The Angels find themselves in what you might term a familiar situation. They’re right in the thick of the race, like they’ve often been, and they’re run by the guys that used to run them, by which I mean Bill Stoneman and Mike Scioscia. Stoneman and Scioscia see eye-to-eye on a number of things, and there’s a certain type of player Scioscia used to love. Prime Shane Victorino would’ve been a phenomenal Angel. Alas, there is no more prime Shane Victorino; alas, even if there were, the Angels wouldn’t have had the players to trade for him. So what we have instead is a match, exchanging little for a post-prime Victorino who might have just enough left in the tank. The Red Sox save a little money, and they can dream on a utility player. The Angels get to see how much turbo remains in Victorino’s well-worn legs.
I was reading an article the other week, when I stumbled upon the following excerpt:
Stoneman was nowhere near as active on the trade front as Dipoto. His most significant July acquisition was reserve outfielder Alex Ochoa in 2002.
Stoneman says it only makes sense to swing a midseason trade if it’s worth it, which is one of those statements you don’t realize is empty until you think about it for a few seconds and the speaker walks away. The general point is that Stoneman isn’t one to panic in the face of midseason trends. Yet in the case of this Angels team, the need for outfield help has been such that no one could dismiss it. Something almost had to be done. Stoneman did it, at the cost of Josh Rutledge.
It’s interesting, because a few months ago, Rutledge looked like he might end up getting regular playing time at second base. The Angels elected to replace Howie Kendrick with no one, and Rutledge had as good a chance as anybody. But he lost out to Johnny Giavotella, and a bench slot went to Taylor Featherston, so Rutledge has spent the whole year in Triple-A, playing most of the positions in the infield. That versatility is what will take Rutledge back to the majors some day, but the Angels can think of this as Victorino for practically nothing, and Rutledge himself can try not to get too down about a lousy flip of the coin. Maybe a better chance awaits in Boston. Except their utility player made the All-Star Game.
What Victorino cost tells you about the perceived value of Victorino, but as any Angels fan could tell you, the left-field situation has been desperate. Mike Trout does enough to out-produce some whole outfields on his own, but every team still needs a left fielder, and the Angels simply haven’t gotten close to enough out of Matt Joyce. He did show some signs of life after a slow start, but the numbers are undeniably lousy, and to make matters worse, Joyce just suffered a concussion. Reserves have included Daniel Robertson and the injured Collin Cowgill. It’s been as bad a position as any on any contender, so even an over-the-hill upgrade is an upgrade.
It’s easy to pull up the numbers posted by Angels left fielders. They’re bad. It’s trickier to pull up the numbers posted by Angels left fielders against southpaws. They’re worse. A sub-.200 OBP. Zero home runs. That’s not reflective of true talent, but Joyce has never hit lefties, and the backups are nothing. So this initial fit couldn’t be easier. Victorino has given up switch-hitting, batting only from the right side. As a righty, he’s struggled against righties, but he’s done well enough against lefties. If the Angels really wanted, they could just platoon Victorino and Joyce, and it would be better than the way things used to be.
More realistically, they’ll keep looking for a left-handed hitter, someone who can do more than Joyce does. Could be a big name, like Jay Bruce. Could be smaller, like Ben Revere. The Angels are limited by their improving but thin system, and by their reluctance to trade their top prospect. But the Victorino move goes to show what you can do when you’re willing to just take on a little money. Victorino improves the Angels’ depth. He gives Scioscia a weapon to play around with until or unless the legs give out. The baserunning’s about to be better. The defense is about to be better. The upside of a black-hole position come deadline time is that you don’t have to do much to get better.
The Angels lead the Astros by one game in the West. They’ve now upgraded from a left-field nightmare to a left-field weird and moderately uncomfortable dream. Shane Victorino is nowhere close to being in his prime, but if you just take the occasional fleeting glance, you might not be able to spot the difference. All the parts are in the same places.
Jeff made Lookout Landing a thing, but he does not still write there about the Mariners. He does write here, sometimes about the Mariners, but usually not.