Because of the coronavirus pandemic and subsequent delays to the start of the 2020 Major League Baseball season, this year's single trade deadline will be on Monday, Aug. 31 at 4 p.m. ET. The Los Angeles Angels will approach the date as one of baseball's worst teams in 2020. The club is reportedly expected to sell. It's a disappointing ending to what was predicted to be a much better season for the Angels.
They had signed top free agent Anthony Rendon to a massive contract this past offseason, two-way phenom Shohei Ohtani was set to ready to the mound, Joe Maddon was brought in as the new manager and the team boasts the best player in baseball in Mike Trout. But, things quickly fell apart at the seams for the Angels when Ohtani -- the club's ace -- suffered a forearm strain that ended his pitching hopes for the season.
All but one on the CBS Sports MLB staff predicted that the Angels would ultimately finish behind the Astros and Athletics in the AL West. But with the expanded 16-team postseason for 2020, a third-place finish still could have given the club a chance to return to the playoffs for the first time since 2014. But, now, the Angels are heading toward a dead-last finish in their division, and possibly in the entire league. Entering Friday, the Angels own a league-worst 10-22 record. Their postseason odds are quickly shrinking.
Of importance here is that Angels general manager Billy Eppler is in the final year of his contract. The New York Post's Joel Sherman said in an appearance on the MLB Network: "There is probably not a general manager on thinner ice ... right now than Billy Eppler." If things aren't turned around in the second half of this season, the Angels are nearing another losing season. It would be the fifth straight losing season in Eppler's five-year tenure as general manager.
With that being said, let's try to take a look at the Angels' biggest needs, targets and trade chips before the Aug. 31 deadline.
Pitching. That's it. That's the need.
Kidding aside, the Angels desperately need to improve their pitching on all fronts. I mean, that has be the main focus of the club's 2020 trade deadline. And, unfortunately for the Angels, this feels like something we say the Angels need every year. Last offseason, they missed out on Gerrit Cole and weren't able to sign any of the other big name available starters, leaving them with a weak rotation. Before this year's deadline, they could use a starter to replace Ohtani and adding more reliable bullpen arms wouldn't be a bad idea either.
The rotation entered Friday with a 5.411 ERA, 1.42 WHIP, and the team suffers from a minus-34 run differential. Behind the Red Sox and Mariners for the most, the Angels have given up 167 earned runs so far this season. When it comes to Fielding Independent Pitching, which is what a pitcher's -- or team's -- ERA would probably look like with league-average defensive support and neutral luck, the Angels rank 29th out of 30 teams with a 5.41 FIP.
As we said before, Ohtani got shut down from pitching this year after a forearm strain. Griffin Canning, who was set for a rebound season after elbow troubles, has not been great this season. He's completed just five innings in only one of his six starts this season. Lefty Patrick Sandoval carries an ERA nearing 7.00. Andrew Heaney owns a .257 opponents batting average. Right-hander Dylan Bundy is the rotation's only bright spot, putting together a 2.58 ERA (173 ERA+), 0.887 WHIP and 44 strikeout to 8 walk ratio.
The Angels are in luck because pitching is expected to be a hot market at this year's trade deadline. But with so many clubs hurt by pitching injuries this year, the demand may cause an uptick in the required returns. Either way, the Angels need to go out and be willing to negotiate for reliable arms. No excuses. Here's a few pitchers on the market that would help in the bullpen and/or rotation:
If the Angels are more focused on going the seller's route, then they have plenty of available trade chips. I'd say some of these players are certainly still on the chopping block even if the club does decide to buy. Here are a few options:
Bundy is clearly going to be one of the more sought after pitchers for this deadline. After his breakout start to 2020, the Angels have already been getting calls re: Bundy. Bundy is under team control through 2021 as an arbitration-eligible player.
Robles could be an option for clubs in need of adding depth to their bullpen, while Teheran could provide rotation depth for a club. Other Angels relievers Ty Buttrey and Felix Pena might be thrown out in trade discussions as well.
Fletcher is already rumored to have a high asking price. He's posted impressive numbers at the plate in this year's campaign and he has defensive versatility. Fletcher will not be eligible for free agency until the 2024-25 offseason. Some other trade chip candidates include: La Stella, Rengifo and Simmons. La Stella is a super utility man, he's looked good offensively and he'll be a free agent after this season. Rengifo could match with a club looking for infielder replacement or depth due to injuries. And, Simmons is a four-time Gold Glove winner and impending free agent.