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Trade to replace Garrett Richards? Not so easy for Angels

The Angels have few good options to replace ace Garrett Richards in their rotation

As the reality of Garrett Richards' season-ending knee injury set in Thursday, so did this reality: the Angels cannot make a trade to replace their ace.

They can make a trade, to be sure. But the relevant question for the Angels is this: Can they trade for a better pitcher than journeyman Wade LeBlanc, and would the price be worth what might be a minimal upgrade?

Richards was one of the eight best starting pitchers in the American League, by several measures.

Elite pitchers generally are not traded in August, when players must be made available on waivers in advance of any deal. The complete list of starting pitchers traded or moved on a waiver claim this month: Kevin Correia and Roberto Hernandez, to the Dodgers; Jacob Turner, to the Chicago Cubs; Jerome Williams, to the Philadelphia Phillies.

The Dodgers twice acquired Hall of Fame pitcher Greg Maddux in August. Maddux was 40 the first time, 42 the second time. The Dodgers also acquired Joe Blanton in August.

In order to fill Richards' spot in the rotation, the Angels could consider two New York Mets pitchers -- Jon Niese (7-8, 3.50 earned-run average), who reportedly has cleared waivers, and Bartolo Colon (11-10, 3.85). According to the ERA+ statistic, Niese is a league-average pitcher, Colon a below-average pitcher.

Colon, 41, is owed $12.5 million through 2015. Niese, 27, is owed $18 million through 2016.

The Mets could let Colon go on waivers, sticking the Angels with the entire $12.5-million bill. Of course, since every other team knows the Angels need a starter, all it would take is one team to claim him and block the Angels from getting him. The Oakland Athletics probably would want to keep Colon out of Anaheim -- and, by having the best record in the American League, the Angels get last priority in claiming National League players.

However, if the Mets or any other team decided to engage in discussions about trading a pitcher, the Angels' perilously thin farm system could become an issue. The Angels traded five of their better prospects -- from a system already ranked as the worst in baseball -- to acquire relievers Huston Street and Joe Thatcher.

The Angels added to their major league depth Thursday, acquiring infielder Gordon Beckham from the Chicago White Sox for a player to be named or cash. It is possible the Angels could try to use surplus major league talent in a trade for a starter.

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