The Angels sold a couple pieces before Friday’s MLB trade deadline. But they weren’t all-out sellers, either.
Starter Andrew Heaney was shipped to the New York Yankees and reliever Tony Watson was dealt to the San Francisco Giants, both netting the club a collection of pitching prospects in return.
But the team’s seemingly biggest trade pieces — such as closer Raisel Iglesias and starter Alex Cobb — didn’t wind up moving, keeping much of the Angels’ core intact as they sit six games out of a playoff spot.
It’s a scenario that many players and coaches in the Angels’ clubhouse had been hoping for, a chance to try and chase down a wild-card berth over the final couple months of the season.
But it comes with risks, too. Iglesias, Cobb and several other players who weren’t dealt, including shortstop José Iglesias and reliever Steve Cishek, will be free agents this winter. If the Angels can’t re-sign them, they could leave the team for nothing. And given the way Friday’s deadline was unfolding, the opportunity was seemingly present to swap them for assets.
In the final hours before the 1 p.m. cutoff, teams paid high premiums to acquire pitching help. After Chicago Cubs closer Craig Kimbrel, who was sent to the White Sox for a hefty return, Iglesias seemed like the next-best relief option. Instead, he became one of the most notable names not to be moved.
The Angels’ lineup, meanwhile, is still depleted by injuries, with Mike Trout, Anthony Rendon and Jared Walsh all on the injured list. The Angels hope to get them back sometime in the next couple weeks, but in their absence the club’s offense has been inconsistent, preventing the team from fully capitalizing upon a strong stretch from its starting rotation.
Teams in front of the Angels in the wild-card race — notably the Yankees, Oakland Athletics and Toronto Blue Jays — also significantly bolstered their rosters, making the Angels’ six-game deficit in the standings seem like an even steeper climb than it was entering the week.
And now, the Angels will have to compensate for the departures of Heaney and Watson, too.
Heaney had been up-and-down all year, posting a 5.27 ERA in 18 starts, but had strung together strong outings in his last two games.
The Angels got pitchers Janson Junk and Elvis Peguero back from the Yankees, two right-handed prospects currently in double A. According to MLB Pipeline, Junk was the Yankees 27th-best prospect. The Angels also sent the Yankees cash considerations in the trade.
Without Heaney, a 30-year-old left-hander who had been with the club since 2015, the Angels will need to fill a hole in their rotation.
Top prospect Reid Detmers is one option. The team’s first-round pick last summer, Detmers was promoted to Salt Lake last week, pitched six scoreless innings in his triple-A debut, and was reportedly scratched from a scheduled start Friday night.
Like Heaney, Watson had also found success of late, posting a 2.25 ERA over his last 12 appearances. The Angels received pitchers Sam Selman, Jose Marte and Ivan Armstrong from the Giants.
Selman, a left-hander, is the only member of that trio with big league experience, having spent parts of the last three seasons on the Giants’ MLB roster and collecting a 4.06 ERA in 41 career games. Marte is currently in double-A and Armstrong is in low-A.
With Watson gone, an already shaky Angels bullpen will have to find another middle relief option. They’re also down to having José Quintana as their only remaining left-hander in the bullpen.
No doubt, the holes left behind by Watson (who had a 4.64 ERA overall) and Heaney (who was the only current member of the Angels rotation with an ERA north of 4.00) are not nearly as gaping as the potential departures of Raisel Iglesias or even Cobb would have been.
If the Angels can get Trout, Rendon and Walsh healthy soon, the stars could still align for them to make a run.
But after spending most of the summer straddling the fringes of contention, and toeing the line between buyers and sellers, the Angels didn’t clearly define themselves on Friday. They remain flawed and imperfect, but seemingly haven’t given up on this campaign. They might not have attacked the market the way it seemed like they might, but they also didn’t signal surrender.
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.