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Angels mailbag: These fans already seem to be in rebuilding mode

Angels mailbag: These fans already seem to be in rebuilding mode
Angels' Albert Pujols strikes out against Minnesota on June 15. (Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)

How are you doing, Angels fans? Still paying attention? Last week was a pretty good one for your team, which took two out of three from each of the American League's worst teams, Minnesota and Oakland. Now, it's the first day of summer, and the Angels are 31-38 through 69 games, on a 73-win pace. That's still not too hot.

Let's take a look back and forward here with questions and answers. As always, this is the place to ask anything you want about the Angels, with questions submitted through my email (pedro.moura@latimes.com) and Twitter account (@pedromoura). It begins here. It begins now.

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Ridiculous, fanboy trade proposal: Send the 5 years, $140m Pujols's contract to the Rangers, Albert still kills it in Texas, for the 4 years, $96m on the struggling Prince Fielder deal. We save about 5m annually for 4 years and rid ourself of the last year of the Pujols's contract. Then give Albert his $10m upfront for the insane "personal services" portion of his contract for waiving his no trade clause and tell him he is no longer obligated to throw out ceremonial first pitches in Anaheim. Boom, solved how we can start the painful, but well needed roster reconstruction process. 

Kirk Dingley, Hollywood

That is not the worst idea. But $44 million is $44 million, and I don't think the Texas Rangers really want to pay $44 million to anyone they are not contractually obligated to pay $44 million. Prince Fielder is having a horrid season, but he is also 54 months younger than Albert Pujols, and, at 32, I suppose it's conceivable that he can rejuvenate his career in some way.

Pujols' performance this season is problematic. He has been below replacement level and he is not hitting for any power. His .393 slugging percentage is 135th out of 170 qualified hitters. He has two extra-base hits this month. Another crazy stat: David Ortiz's slugging percentage is .710. Pujols' slugging percentage and on-base percentage combined is .703.

Also, Pujols has a full no-trade clause. There is that.

@Crudemeisters: Why don't we see any big prospect for prospect deals? It never happens and seems teams can fill in holes this way.

It is hard to feel like you know another team's top prospect better than you know your own. And, if you don't, why would you want to trade someone for whom the other team is willing to give up its top prospect? Challenge trades are fun. I enjoy such swaps at the major league level, when the teams are essentially telling each other: We believe you have not developed this player in the right manner or are not using him in the best way to maximize his value.

Washington's Bryce Harper is due to be a free agent in 2018.
Washington's Bryce Harper is due to be a free agent in 2018. (Denis Poroy / Getty Images)

@JeremiahNelso12: Next year FA is super weak. Next year is a lost cause already. Who is available in 2 years?

The post-2017 free-agent class looks a little better than this upcoming season, but the real prizes await after the 2018 season. Many of baseball's best players are slated to be free agents then: Bryce Harper, Manny Machado, probably Clayton Kershaw, Josh Donaldson, Andrew McCutchen, Jose Fernandez, and all sorts of others.

That is a long time from now, though. Also, it is quite hard to build an organization to sustained success via free agency.

Glass half-full question: Assuming the Angels weather the injury storm and the starting pitching includes Santiago, Lincecum, Shoemaker, Chacin and Weaver, what position or player would you target in a trade?  I know you have to have something to trade to get something, but lets not forget about contracts as dumping contracts are part of it as well.  Starting Pitcher? Bullpen? Catcher?  As a separate question (but based on the above assumption) would a trade for someone like Matt Moore - TB, Kevin Jepsen - Twins or Jarrod Saltalamacchia - Detroit?  We have some pieces (Shane Robinson, CJ Cron, Matt Shoemaker, or Brendan Ryan or Kaleb Cowart). 

Chris H., Westminster

I do not think the Angels should target any major league players in a trade, and I don't think they will. They are facing a massive deficit within their division and a sizable one in the wild-card race. As far as players they should explore trading, this has been extensively discussed in these mailbags this year: third baseman Yunel Escobar, set-up man Joe Smith, and perhaps closer Huston Street make the most sense.

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Robinson and Ryan have no trade value whatsoever. Cowart has a minimal amount. Cron is a league-average hitter who plays a below-average first base, which is not worth a ton. Through 253 career games, he has been worth 0.2 Wins Above Replacement. Shoemaker, I'll address later.

@raccastle2: What's the sense around the team? Does this team believe we can make the playoffs? Or are we just counting down to the offseason

I haven't detected any decrease in effort from the Angels as their struggles have continued. The guys who played hard in the opening week are still playing hard. The guys who didn't aren't. As far as whether the players believe they can make the playoffs, I honestly don't think most of them spend too much time thinking about it. Within the life of a major league ballplayer, there is a lot to ponder — or, in the absence of thought, do. They are trying to personally play as well as they can, as they should. Some of them are certainly aware they may be traded, though.

Angels' Matt Shoemaker pitches against Oakland on June 17.
Angels' Matt Shoemaker pitches against Oakland on June 17. (Ben Margot / Associated Press)

As we near the halfway mark, what would you see as the most likely actions after the conclusion of a very disappointing season?

John Zanier

It is thus far unclear how the Angels will approach the off-season. I think that is because so much of it depends on Garrett Richards and Andrew Heaney. If the Angels don't have either of those pitchers healthy next season, it is hard to envision them contending. Jered Weaver and C.J. Wilson are likely to be gone. There is going to be a dearth of free-agent starting options.

Once the Aug. 1 deadline passes and the Angels ascertain if Heaney and Richards' elbow ligaments are intact enough to pitch, it'll be far more clear what the organization plans to do in the winter. I will examine those options in detail when the time comes.

@OnBaseUnit: Do you think Shoemaker has established some trade value? Pitching market isn't looking very deep this season.

I addressed the likelihood of a Shoemaker trade in last week's 'bag, but I'll say this: It would be difficult for anyone to raise their trade value in a six-start span more than Matt Shoemaker has within the last month. He has struck out 55 men and walked two, which is pretty much exactly what you want. He has used his splitter to great effect. He has gained more than 1 mph on his fastball, which may not sound like much but is.

That written, it is still six starts, and Matt Shoemaker is still three months from turning 30 with a mixed major league track record. I don't know what he's worth. Scouts I've asked don't think they know either. This is a case where gathering a larger sample is imperative. What is he?

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That's it for this week's Angels mailbag. Send in your questions to the below addresses at any time, and check back each Monday for answers. Enjoy your summer.

Twitter: @pedromoura

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