the sixth inning during the game against the Milwaukee Brewers at Miller Park. At left is catcher Geovany Soto (18). Mandatory Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports
May 2, 2016; Milwaukee, WI, USA; Los Angeles Angels manager Mike Scioscia removes pitcher Jered Weaver (36) in the sixth inning during the game against the Milwaukee Brewers at Miller Park. At left is catcher Geovany Soto (18). Mandatory Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports /
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The Los Angeles Angels were swept at the hands of the Houston Astros on Wednesday, and they fell 10 games under .500 at 31-41. They are now 15 games behind the surging Texas Rangers for first place in the AL West, and 7.5 games out of the second wild card spot.

There aren’t a lot of Los Angeles Angels fans who will admit it, but this is the worst Angels team since 1999, the year before Mike Scioscia arrived, when they went 70-92 and finished 25 games out of first. The 2016 Angels were not very good to begin with, and then injuries decimated the team, the starting rotation especially, and it’s led to the Halos becoming one of the worst teams in the American League.

The front office and the fans have been in win-now mode since the team won the World Series in 2002 and deep-pocketed Arte Moreno bought the team from the Walt Disney Company the next May, but for the first time since Moreno became the owner, it’s time to shift from win-now mode to rebuilding mode.

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The problems begin with the rotation. Ace Garrett Richards went on the DL in early May with a torn UCL in his right elbow, and he elected to undergo stem cell therapy and rehabilitation rather than get Tommy John surgery. He’s aiming for a return later this summer, which seems unlikely, but even if he does return, he would have to go through a spring training-style buildup to get back to form that would take a significant amount of time.

No. 2 starter Andrew Heaney made a grand total of one start before being placed on the DL with UCL damage in his left elbow, and also elected to receive stem cell therapy and rehabilitate rather than go under the knife. No one seems to really know what the timeframe for their return is, but there’s a strong possibility that they will both miss the rest of the season, and if they ultimately have to undergo Tommy John surgery, they’ll probably miss next season too. C.J. Wilson has not thrown a pitch this season but is still making $20 million.

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The healthy guys in the rotation haven’t pitched well. The bright spot has been Matt Shoemaker‘s recent run of great starts, but outside of that, this is one of the worst rotations in the AL. Jered Weaver‘s ERA and FIP are both well over 5. Hector Santiago is nowhere near his 2015 All-Star form, with a 4.99 ERA and 5.25 FIP. Even with Shoemaker’s recent run of success, his ERA is still at 4.50.

Jhoulys Chacin has been predictably bad since coming over from the Braves, with an ERA of 5.56. Nick Tropeano is close to returning from a shoulder injury, but his 3.28 ERA is belied by a 4.62 FIP, and he’s walking 4.6 batters per nine innings and allowing 1.3 home runs per nine innings. Tim Lincecum pitched well in his first start for the Halos, but whether he can keep it up remains to be seen and seems unlikely due to his poor recent track record with the Giants.

The bullpen hasn’t been much help. Usually reliable closer Huston Street has an ERA of 4.26 and an FIP of 5.09 and has already spent time on the disabled list. He’s had only nine save opportunities but has blown two of them. Setup man Joe Smith is on the DL with a hamstring injury, but he hasn’t been good so far this season, with an FIP over 5 that’s the highest of his career. The bullpen has been overworked, and as a result Scioscia has been forced to feature a cavalcade of arms that, with the exception of Cam Bedrosian, haven’t been particularly good.

It all adds up to a team ERA of 4.38 that is 12th out of 15 AL teams.

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Things are not much better on the position player side. Catcher Carlos Perez, forced into the bulk of the playing time after Geovany Soto‘s knee injury, is one of the worst, if not the worst, hitters in the league, batting an astonishingly bad .186/.222/.298. He does play decent defense, throwing out 41 percent of potential base stealers and posting a +2 DRS, although that’s not nearly enough to make up for being an almost automatic out.

The first baseman/DH rotation of Albert Pujols and C.J. Cron hasn’t performed either. Cron is batting .265/.315/.422, which is slightly above average but doesn’t cut it at the first base position, and he’s also a bad defender, already posting a -2 DRS that will get worse as the season goes on. Pujols is batting .234/.312/.396 and is battling hamstring and ankle injuries. He’s on pace to post a negative WAR for the first time in his career.

Second baseman Johnny Giavotella has improved this season. He’s batting .273/.293/.414, but that on-base percentage is well below league average. He’s only walked seven times in 232 plate appearances. He’s been average defensively, posting a 0 DRS, which is also an improvement, but he still is worth only 0.7 WAR.

We all know about Andrelton Simmons‘ defensive wizardry, and he’s lived up to that this season, already posting a +11 DRS. The problem is that his bat makes him borderline unplayable. He’s batting just .211/.237/.271 and has been 11 runs worse than the average hitter. Gregorio Petit hit well while filling in during Simmons’ DL stint, but he’s a journeyman who’s never played more than 37 games in a season. His success is most likely due to an absurdly high .360 BABIP (league average is usually right around .300).

The revolving door of players in left field has combined to hit .206/.281/.274, about the same as last season’s historically bad .216/.275/.317.

It all adds up to a team OPS of .715, 11th out of 15 AL teams.

In addition to the poor play, the Angels have a couple of really bad contracts on their hands. They still owe Josh Hamilton upwards of $50 million over the next two seasons and Pujols still has five years and $140 million left on his deal.

With a major league roster this bad, and a league-worst farm system that isn’t going to provide any help, it’s time for the Angels to admit defeat and start a rebuild. There are just too many holes for another Arte Moreno spending spree to fill, especially with the 2016 free agent class being weak. The Angels have a few pieces on the major league roster that would get back some decent prospects:

(The Angels aren’t trading Mike Trout. Don’t @ me.)

Rightfielder Kole Calhoun has had a great year, raising his on-base percentage 57 points from 2015 and continuing to hit for power. His defense has slipped, with a DRS of -3, but his improved on-base skills and left handed power are attractive to prospective trade partners, as is his low $3.4 million contract. HH’s Tyler Nelson went in-depth on a possible Calhoun trade last week. Calhoun would probably net the Angels at least one A-level prospect and one or two B-level ones.

Third baseman Yunel Escobar has been a revelation in the leadoff spot for the Angels, batting .309/.360/.408. He’s very affordable, as he’s making just $7 million and has a $7 million team option for next season. He’d probably get the Angels about the same package as Calhoun. Trading Escobar would give former first-round pick and no. 5 prospect Kaleb Cowart an extended tryout to find out once and for all if he can handle big-league pitching.

Teams might also be looking at Street, who hasn’t been good this year but has a long track record of success, and ditto for Smith. Teams might also be willing to gamble on Lincecum if he strings together some good starts before the August 1 deadline, or they could be interested in Simmons if he stops swinging a wet noodle at the plate.

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Calhoun and Escobar are the Angels’ two best trade candidates, but they should listen to offers on everyone except Trout and maybe Simmons, who is still only 26 and is signed through 2020 (although if someone blows them away with an offer for Simmons, they definitely need to take it). It’s time to acquire some young talent to help revitalize the farm system and the franchise in general. If the Angels start rebuilding now and draft better than they have in the last few seasons, they might get back into playoff contention before Trout’s contract expires in 2020.

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