Angels mailbag: Moving right along

Hello, Angels fans. Your favorite baseball team is 23-23, which predictably translates to an 81-win pace for a full season. They’re in Florida this week. Their first opponent here, Tampa Bay, has the very same record. Parity!

Let’s get to the mailbag. As always, please submit questions through my Twitter account (@pedromoura) or via email at

It’s tremendously difficult to envision a scenario in which the Angels make the playoffs without a dominant starting pitcher. Without Richards, they clearly do not have one. So, yes, his absence renders a postseason bid far less likely. And it was never all that likely.

Clearly, though, the Angels’ front office has not yet ceded this season. There would be no reason to in mid-May. Also, it’s not as if he was in high demand, but the Doug Fister signing signals that they are retaining hope. More importantly, Richards believes he can pitch again this season. Andrew Heaney believes he has a good chance to, too.

So far, developments across the American League have made it more likely that a mediocre team could win a wild-card slot. Texas and Seattle have both suffered arrays of injuries. Among teams that were supposed to be at least OK, only Baltimore and the New York Yankees are notably exceeding expectations. Competition could be lighter than usual.

All of that to say: The Angels aren’t going to stop pursuing the playoffs, and outsiders aren’t going to start thinking they can make it.

So, yeah, Fister is 33. He was unable to sign a major league contract over the off-season. His fastball averaged 86.9 mph a year ago. I don’t think his timing is much connected to Skaggs’, because he’s not going to pitch in the majors for at least a couple weeks and Skaggs could be back by June’s end. But it’s fair to call Fister an innings-eater.

That depends on so many factors. Are their injured pitchers on track to be back? How’s the health of the teams in front of them? Do they have ownership approval to spend more money and add talent? Do they have an ownership mandate to cut money from the payroll? it’s just too early to say, but rest assured I will discuss this further if the deadline nears and they remain on the border.

Escobar was available at that stage a year ago, yet no contender opted to add him. Cron’s name has been bandied about on the trade market all year, but it remains unclear if anyone is willing to offer much in return for a 27-year-old who has a career .746 OPS and can only play first base (and not particularly well). Also, he will begin to be paid under the arbitration system next year, making him less cost-effective.

As far as the outfielders, consider that Maybin was coming off a career year in November and the Tigers traded him for a relief prospect, Victor Alcantara, who was 26th on their pre-season top-prospect list. And consider that Revere went unsigned until a couple days before Christmas and has since hit .244/.253/.384.

I don’t have a good handle on what Valbuena’s market value would be, but he’s more of a long-term fit for the club. He’s under contract for next season and the Angels possess an option for 2019. Trading him would trigger a $500,000 bonus.

Nothing, really. As I wrote in this space last week, he’s a 23-year-old putting up average statistics in low-Class A. There’s nothing really to see here.

Nate Smith is an option to start games for the Angels this season, but he’s again on the disabled list with an arm issue. My understanding is this latest problem is less severe than the forearm strain that forced him to miss April. He made only one start before he went back onto the DL.

Smith is a 25-year-old left-hander who some scouts believe could fit in the back of a major league rotation. Others see him destined for an up-and-down role. If he can get and stay healthy, he’ll have an opportunity to pitch his case.

I would strongly recommend against judging relievers by WAR through seven weeks. It’s just too variable to yield fruitful, truthful results at this point in the season. About Alvarez’s usage, he is by no means a star reliever, but he proved in 2015 and 2016 that he can get people out. He has permitted 16 baserunners in 15 2/3 innings; that’s far from bad and actually pretty good. The 4.02 earned-run average almost solely stems from the four home runs he has yielded, which seems an aberration considering he gave up four and five over the last two seasons.

Alvarez is also the only left-hander in the Angels’ bullpen — the only left-hander on their staff right now, in fact.

That obviously sounds tantalizing, but it’s difficult to execute. The primary reason is simple: Great players are not often available for reasonable contracts as free agents, and teams don’t tend to give up good prospects for players not on affordable contracts. As the Dodgers’ president of baseball operations, Andrew Friedman, said at last year’s Winter Meetings, those who act rationally on every free agent will finish third in the race to sign every free agent.

The Yankees and teams with the largest payrolls can afford to take on a bit more risk with free-agent deals. If Miller had busted, his $9-million salary would not have killed the franchise’s immediate hopes.

He doesn’t know for sure, the team doesn’t know for sure, and I don’t either. He’s on the path back, that much is clear, and still at least a couple weeks away.

On the lineup cards they print out and post in their clubhouse and on social media, the Angels use black ink to denote a right-handed hitter, red ink for a left-handed hitter, and blue ink for switch hitters.

5 Guys is now No. 1 over In-N-Out. Where do you side in this debate? I like Fatburger over both.

In-N-Out is fine. It is a relatively tasty burger for the humble price they charge. It is by no means the best burger around or a must-visit or any of those ridiculous terms West Coasters throw around. The fries are awful, too. I have not eaten at a Five Guys since college, but I do not recall it being particularly good. It’s also more expensive. I cannot recall consuming Fatburger since high school.

I’ll take Golden State on Fairfax over any of them every time.

That’s it for this week. Send questions to the below addresses to be considered for the mailbag every Monday, all season long. Next week’s will be delayed until Tuesday because of the holiday.

Twitter: @pedromoura

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