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Angels Get Upton, Phillips in Unexpected Playoffs Push

August 31st, 2017 · No Comments · Angels, Baseball

Imagine the confusion in the Los Angeles Angels front office.

They knew their 2017 team was bad. It was Mike Trout, Albert Pujols running on fumes, a slick-fielding shortstop … and a bunch of guys.

Angels officials hoped the team might be just good enough that Orange County fans would still buy tickets. Mike Trout, remember?

They could try again some other year to get back in the playoffs; this would be only their third straight out of the postseason (though their eighth since they last won a playoffs game, back in 2009).

They could resume trying to be good sometime soon. Maybe even next year when the bottom line was not weighed down by the final $25 million of the Josh Hamilton contract/fiasco (the deal that seemed to break owner Arte Moreno’s spirit) and be in position to ditch a bunch of free agents, if that made sense, and it probably would.

But then the Angels got to the end of August and, dang, if they weren’t somehow, some way contending for an American League wild card.

Actually, at 69-65, they were one game behind the Minnesota Twins for the second wild-card spot.

What to do?

Just ride it out and see if manager Mike Scioscia could hold this team together via alchemy, or whatever strange science he has employed … or go all in (or semi-all in) and get a couple of real players to help out in the here and now.

To the Angels’ credit, they opted for the latter, obtaining two veterans to plug the biggest holes on their roster as the race to the wire commences.

And who are these two newcomers?

Jason Upton, slugging outfielder, having a career year at age 30, obtained from the rebuilding Detroit Tigers … and Brandon Phillips, second baseman, obtained from the Atlanta Braves, who signed him from Cincinnati after he spent 11 years with the Reds.

They would appear to have enough now, at least on offense and defense, to show Trout that, “Hey, we’re trying!” — perhaps staving off another round of “Mike Trout’s best years are being wasted in Anaheim” stories.

Upton arrives with 30 home runs, 94 RBI and 5.0 Wins Above Replacement) and figures to slot in above or below Pujols in the lineup. Phillips, 36, at minimum represents competence at second, where the Angels have been the worst team in the majors.

Upton could cost the Angels some money; he has $88 million due him over the next four seasons, unless he exercises his end-of-season right to get out of the contract. He also cost the Angels one of their best pitching prospects, a kid named Grayson Long, who had a nice year in Double-A.

Phillips, meanwhile, represents a very modest cost to the Angels, at $1 million for the final month of the season. He is a free agent after the season, and he and the club will figure it out when the time comes.

In the meantime, Phillips has had a bit of a bounce-back season, after seeming to sink into the sunset in recent years in Cincy, with 11 homers, 68 runs and 52 RBI.

If he does much of anything, it will be more than the Angels got from the wretches who have played at 2B this season, such as Danny Espinosa and Cliff Pennington.

So, yes, a lot to like about this deal, once the Angels made the decision to push for the playoffs.

Upton might actually be worth $88 million through 2021 (less than the club paid for four years of Hamilton), and the player may decide being based in SoCal is not such a bad deal.

And Phillips … for a rental, he’s pretty good.

Now, Scioscia can perhaps figure on the club scoring a few more runs while he tries to hold together the pitching staff, minus Garrett Richards and Matt Shoemaker.

The biggest part of this for fans? September is here and the Angels still have a chance to be playing in October and, stranger things have happened, maybe in November, too.





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