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Angels mailbag: Questions after a rare good weekend for the team

Angels mailbag: Questions after a rare good weekend for the team
Could Angels Manager Mike Scioscia be on the hot seat soon? (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)
The Angels swept Seattle over the weekend, but, overall, they are still struggling, at 16-21, third in the American League West, 5 1/2 games behind first-place Texas.
This is the spot to ask anything you want about the franchise. This weekly feature is the forum to get responses to any queries regarding the Angels or, really, any topic at all, submitted through my email (pedro.moura@latimes.com) and Twitter accounts (@pedromoura). Here we go.
@avisholkoff: when do you think the start of the Angels' "downfall" began? It's hard to remember, but this was a team that won 98 games in ’14
I like this question. They did indeed win 98 games two seasons ago. They had a good team that year, perhaps even great, but it’s important to note they might’ve also overplayed their true talent level.
There are several moments you can point to as the initial source of the descent. Scouting director Eddie Bane’s September 2010 firing remains difficult to understand. I keep going back to Jan. 21, 2011 — the day they inexplicably agreed to trade Mike Napoli for the corpse of Vernon Wells and his massive contract. But they probably wouldn’t have made that trade if they had signed Carl Crawford or Adrian Beltre earlier in the off-season, and they were reportedly in on both men. In Beltre’s case, there have been public hints that they nearly signed him.
So, I don’t know. It feels impossible to pinpoint. In general, Tony Reagins’ hiring appeared a mistake, and Jerry Dipoto seemed to do more good than bad. Of course, it's not Billy Eppler's fault. So, perhaps the downfall started in 2008 or 2009 and was just buoyed, at times, by huge hits like Mike Trout.
Whatever the specific start, I feel pretty confident in saying it was a misguided free-agent signing or trade that set it into motion.
For five straight seasons from 2003 to 2007, the Angels’ farm system ranked among Baseball America’s top five. No other organization made the top five in more than three of those years. And then they stopped infusing the system with top picks and traded away much of what they had. They’ve never ranked in the top 10 since, and their system is now the consensus worst in baseball. Multiple talent evaluators have told me the Angels might be the worst-positioned franchise in the sport going forward.
What has been the nadir — or if the nadir has even been reached — is unclear.
@DuranSports: Scale 1-10 what's Scioscia hot seat meter?
I’ll peg it at a three, if Gregg Popovich is a one and Byron Scott was a 10 weeks ago.
I still don’t think Angels owner Arte Moreno is going to fire Manager Mike Scioscia, particularly at any point during this season. It’s not like any manager could have this team, as currently assembled, atop baseball. The Angels’ issue is not their lineup construction or their bullpen management or anything like that.
Their chief problem is that they don’t have enough good, healthy players. Why? Refer to the question above.
@TisdaleDr1978: If the Angels could acquire 4-5 good prospects for Trout (from the Cubs for example), why wouldn't they do it?
Why wouldn’t they do it? Well, would people continue to go to the ballpark at the same rate? Would people buy as much merchandise? I think not. Their season-ticket renewals would go down dramatically for 2017. The money-making enterprise aspect of the organization would be put into question.
I think that is definitely in play here.
@EricEsq503: Do you think the team will start running "big market" payrolls around Trout?
This is the real question, isn’t it? Not whether the team will trade Trout this season. It’s about whether they can assemble a squad that can actually compete around him at some point over the next four seasons. They thought they could compete this year. Injuries have made that more challenging. If they determine that with their budgetary restraints they can’t ever build a top squad around Trout, the only rational action is to trade him.
Only Moreno knows, or will know, if he can start running payrolls to match the biggest teams in the sport.
@KevinKLu: how important are these vets/clubhouse guys who sing/do impressions during a season like this?
This, I presume, is in response to a story I wrote about Geovany Soto singing Bob Marley in the Angels clubhouse before their game last Wednesday. Soto sings a lot. His teammates seem to like him quite a bit. He definitely lightens the mood, probably more than any other person in the room.
How important are those traits to the team winning? I’m not sure. It’s so hard to say with any degree of certainty. But I’d say the fact that Soto can hit is probably more impactful. He has much more pop than the Angels’ other catching option, Carlos Perez, and is finally getting the playing time to reflect that truth.
@ZachMaciel12: why did we trade Howie Kendrick
The Angels traded Kendrick because they obtained six years of Andrew Heaney for one year of Kendrick. It was a great trade, even if Heaney ends up succumbing to a torn UCL and undergoing Tommy John surgery. Heaney and Kendrick were similarly valuable last year.
Kendrick is a nice player, but the deal he signed with the Dodgers after last season — two years, $20 million — should show you that Heaney is a more valued commodity. Nobody wanted to top that and pay the first-round pick compensation attached to the qualifying offer.
By the way, Kendrick turns 33 in two months and has hit .279 with a .319 on-base percentage and .377 slugging percentage since leaving the Angels.
Johnny Giavotella has hit .261 with a .304 OBP and .358 slugging in that time. Kendrick’s better, obviously, but not nearly by enough to outweigh Heaney’s worth.
@jaydieguez: thoughts on the new saosin? Given the farm is in shambles should they draft for need? or best player available?

I have only heard the three singles from the new Saosin record. I particularly enjoyed "Control and the Urge to Pray." I used to listen to their debut album a lot. It has been fun to go back to recently.

In this case, drafting for need and drafting the best player available are pretty much the same thing. The Angels could use prospects at every position on the field, so the best player available, whoever he is and wherever he plays, will fill a need.
@BStewart05: How bad would it have to get to drop Pujols in the order And How bad would it have to get for Pujols to consider retirement? 

Marcelo Pacheco also asked a similar question via email: Any plans to move Pujols out of the 4 spot? Please do so Sosh, been wanting this for a while now.

Scioscia was asked this a few days ago: Would you consider moving him down?

"No," he said.

Five seconds later, he added: "I think you guys are misreading this if you don't think he's hitting the ball much better than his numbers show."

While I understand the call for Pujols to move down in the lineup, I don't think it's as obvious a choice as many seem to think. For most teams, he would no longer be hitting cleanup. But, with the Angels, it comes down to this: Who do you think will hit better from here on out in 2016? Pujols or C.J. Cron?

Whoever you like should bat higher, of course. Pujols is again failing to get on base and Cron has come around impressively in recent weeks, but I think the smart money is on Pujols from here forward. He will not produce at the level you would expect from a cleanup hitter, no, but he might be the best the Angels have.

How bad would it have to get for Scioscia to drop him? He'd probably have to start striking out a lot more.

How bad would it have to get for Pujols to consider retirement? Really, really, really bad. He is still owed about $160 million from today forward.

@MattMattwiles26: Not that the Angels will go rebuilding mode, but should we soon look for minor moves to position them for years to come?

The Angels will not commit to selling until another month has passed, at least, and probably two. If they do decide to make trades, they must still determine if they will sell only short-term rental types — Joe Smith, Yunel Escobar — or longer-term options, too, like Kole Calhoun, Huston Street and Hector Santiago.
@jw_mike: have the Angels quit or they're just that bad?
They are lacking in good, healthy players.
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.
pedro.moura@latimes.com
Twitter: @pedromoura
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