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With Trade Deadline Looming, the Los Angeles Angels Must Avoid Recent Mistakes

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COMMENTARY | When I was a kid, if my parents gave me a toy, they told me that it was my toy and I could do with it whatever I pleased. I could lend it out, sell it, lose it or even break it. It was, after all, my toy.

Fans of the Los Angeles Angels find themselves in a similar parental situation with Arte Moreno and his "toy" baseball team. He has made some very odd choices over the years -- from alienating the actual locals by changing the team name to overriding his "baseball" men to sign Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton. But he's allowed to do pretty much whatever he wants. It is, after all, his team.

Of course, most of us outsiders can really only speculate about what goes on behind closed doors. Maybe the Pujols and Hamilton signings were GM Jerry Dipoto's idea. Maybe Dipoto wanted to build a team through their farm system.

Even more troubling than those free-agent signings are the two recent trades that could easily be considered the two worst trades in franchise history. Again, maybe the trades were all GM's doing, but Arte signed off on them. It's his team.

The second-worst trade: Zack Greinke for Jean Segura and two others

I've never really been a fan of the two-month, playoff-run rental trade. It just seems like the majority of the time the acquired player doesn't add much value. Last year, the Angels thought they might have a shot making the playoffs, so they traded a top-level prospect in Segura to the Milwaukee Brewers for two months of Greinke.

The Angels didn't make the playoffs. Oh well. But it gets worse. The team was unable to re-sign Greinke, losing him to the Los Angeles Dodgers and, thanks to the new collective bargaining agreement, they did not get draft-pick compensation.

But it gets even worse. Segura was an All-Star shortstop this year as a rookie and looks like he'll be a star at a position that is lacking throughout the league. Also, the Angels' own shortstop ,Erick Aybar, who had been pretty decent, is having his worst season at the plate and on defense.

And then, to make it all so much more painful, the "two others" I mentioned earlier are currently the Brewers' #3 and #14 top prospects, as pitchers -- a position for which the Angels are desperate.

The Rangers just traded for Matt Garza from the Chicago Cubs and gave a similar package of players. Three players means they have the rights to those players for 18 years worth of major-league contracts. They get Garza for two months.

The first-worst trade: Vernon Wells for Mike Napoli and Juan Rivera

Vernon was a player whose contract was almost immediately one of the worst-ever and then his skills never stopped diminishing. The Toronto Blue Jays were stuck with this guy to the very end.

Along came the Angels, who had just missed out on signing free agents Carl Crawford and Adrian Beltre. A new plan was needed. And somehow, some way Vernon became their solution.

Maybe they made a list of players to go after and accidentally sorted it from the bottom up. Maybe they put a bunch of players' names on a dartboard and the dart bounced off into the trash and hit Vernon Wells' name. Or maybe Arte and GM Tony Reagins used a Ouija board and the ghost of Vernon's skills spoke to them.

They traded away Napoli -- who would become an All-Star and led the Rangers to the World Series -- and Rivera -- who put up just slightly better numbers than Wells. And what did they get? In two seasons, Vernon accounted for 0.6 WAR.

The real damage he did was with his on-base percentage, which came in at a very pitcher-friendly .260 -- this made him 134th-ranked out of 145 qualified players in 2011.

But the story of this trade is off the field -- in bank accounts. When the Angels traded for him they assumed the whole contract. That was probably the most shocking aspect of all. There was $86 million left on the last four years of the contract. The Blue Jays aren't paying a dime of that.

This past offseason, the Angels traded Vernon to the New York Yankees for a couple of low-end minor-leaguers and they agreed to pay $14 million of Vernon's salary. This is the kind of trade the Angels should have done with the Blue Jays in the first place.

They're going to end up paying Vernon $72 million for two awful seasons of work. That's $36 million a season.

The only times my parents would intervene with my toys were when my toy-related activities involved fire or explosions. No one can take away Arte's "toy," but between the Pujols and Hamilton signings and these two trades, it's time to at least grab the matches out of his hands so he can't light the fuse.

Jed Rigney is a Los Angeles-based award-winning filmmaker who also fancies himself a baseball writer. He is the lead humor columnist at Through The Fence Baseball. You can follow him on Twitter @JedRigney.

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