Los Angeles Angels renew rivalry with BoSox with a lot on the line.

Jul 25, 2016; Kansas City, MO, USA; Los Angeles Angels starting pitcher Hector Santiago (53) delivers a pitch against the Kansas City Royals in the first inning at Kauffman Stadium. Mandatory Credit: John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports
Jul 25, 2016; Kansas City, MO, USA; Los Angeles Angels starting pitcher Hector Santiago (53) delivers a pitch against the Kansas City Royals in the first inning at Kauffman Stadium. Mandatory Credit: John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports /

With the Los Angeles Angels currently sitting in the cellar of the A.L. West 12.5 games out of first place it may be hard to believe that this weekend series against the Boston Red Sox means anything more than pride to the Halos.

However, if you look closer there is a great deal possibly on the line for the Los Angeles Angels. The Angels have been playing much better as of late winning 12 of their past 18 games. Some issues they have had early in the season mostly due to a lack of offense have seem to have righted themselves as they have averaged 6.4 runs per game this month.  While the starting rotation isn’t a thing of perfection (far from it), the Angels have gotten more quality starts this month (10) than any of the three previous months and we still have four games left to go.  Even the much maligned Angels bullpen has been solid as of late blowing only one save all month.

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If the Angels have any hopes of getting back into the playoff hunt then this four-game series against Boston will be key as the Red Sox are in the second wildcard position which is the spot the Angels would be chasing to get into the post-season.  Right now the Angels sit 11 games behind the Red Sox, which seems an almost insurmountable task, but in the past 10 years numerous teams have fought back from double-digit game deficits to make it to the October dreamland.  With the addition of Tyler Skaggs to the staff this week, who might be better than any trade deadline deal and a lot less expensive, the Angels could be primed for a magical stretch run of epic proportions.

Another reason this series against the Red Sox is so important, is that the Angels are trying to decide whether or not to be sellers during the trade deadline frenzy.  If the Angels continue to show promise that a late season comeback is possible they might be inclined to hold onto some of the talent that could still be important in the future. Pitchers Hector Santiago and Matt Shoemaker for starters as well as third baseman Yunel Escobar and even outfielder Kole Calhoun have been mentioned as potential trade targets.

Relievers Huston Street and Joe Smith have also been mentioned as potential trade chips.  If the Angels trade either Smith, Street or both, they have some more than capable arms in the bullpen ready to step in such as Cam Bedrosian and Deolis Guerra who have both had stellar seasons this year.  What the Angels would miss if they parted with Smith or Street is their veteran presence and leadership which cannot be taken for granted, but there are still a lot of capable veterans who can step up to provide that leadership as well.

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I strongly feel that regardless of how the Angels do this weekend or the rest of the season for that matter, that they need to hold on to Shoemaker, Santiago, and Escobar.  All three of these players are under club control for 2017 and Shoemaker has three more years of club control.  Escobar has been the unsung hero on the Angels this season despite some defensive gaffes and a couple of personality quirks.  He has been great in the lead-off spot with a .325 batting average and a .372 OBP with three homers and 32 RBI’s.

Shoemaker despite his 5-11 record has been very good since the beginning of May lowering his ERA from 9.15 to it’s current 4.17 ERA.  During that time he has had 10 quality starts out of 15 total starts.  he has been a victim of lack of support and a faulty bullpen that has kept him from having a better record.  Take away the first month of the season and Shoemaker would have an ERA of 3.12 and a record of 4-7.  Three times this season Shoemaker has given no runs going six innings or more and gotten a no decision as the bullpen has blown the game for him.

Santiago has also performed very well with the exception of a mid-season stretch where he had five straight starts where he lasted less than five innings and he saw his ERA balloon from 3.42 on May 15th to 5.64 a month later.  During that bad stretch Santiago  gave up 23 earned runs in 17 innings for a 12.18 ERA.  Santiago is 9-4 with a 4.28 ERA and without that bad stretch his ERA and record would have been All-Star worthy at 9-2 with a 2.93 ERA.

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All stats aside these three guys should all be key contributors again next season and need to be held onto unless the deal gives an unbelievable return in prospects which most deadline deals seldom do.  Many of the top prospects that get traded in these deals are overhyped and don’t pan out the way they are supposed to.  With Santiago and Shoemaker especially you have two pitchers just coming into their prime at age 28 and 29 respectively.  This is not to mention that along with Tyler Skaggs, Santiago and Shoemaker are the only healthy starters the Angels have under contract for next season.  With Nick Tropeano and Garrett Richards potentially out all of next year if they chose to have Tommy John surgery and Andrew Heaney already having the surgery that will keep him out until the 2018 season, the Angels cannot afford to trade away either Santiago or Shoemaker.

Escobar is a little older at age 33 so he may not be able to keep up this pace too many more years, but he still has at least two solid seasons left in him.  Couple that the Angels don’t have anyone who has shown the ability in the minors to replace him.  You could try and go with Gregorio Petit and Jefry Marte at third which would not be bad options in the interim, but their long-term success is questionable at best as both have never played more than 50 games in a season during their brief major league careers. I myself take the proven commodity of Escobar in this case.  If Marte or Petit continues to improve next season, then maybe you can look at trading Escobar in the final year of his contract, but for now it is a risky proposition.

Next: Now Walk It Off

So you see my fellow Angel fans this series against Boston could have major ramifications for this season and the future so as the season slogan suggests “Every Game Matters”.