Sports Angels

Angels can hear Oakland's call to arms, but will they answer it?

After Oakland Athletics upgraded their rotation in a big way, Angels GM Jerry Dipoto weighs his next move
Oakland, already with majors' best record, added starters Jeff Samardzija, Jason Hammel in trade with Cubs
Second-place Angels have fortified their bullpen, and Dipoto says he's 'open-minded' about further deals

The Oakland Athletics made their intentions clear last week when they bolstered an already stout rotation by trading for Chicago Cubs ace Jeff Samardzija and right-hander Jason Hammel. The best team in baseball won't be satisfied with a third straight American League West title. They want to win the World Series.

The Angels (52-37) have baseball's second-best record, a usually prolific offense led by Mike Trout, a strong rotation led by flame-throwing Garrett Richards and a bullpen that is deeper and far more effective than the group that stumbled its way through April.

Could the Angels adopt a similar go-for-broke mentality before the July 31 nonwaiver trade deadline, discarding their recent spackle-and-paint approach for a splashy acquisition such as Tampa Bay ace David Price or Philadelphia left-hander Cole Hamels, who could help pitch them deeper into October?

"If we are able to make a move to improve the team, we'll be open-minded," General Manager Jerry Dipoto said before Tuesday night's 4-0 loss to the Toronto Blue Jays snapped the Angels' 11-game home win streak. "We have five solid starters and a swingman. My general mind-set is, if it's not broke, don't fix it.

"That being said, you have to keep your ear to the street because starting pitching is such a tender thing. One slip, one back issue, and you have to be aware of what might be out there."

A "back issue" nearly bit the Angels on Monday night when ace Jered Weaver was pulled after two innings because of lower-back tightness, but the right-hander's injury does not appear serious.

Weaver felt good enough to play catch Tuesday. The Angels have not decided if he will make his next start this weekend in Texas or take about 10 days off and return after the All-Star break.

"If he's ready to go, there's no doubt we're better with him starting," Manager Mike Scioscia said. "If we feel we're putting a player at risk, then he won't pitch. It's that simple. Jered will have to throw off a mound to see where he is."

Price, who is 8-7 with a 3.48 earned-run average and leads the AL in strikeouts (159) and innings (139 2/3), would be a force at the front of any rotation, but the Angels probably don't have enough high-end prospects to acquire him, and they don't appear interested in moving players off their major league roster for him.

Hamels, who is 3-5 with a 2.87 ERA and 101 strikeouts in 100 1/3 innings, is probably more attainable, but he is 30 and signed through 2018 at $22.5 million a year, a massive contract to assume.

The Angels are more inclined to pursue another late-inning reliever, even though they recently acquired former closer Jason Grilli from Pittsburgh and veteran left-hander Joe Thatcher from Arizona, and their relievers have combined for a 1.52 ERA and .185 opponents' average in the last 12 games.

San Diego closer Huston Street (1.13 ERA, 23 saves in 24 opportunities) and setup man Joaquin Benoit (1.23 ERA) are obvious targets, but if Miami and Boston sink deeper in the standings, Marlins closer Steve Cishek (3.05 ERA, 20 saves) and Red Sox closer Koji Uehara (1.30 ERA, 18 saves) might become available. The Angels appear less interested in Phillies closer Jonathan Papelbon.

"I don't think there's an immediate rush," Dipoto said. "Grilli and Thatcher have been nice additions, and I can't say enough about Mike Morin's contributions and the season Kevin Jepsen is having. Getting Fernando Salas back helps, and Joe Smith has been a rock.

"It's a pretty stable group, and [swingman] Hector Santiago can serve many purposes — he protects the rotation, gives you multi-inning capability and a second left-hander in the bullpen.

"All that being said, if we can find a way to help that group and further improve ourselves, we'll try."

Twitter: @MikeDiGiovanna

Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times
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