The Los Angeles Angels are in a weird spot as we head toward the offseason. On one hand, they hope to retain Shohei Ohtani and compete in 2024 and beyond. On the other hand, if Ohtani leaves, going in the other direction and rebuilding makes a ton of sense.
The Angels have suffered through eight straight losing seasons and nine straight seasons without a postseason berth. A big reason for that is because they continue to try and win without the roster to get them there. They haven't gone through a real rebuild once in the Arte Moreno era. While there's nothing to suggest they'd change their philosophy now, there's no doubt in my mind that rebuilding is the right direction for this franchise if Ohtani departs.
In his latest article for the NY Post, Joel Sherman suggests the Angels should rebuild if they miss out on Ohtani, and comes up with a mock trade to make with the New York Mets. While there are parts of it to like, it's one the Angels should ultimately turn down.
Young, controllable starting pitching is what the LA Angels need to be acquiring, not trading away.
The trade Sherman suggests is fairly straightforward. The Angels would trade Brandon Drury and Patrick Sandoval in exchange for Brett Baty and Jose Butto. In a vacuum, this makes sense as the Angels look to rebuild while the Mets attempt to bounce back from their disastrous 2023 season. However, when diving deeper, this is not a trade the Angels should go forward with.
When looking at what the Angels receive, there's a lot to like. Brett Baty entered the 2023 season as a consensus top-25 prospect in all of baseball. He was ranked highly for a reason, and the Angels landing him in a trade would be huge. A left side of the infield with Baty and Neto would be one to reckon with.
While the idea of Baty is great, he had an abysmal time of it at the big league level in 2023. He slashed .212/.275/.323 with nine home runs and 34 RBI in 108 games and 353 at-bats for the Mets this past season. He was given every chance to start at third base regularly with Eduardo Escobar struggling and eventually traded, but he failed to show much promise at all with the bat. Additionally, he looked lost at times defensively.
Jose Butto had a nice run down the stretch in the rotation for the Mets, but he's made eight big league starts and is not considered a highly-touted prospect. He's 25 years of age, just one year younger than Sandoval, with nowhere near Sandoval's ceiling.
Trading away Brandon Drury makes a ton of sense if the Angels do enter a rebuild. He's coming off a second excellent year in a row and is making a very affordable $8.5 million in 2024. While the Angels should look to move him, I'm not sure the Mets would even be asking for him given the fact that he's on an expiring contract and plays at positions where the Mets already have a ton of depth.
Patrick Sandoval is the big piece of the deal that the Angels are giving up, and in my opinion, it'd be a mistake to do so. We've seen Sandoval be a frontline starter at the big league level before as he had a sub-3.00 ERA in 2022. This past season was not good, but with the proper coaching there's no reason to believe he can't find it again.
The Angels had to part with their top two prospects for Lucas Giolito who was not pitching much better than Sandoval at the time, and had three fewer years of team control. Sandoval is under team control through the 2026 season.
Deciding whether to say yes or no to this trade really hedges on this one question. Do the Angels really want to part with a controllable starter who is still young and has shown flashes of being a really good pitcher, as well as an all-star caliber infielder in exchange for a player you hope can recapture his top-prospect magic? I wouldn't rush to do that.
It's not horrible in the sense that buying low on Baty would be excellent. It'd just be a whole lot better if the Angels either didn't have to include Sandoval, or if the Mets threw in a more exciting second piece.