After suffering their sixth consecutive loss, a 7-3 defeat to Oakland at Angel Stadium, the Angels finished play Saturday night with the fourth-worst record in Major League Baseball. Some of the teams behind them entered the season hoping to lose.
The 2016 season, to date, has been an unequivocal failure. But, five weeks away from the nonwaiver trade deadline and one week away from the halfway point, those in charge are not willing to attach any permanence to the team’s deficiencies.
The baseball world widely expects the Angels to at least sell off spare parts ahead of the deadline, and perhaps pursue more.
Angels General Manager Billy Eppler was unwilling Saturday to speak about anything beyond the past and immediate future, such as how he expects catcher Geovany Soto and set-up man Joe Smith to soon return to the team.
But, yes, this season has not gone as he hoped, “in part because of injuries to the team’s top pitchers.”
“You can point to a number of areas,” Eppler said by phone from Burlington, Iowa, where he was watching the Angels’ Class-A affiliate. “We’ve had to absorb some injuries, pivot and adjust. Losing the front end of the rotation early on has definitely contributed to the position we’re in now. But you cannot discredit the fight that these guys have day in and day out. They are there, they are grinding. There’s been no give-up in guys. That’s exactly what I want us to embody — a club that fights.”
Eppler acknowledged that some players have performed to their own expectations and others have not. He would not address which fit into which category, only that he remained confident those who have not soon would.
“We want to get the full team intact and guys back on the field and healthy,” Eppler said.
That will not happen in advance of the deadline. None of the four injured starting pitchers — Richards, Heaney and left-handers C.J. Wilson and Tyler Skaggs — are on track to return before then, although Skaggs could. So it is unclear what kind of value the team can obtain from evaluating a squad still below full strength.
“Although recently on the offensive side we haven’t attacked the ball like we can, the major issues with our club lie on the other side: the rotation, the bullpen,” Angels Manager Mike Scioscia said Saturday. “That’s the key area where we’ll look and see if we need to make adjustments.”
Scioscia was asked what kind of adjustments he foresaw.
“I don’t want to go through every scenario,” Scioscia said. “Certainly, everything’s evaluated constantly, and you look for options that might move you forward. There is a couple things.”
The perpetual positive remains Mike Trout, the 24-year-old center fielder, who, after his first-inning home run and third-inning single Saturday, surpassed Jim Fregosi for the organization’s all-time lead in Wins Above Replacement by a position player, as calculated by fangraphs.com.
It took Fregosi 1,429 games as an Angel to amass 42.6 WAR. It took Trout 727 to reach 42.7 and become the most valuable non-pitcher in franchise history.
“He’s an incredible talent and one thing that superstars have in common is impact and longevity,” Eppler said when told that statistic. “He’s clearly made an impact in a relatively short time, when you really look at the career of superstars. He’s built to play this game. From that standpoint it’s not surprising that he’s shedding a milestone.”
Eppler has insisted he will not trade Trout. He has not made such definitive declarations about others on the roster. He has only said, effectively, not yet.
“Let’s let this club play a little bit longer,” he said Saturday. “There’s no rush to make a decision right now.”