What do you call it when you make a trade that does not accomplish your primary off-season objective?
A good start, or so Angels General Manager Jerry Dipoto hopes.
But the trade announced Friday -- third baseman David Freese and right-handed reliever Fernando Salas from the St. Louis Cardinals for outfielder Peter Bourjos and outfield prospect Randal Grichuk -- could hurt the Angels as they pursue young, cheap starting pitching.
The Angels have a limited budget this winter, with owner Arte Moreno wanting the payroll low enough that he would not have to pay a luxury tax. The need for starting pitching got more acute Thursday, when Jason Vargas spurned a three-year offer from the Angels for a four-year contract from the Kansas City Royals.
The Angels did fill needs at third base and in middle relief. The third base history in recent years has been particularly uninspiring, based on the Opening Day carousel at the position: Chone Figgins in 2009, Brandon Wood in ’10, Maicer Izturis in ’11, Mark Trumbo in ’12, Alberto Callaspo in ’13. The disappointments of Wood and Dallas McPherson are a cautionary tale against prospect hype.
But the Angels also added about $4 million in payroll, and they traded two chips that might otherwise have been used in a package for a starting pitcher.
They do get to put their franchise player, Mike Trout, back in center field, the position he prefers. Trout batted .349 with a 1.078 OPS as a center fielder last season, .295 with an .851 OPS as a left fielder.
But the completion of a trade with the Cardinals, who need a shortstop, apparently means that St. Louis is not interested in trading one of its young arms for Angels shortstop Erick Aybar. So far, at least, Trumbo and Howie Kendrick have not generated interest among teams willing to trade young starters.
It is still early in the baseball winter. For now, though, the Angels have a starting rotation of Jered Weaver, C.J. Wilson, Garrett Richards and two vacancies -- with a little less money and fewer chips to fill them.