At this year’s trade deadline, the Angels did something that they have not done in a long time, go for it. Since then, the Angels have been one of the worst teams in baseball, and it has led many to question whether or not the Angels should have bought at the deadline.
On August 1st, the day of the deadline, the Angels were 56-52 and were just three games out of a Wild Card spot. General Manager Perry Minasian went to work and acquired Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo López, Dominic Leone, C.J. Cron, and Randal Grichuk, and the month before, added Mike Moustakas and Eduardo Escobar. With an already depleted farm system, the Angels cleared out some of their top-ranked prospects.
Even though the Angels were only three games out of a playoff spot, they had one of the toughest schedules in baseball in August and, at the time, had 17 players on the injured list, so Minasian was well aware of the risk he was going to take by going for it. The Angels had just a 14% chance to make the postseason on deadline day, according to Fangraphs. It was a massive risk, to say the least.
The tough schedule and the laundry list of injured players have proved to be too much to overcome as the Angels are just 5-12 since the deadline, which only the last place Oakland Athletics have a worse record in the span.
They suffered a four-game sweep to the Seattle Mariners, all of them being very winnable games that they let slip out of their hands. After winning a series against the San Francisco Giants, the Angels got their teeth kicked in by the Houston Astros and Texas Rangers. Their latest series against the Tampa Bay Rays featured a heart-breaking loss in extra-innings, a close win with contributions from almost the whole lineup, then an 18-4 blowout. To summarize how rough it has been for the Angels, Eduardo Escobar has had to pitch twice in the last week.
It is very easy to say it was a bad idea for the Angels to go all-in and try to make a push for the playoffs for the first time since 2014, but can you blame them? With superstar Shohei Ohtani being a free agent at the end of the season and many speculating that he wants to leave for a contending team, Minasian likely saw this as a last-chance effort to show Otani that the Angels are willing to do what it takes to win and hopefully persuade him to stay in Anaheim.
Because of the uncertainty of Ohtani staying, this feels as though it is the Angels’ version of “The Last Dance” with Ohtani. He has been an Angel since 2018, and the Angels have not been close to reaching the postseason once in his tenure. Last year the Angels started strong and were 27-17 and were poised to compete for the playoffs until they suffered a season-altering 14-game losing streak that got manager Joe Maddon fired. This year, as mentioned before, were just three games out of a playoff spot on deadline day before this collapse.
As for the prospects the Angels gave up, the Angels have one of the lowest-ranked farm systems in baseball, and the only Top-100-ranked prospect was Edgar Quero, who the Angels sent to the Chicago White Sox in the Giolito and López trade. Granted, prospects are sometimes unpredictable, so time will tell how they all pan out, but the Angels did not give up many prospects of great value.
Now, this was likely going to be a lose-lose situation anyway for the Angels. If the Angels sold at the deadline and traded Ohtani, they were going to face heavy criticism for not being able to build a winning team with two of the game’s best players, Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani. The only way they were not going to be criticized is if they defied all odds and somehow made the postseason.
Today, Fangraphs has the Angels at a 0.4% chance to make the playoffs. Even though they got Logan O’Hoppe back, and Mike Trout is expected to be activated from the injured list any day now, the Angels need a miracle to make it. They are 61-64 and are eight and a half games back from the Wild Card.
Perry Minasian knew it was going to be an uphill battle, and the chances were slim, but it was a risk he was willing to take to try and persuade Ohtani to stay.