COMMENTARY | As the mess known as the 2013 Los Angeles Angels continue to limp to the finish line, one has to wonder where the reinforcements will come for 2014.
In-house talent is hard to come by for the Angels these days, as they own the worst farm system in baseball. Their top prospect, Kaleb Cowart, has had a dreadful 2013 season in AA for the Arkansas Travelers. He is batting just .214 with five home runs and 33 RBIs. Cowart owns the fourth-worst OPS in the Texas League at .574 and the fifth-worst OBP at .277.
The Angel' greatest need is starting pitching, and they will potentially have three open rotation spots. Tommy Hanson should be non-tendered, Jason Vargas will be a free agent, and Joe Blanton … is Joe Blanton. Garrett Richards will have a good chance to earn one of those slots if he finishes his 2013 season strong.
With no one in the minors ready to challenge for a rotation spot in 2014, what are the Angels to do?
They could take another whack at signing free agents, but that hasn't worked out so well.
The trade market has to be one of the avenues that general manager Jerry Dipoto explores to improve the team.
Rumors circulated during the trade deadline that Erick Aybar and Howie Kendrick could be had in trades. Out of the two, Kendrick would make the most sense for the Angels to trade as Aybar's replacement, Jean Segura, was dealt last July in a trade for Zack Greinke.
Kendrick is signed through 2015 for a modest $18.55M and could garner a nice package of players. Taylor Lindsey and the recently acquired Grant Green would be potential candidates for second base if the Angels do deal Kendrick in the offseason.
Digging a little deeper, the Angels do have another valuable trade piece, Peter Bourjos.
Bourjos will become arbitration-eligible in 2014 and still be under team control through 2016.
Bourjos' 2013 season has been hampered with miscellaneous injuries. He missed five weeks due to a hamstring strain and four games after injuring his thumb. He has been on the 15-day disabled list since June 30 after being hit by a pitch and fracturing his right wrist.
Though he can play the outfield if necessary, Trumbo will either be playing first base or DH'ing when Albert Pujols is healthy. J.B. Shuck provides nothing more than an empty batting average with no pop and bad defense. He is an extra emergency outfielder, at best.
This leaves a good player, either Bourjos or Calhoun, to toil away in the dugout.
Calhoun's emergence, in particular, would make it easier to deal Bourjos. He is capable with the bat and can play either corner outfield position, which would allow Trout to slide back to center field.
Bourjos provides elite-level defense from the center field position, owning a career UZR of 37.3 in 2524.2 innings. His defensive runs saved (DRS) is at 32 for his career.
Offensively, he provides some upside as well. In 2011, he batted .271 with 12 home runs and 22 stolen bases. His numbers came back down in 2012, but his playing time became sporadic due to the emergence of Mike Trout and Mike Scioscia's refusal to bench Vernon Wells.
When on the field in 2013, Bourjos has been very effective. In 147 plate appearances, he owns a slash line of .333/.392/.457.
The Angels have put themselves in a tough position going forward due to massive overpays in free agency and unloading prospects for midseason rentals. However, there are trade pieces currently on the roster to work with to improve the team for the future.
James Patrick Lumalu lives in Los Angeles and has covered the MLB and NBA for Nationalist Magazine. You can follow him on Twitter: @jameslumalu.
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