Part of being a fan is the relationship you have with the players that are on your favorite team.
We all have our favorite players, it’s impossible not to. Mine was Adam Kennedy, he of the three home run game in the 2002 ALCS against the Minnesota Twins. Kennedy was my favorite player before that game but to me, the victory was only made sweeter by the feeling of, believe it or not, redemption. Sure, Kennedy wasn’t going to light the world on fire with his performance but he was my favorite Angel and honestly, he always will be, that will never change. I’ll admit, when Kennedy left the team in 2006 for the St. Louis Cardinals, it hurt but I understood why it happened. After all, Kennedy came to the Angels with Kent Bottenfield (he of the 5.40 ERA with his short stint with the club) for Jim Edmonds, one of the all-time Halos favorites. As much as I was glad to cheer for Kennedy, there were those who missed Edmonds and what he brought to the table.
As time went by, I found several new favorite Angels players. The next player that I enjoyed cheering for as much as Kennedy (or even close) was Jose Guillen. Yeah, that didn’t go over all that well. Story being, we all have our favorite players and when they’re gone, you “understand” but generally, you don’t like that it happened. Such is the case with former Anaheim slugger Mark Trumbo. I know I’m not the only journalist who finds it odd to write of Trumbo as a former Halo, even though a trade was inevitable.
Mark Trumbo (along with minor league pitcher AJ Schugel, although his inclusion is the very definition of a "throw in") was traded to the Arizona Diamondbacks in a three team trade with the Chicago White Sox for Chicago SP Hector Santiago and former Angels SP Tyler Skaggs, who resided in the Arizona system. Santiago, a pitcher that favors the fly ball, was drafted by the White Sox in 2007 and eventually made it to the major leagues in 2012, for good, although he had a few innings in 2011. In 2013, Santiago had quite the season with a 3.56 ERA, an 8.28 K per 9 ratio and a 1.40 WHIP. To Angels fans, that sounds like Nolan Ryan and to the rest of the league, considering the team he played for, that’s really still quite impressive. What is even more impressive is that this is not his ceiling, as his BABIP (batting average on balls put in play) was .289, the highest level he’s had since 2010. Still, in 2010, Santiago was in High single A ball and only pitched 60.2 innings compared to 2013’s 149 innings flat.
Depending on what the Angels decide to do from this point, Santiago will most likely start the season in the starting rotation. If not, he will be a long reliever for a short time, until Joe Blanton finally places the last straw on the camel’s back when he steals Mike Scioscia’s Healthy Choice lunch out of the clubhouse refrigerator or when Scioscia gets tired of CJ Wilson trying to convince the team that Sonic Youth is anything but pointless noise. With the team that the Angels will most likely field, Santiago’s statistics have nowhere to go but up and I believe he’ll improve his WAR by at least a full point, from 2013’s 1.5. On the other side, you have Tyler Skaggs, who, if you haven’t heard, was drafted by the Angels.
Skaggs was originally drafted by the Angels in 2009 and soon after, ironically in hindsight, would find himself traded to the Diamondbacks for Dan Haren. Although Skaggs was solid in just under 100 innings in the minor leagues for the Halos, he was seen as expendable and truthfully, it worked out. With Arizona, Skaggs would become a top 20 prospect in all of baseball, with his highest ERA in the majors being 3.22, until he would have a few cups of coffee in the big leagues, where it was almost a bit of a disaster. With Skaggs, you are paying for a lot of things and most importantly, potential. Along with potential, Skaggs is coming home to Anaheim and if the team can get even a glimmer of what he was expected to pitch like, the team may have fallen down the stairs, called Life Alert and instead of an ambulance, received an extremely solid pitcher with no ceiling. This is the kind of player that legions of fans will find themselves enamored with, a pitcher who has all the talent in the world and we may not be seeing it yet. It’s a hard subject to bring up but I have the same type of faith in Tyler Skaggs that I had in Nick Adenhart. Don’t let Skagg’s ERA of 5.12 in 2013 fool you, that will not be the type of pitcher he is and if it does turn out that’s his talent level, well.. Next thing you’ll tell me is that Joe Blanton knows what Tempeh is.
Lastly, we have Anaheim’s beloved Mark Trumbo. The Great Trumbino, he of the Trumbombs, the man who gave many a Trumboner.
A lot has been made about Trumbo’s OBP (which usually hovers right below .300) but one thing you can’t say, is that the man wasn’t immensely entertaining and easy to enjoy having on the team. Even with his struggles, the guy managed to put up a WAR of 2.5 in 2013, 2.2 in 2012 and 2.1 in 2011. That’s not the best mark in the world but please, children, he’s not Mark Reynolds. Who actually had a WAR of 3.2 in 2009. Let’s go ahead and forget that ever happened, just like the time I tried to make another joke about Joe Blanton’s eating habits but ended up just making a joke playing on the joke that I would make another Joe Blanton joke.
Trumbo endeared himself to the people of Anaheim and was an easy player to love, chicks dig the long ball. With Trumbo, the Angels are losing a lot, even when you don’t factor in the production you could pencil his spot in the lineup for. To me, it seems like Jerry DiPoto and Arte Moreno are banking on Albert Pujols and/or Josh Hamilton getting closer to what they seemingly were just last week, slightly above average players. To me, with the arrival of Santiago and return of Skaggs, the team’s talent level will, at the very least, be exactly at where they were in 2013, with a whole lot more potential.
Looking past that, one has to see other opportunities that have now become legitimate possibilities. Masahiro Tanaka, Matt Garza or any other pitchers with half a pulse are now targets, even likely signings, at least when it comes to Garza. In a bit of a down year which saw Garza traded from the Chicago Cubs to the Texas Rangers, the man still put up a 3.82 ERA and a WAR of 2.2. Garza is an established pitcher who the Angels must acquire and live with the results you get from the money it’ll cost, now is not the time to get gun-shy. It may just be me but I still remember Garza’s days with the Tampa Bay Rays and even past that, he had a WAR or 4.9 just two seasons ago, with the Cubs. If the club can sign Garza or Tanaka, that would make the Trumbo trade into one of the best moves the team may have ever made. I’m not saying Garza is definitely going to the Angels but at the same time, I’m not saying Joe Blanton’s favorite drink is Hidden Valley ranch dressing.
At the end of the day, this move is a classic case of fans of the player versus fans of the team. To the human eye, a fan of Trumbo may see this as yet another terrible trade by the Angels but to the rest of the world, this is a trade that had to be done. Adoration may be more of a warm feeling than cold statistics but in love, numbers tell the truth.
Except Adam Kennedy, he’s still better than you.