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OC Register: Billy Eppler ponders a key stretch for the Angels leading up to the trading deadline


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SEATTLE — The standings and the schedule both make an unmistakable point.

If the Angels are going to reach their goal of making the playoffs, they need to get going.

Now.

“We have three really important weeks in front us right now,” general manager Billy Eppler said Monday. “An opportunity is put in front of us because the team we’re chasing is within our division. We’re going to play them a good amount of times this month. We’ll see how everything unfolds.”

The Angels trail the Seattle Mariners by 11 games in the race for the second wild card, which is a daunting deficit even with 77 games to go. They are 11-1/2 games behind the Houston Astros for the division lead.

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Just about all that makes it seems somewhat manageable is the fact that they still play the Mariners 13 times, including nine in the next three weeks. After three this week in Seattle, starting on Tuesday, the remaining 10 games are in Anaheim. The Angels also play the Astros 13 more times, including three in July.

The Oakland A’s are also in front of the Angels, adding to the difficulty of their pursuit.

At 43-42, though, the Angels hardly look like a playoff team at the moment. Since starting 13-3, the Angels have been nine games under .500.

A little of everything has gone wrong.

“When you are looking at a club, you look at three units within that club: the starting pitching, the relief pitching and the offense,” Eppler said. “Each of those units has dealt with some adversity this year, whether that’s injuries or inconsistencies.”

One of the most visible issues has been the bullpen, which has perhaps unfairly been singled out as the team’s primary issue. It’s also an area that Eppler barely addressed over the winter.

In retrospect, Eppler said it was a decision based on prioritizing the team’s needs.

“With the resources we had at our disposal we took the opportunity to shore up left field, second base and third base,” Eppler said, referring to the deals for Justin Upton, Ian Kinsler and Zack Cozart. “We looked into a lot of relievers this winter time. They seemed to be the area of the marketplace that was moving off the board pretty quickly. I will recognize the fact that there aren’t sure things on any side of the game, starting, relief or position player.

“When we were assessing our club and what we need to do, it was clear we needed some guys who could stand the dirt and play second and third and also play left field. Those opportunities presented themselves with more clarity than the relief market. That’s the direction we chose.”

Now, Eppler has a chance again to upgrade the roster, with four weeks before the July 31 trading deadline.

Eppler said he and his staff have been talking to other clubs to see who is available. He wasn’t willing to predict whether they’ll be able to make a deal, because “you’re trying to forecast the behavior of other clubs.”

Eppler did say, however, that relief help is usually the most readily available: “Generally the highest volume of player moved at the deadline are relievers, and relievers on short-term deals.”

Whether the Angels would be interested in rental players remains to be seen. Eppler conceded that part of the calculation is how far out they are, and the fact that they may be aiming at a one-game wild card spot. Certainly, the Angels wouldn’t want to give up much for someone who would only help for the next three months.

“Ideally, when you can bring in players that have future control, it makes it more palatable vs. what you have to yield in prospect capital for that player,” Eppler said.

That’s why players like Padres reliever Brad Hand or Reds reliever Raisel Iglesias would likely be better fits for the Angels than, say, Orioles closer Zach Britton. Hand and Iglesias are under control beyond 2018, while Britton is not.

The same is true for offensive help. Third basemen Mike Moustakas and Adrian Beltre are both free agents at the end of the season, so their value to the Angels is limited unless the team makes a strong enough run to get closer to a playoff spot.

Eppler also could try to supplement the big league club by calling up prospects. Pitchers José Suarez and Griffin Canning and infielders Matt Thaiss and Taylor Ward are all having good seasons, and all are at Triple-A.

“As far as prospects go, the mindful thing I’ve been taught along my development is to let those guys figuratively tap you on the shoulder and tell you when they’re ready,” Eppler said. “If you put them in a position where you’re reaching down and grabbing those guys and pulling them up to the big leagues, I don’t think that’s best for their professional and personal development.”

If nothing helps and the Angels still seem to be a long-shot for the playoffs as the deadline approaches, the Angels also could sell.

Garrett Richards, who is expected to come off the disabled list on Wednesday, could be the most attractive trade piece if he’s healthy and pitching well at the deadline. Richards is a free agent at the end of the season.

That, however, would essentially be waving the white flag on this season, which the Angels have been reluctant to do.

“We will always look to improve our major league product,” Eppler said.

SIGNING PERIOD OPENS

The international amateur signing period opened on Monday. The Angels were expected to reach agreements with several players, although the most prominent of them will not sign until August. Dominican outfielder Alexander Ramírez, considered one of the top 25 international amateurs, can’t sign until next month, because that’s when he turns 16.

The Angels have $2.55 million to spend on international amateurs, because they already used about half their allotment on last year’s deals for Kevin Maitan and Livan Soto, former Atlanta Braves prospects who were declared free agents because of Braves violations of international signing rules.

UP NEXT

Angels (Andrew Heaney, 5-6, 3.95) at Mariners (Wade LeBlanc, 3-0, 3.38), Tuesday, 7 p.m., Fox Sports West, KLAA (830 AM)

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33 minutes ago, fan_since79 said:

A no-brainer move for starters would be to DFA Valbuena, Kinsler, Young, and a reliever or two not named Parker or Alvarez.

They won't get rid of Kinsler right away though. He's a veteran with grit and has a little power now and then, mostly then.

This will be the cast we're stuck with through July - they'll play it through with them vs the Mariners head to head first before they cut folks en masse like that.

Herm, Blash, JMF, and the Akeel Morris types aren't gonna do any certifiably better right now. 

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4 minutes ago, totdprods said:

This will be the cast we're stuck with through July - they'll play it through with them vs the Mariners head to head first before they cut folks en masse like that.

Herm, Blash, JMF, and the Akeel Morris types aren't gonna do any certifiably better right now. 

Unfortunately, I suspect you're right.

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Just now, fan_since79 said:

Unfortunately, I suspect you're right.

I mean, they did sort of give the youth a chance and Fletcher is the only one who ran with it. The vets unfortunately have some track record to bank on for this next month, and maybe they chip away are seattle or they drive up their value as trade bait. 

I think we will see a different Angels team come Aug. 1 though than in years past. If they're 10 out, absolutely no reason not to get Ward, Thaiss, etc up.

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2 hours ago, Dochalo said:

Very nice article Jeff.  Thanks for sharing.  I think this confirms what we've been talking about which is that they better go on a serious run here soon and don't expect much help in trade.  

To me, he's subtly telling us that he's staying the course.  

I think what he’s telling you is “I’m not telling you anything.”

Despite my best efforts. 

 

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2 hours ago, totdprods said:

I mean, they did sort of give the youth a chance and Fletcher is the only one who ran with it. The vets unfortunately have some track record to bank on for this next month, and maybe they chip away are seattle or they drive up their value as trade bait. 

I think we will see a different Angels team come Aug. 1 though than in years past. If they're 10 out, absolutely no reason not to get Ward, Thaiss, etc up.

JMF was given 30 sporadic at bats and he didn't look bad at all. He made a ton of contact and had some well-squared balls during that time.

If the Angels legitimately gave him the opportunity to play, he'd take it and run with it, just like he has every year and every level of baseball since he was a teenager.

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50 minutes ago, Scotty@AW said:

JMF was given 30 sporadic at bats and he didn't look bad at all. He made a ton of contact and had some well-squared balls during that time.

If the Angels legitimately gave him the opportunity to play, he'd take it and run with it, just like he has every year and every level of baseball since he was a teenager.

Jmf or Fletcher.  Which one should be up and getting consistent at bats?

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1 hour ago, Scotty@AW said:

JMF was given 30 sporadic at bats and he didn't look bad at all. He made a ton of contact and had some well-squared balls during that time.

If the Angels legitimately gave him the opportunity to play, he'd take it and run with it, just like he has every year and every level of baseball since he was a teenager.

I know. 30 at-bats, small sample size, etc. 
Fletcher also got ~30 sporadic at-bats and he produced, and he's still here. Different players no doubt, and I hope JMF is back in a few weeks and given more playing time, but you gotta do something to stick. A .606 OPS won't earn a 'rookie' playing time the way this team is constructed.

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Gotta say, I hope Eppler ponders acquiring Raisel Iglesias, Brad Hand, Ryan Tepera (who I see is hurting), Blake Treinen, or one of the Miami trio of Streckenrider, Barraclough, or Conley. 

Regardless of how we do this year, any of these guys would come in handy for future seasons. We really don't have a whole lot internally that excites me or gives me hope next year's pen will be any less volatile, especially with Middleton's surgery. Nabbing one of these long-term relievers would be a wise use of some prospects.

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16 hours ago, totdprods said:

I mean, they did sort of give the youth a chance and Fletcher is the only one who ran with it. The vets unfortunately have some track record to bank on for this next month, and maybe they chip away are seattle or they drive up their value as trade bait. 

I think we will see a different Angels team come Aug. 1 though than in years past. If they're 10 out, absolutely no reason not to get Ward, Thaiss, etc up.

Eppler is saying is best that the AAA guys "tap you on the shoulder" rather than reaching down to get them. Hasn't Thaiss grabeed him by the lapel at this point?

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17 hours ago, Dochalo said:

Very nice article Jeff.  Thanks for sharing.  I think this confirms what we've been talking about which is that they better go on a serious run here soon and don't expect much help in trade.  

To me, he's subtly telling us that he's staying the course.  

True, the team is on their own for a bit, but I think he should at least help with the bullpen help despite his explanation. He explains the bullpen wasn't the priority so give the guys a shot in the arm. Or is he going to wait until we lose another tight game late in the innings first?  

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