By Chad Stewart
The Angels’ struggle to find consistent production from the left field position in 2015 has been well documented, as has Arte Moreno’s unwillingness to sign a big free agent outfielder, and push the payroll over the luxury-tax threshold. In order for the Angels to significantly upgrade in left field, they’ll probably have to turn to the trade market, and 29-year old Charlie Blackmon of the Colorado Rockies may be exactly what they are looking for.
Angels left fielders combined for a .212 BA, .272 OBP, .302 SLG, and 11 home runs in 2015. That was good for dead last in the league in all four categories. Blackmon batted .287/.347/.450 with 17 home runs in 2015 which is about in line with his career slash line, and obviously represents a significant upgrade over both last year and 2016’s current options of Craig Gentry and Daniel Nava.
A possible downside is Blackmon’s sub-par defense. Since becoming an everyday player in 2014, he has spent most of his time in center field, and his defense has been rated pretty poorly; however, he has fared much better in left, albeit a smaller sample size.
Another need the Angels have is a left-handed hitter, and Blackmon is just that. Kole Calhoun is currently the only left-handed hitter they have among everyday players, so Blackmon would help balance out the lineup considerably. Another area of need he would help fill is speed. Blackmon stole 43 bases last year. The Angels as a team stole 52, 3rd fewest in the league. Yep, you read that right. The Angels stole a grand total of nine more bases than Charlie Blackmon last year. Having a legitimate stolen base threat on the team could have a huge impact on an offense that struggled mightily in 2015. And finally, to please Arte Moreno, Blackmon is under team control through the end of the 2018 season, and he is projected to earn just $4.5 million in arbitration in 2016.
Now, the risk that comes with trading for Blackmon is the Coors Field factor. His performance throughout his career has dipped when playing away from Coors Field as expected, and that might be a cause for concern, especially since Angel Stadium is known to be more pitcher-friendly than not. I have always thought that the supposed “Coors Field Effect” is a bit overblown as we have seen players like Matt Holliday and Chris Iannetta (!) continue their career trajectory elsewhere. MLB.com‘s Mike Petriello provides plenty of evidence and a convincing argument against the idea that a player who has spent a considerable amount of time with the Rockies will see a decrease in production when they leave in this article. Petriello concludes that while you can probably expect the home performance of a player who leaves Colorado to decline, their road performance will likely improve, “making the net result somewhere in between.”
The OC Register‘s Jeff Fletcher recently suggested that the package the Angels would have to send to the Rockies would probably include right-handed pitchers Nick Tropeano and Cam Bedrosian. The Angels have built a good amount of pitching depth over the last few years, and I don’t think it would be a bad idea to deal some of it away. Both pitchers have shown promise in limited major league action, and I would be wary of trading away another reliever in Bedrosian after recently sending Trevor Gott to Washington for Yunel Escobar, but Blackmon is the type of impact player that would make the risk worth it.
The Angels received next to no production from the left field position in 2015, and they still managed to finish just one game out of a playoff spot. Even if Blackmon’s numbers dropped off slightly, he brings so much to the table that he would still be a huge upgrade over last year and could turn them into legitimate World Series contenders. Charlie Blackmon is exactly what the Angels so desperately need, and trading for him is worth the risk.