The clock is ticking on the Los Angeles Angels. Dual threat extraordinaire Shohei Ohtani is in the last year of team control, which means that the Angels will have greater urgency to bolster the roster ahead of the August 1 trade deadline so they could make Ohtani's potential last season in Orange County as fruitful as it can be.
At the moment, the Angels have a 31-30 record; if the postseason began today, they would be on the outside looking in on the playoff picture. They are currently fifth in the AL Wild Card standings — 5.5 games behind the Houston Astros.
Of course, it is still early in the 2023 campaign. The Angels have 101 more games to play, with around a month and a half's worth of games to decide whether they'll be pushing to make the playoffs or whether they'll face the music and sell off Shohei Ohtani for a motherlode.
Nevertheless, the Angels' last postseason berth was in 2014, and their last playoff win came in 2009, so one would think that their front office may be feeling some sense of desperation to break this lengthy drought.
With that in mind, these are the two early 2023 MLB trade deadline targets the Angels could set their sights on depending on their current team needs.
The first base position has been quite the black hole for the Angels ever since they signed Albert Pujols to a megadeal in 2012. Even following Pujols' departure and subsequent retirement, the Angels have found it difficult to obtain elite or even solid production from a position many expect to be a source of dingers aplenty.
The Angels may have addressed other areas of need this past offseason, but they left first base in the hands of 29-year old Jared Walsh. Walsh, to put it frankly, has not been good. This season, Walsh has dealt with headaches and insomnia, which explains away a lot of his struggles. But his struggles have merely been a continuation of the downward trend in his production ever since he peaked with a 29-homer season in 2021.
Brandon Drury has slugged well enough when thrust into action in first base, but he's extremely more valuable to the Angels as a middle infielder. Thus, acquiring an upgrade at the position could do wonders for the Angels.
The Angels' offense isn't exactly in dire need of reinforcement. They rank eighth in the MLB in runs scored after all. Mickey Moniak has been exceptional for the Angels in his limited plate appearances, while Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani have continued to hold down the fort.
But imagine just how much better the Angels offense could be if they can actually get some positive batting production from one of the game's premium hitting positions?
Enter Cody Bellinger.
Bellinger rose through the ranks as a first baseman, so even though he's plying his trade as a centerfielder nowadays (which he has become elite defensively at), the Angels could definitely utilize him in that position. Bellinger has revived his career with the Chicago Cubs; but the Cubs, as presently constructed, may not be good enough to challenge for the postseason quite yet.
The Cubs merely signed Bellinger to a one-year deal this past offseason in hopes of facilitating a career revival, and that they have done. Now, given the stage they're in in their roster-building, perhaps turning a low-risk offseason signing into prospect capital could be the shrewd move.
The Angels don't exactly have too many top-shelf prospects to dangle, but that may not be necessary since Cody Bellinger doesn't exactly have the highest of trade values given his lack of team control and his shoddy track record in recent years. At the moment, Bellinger is injured as well, which only helps the Angels from a negotiating perspective.
The St. Louis Cardinals have unexpectedly scuffled to a rough 25-36 start to the 2023 MLB season. The Cardinals have plenty of time to turn things around, even though the Pittsburgh Pirates' eight-game lead in the NL Central may be too much to overcome. If that proves to be the case even as we approach the MLB trade deadline, perhaps they'll be open to the idea of trading away Jordan Montgomery.
The Angels have tried to rebuild their pitching rotation for years; in the end, however, the Angels have always ended up having to rely on middling talents to soak up innings. ERA is not a catch-all stat, as it doesn't exactly tell the whole story about how well a pitcher performed, but in the Angels' case, it's difficult to look at their current cast of arms behind Shohei Ohtani and think that that's enough for a deep playoff run.
Montgomery won't solve the Angels' problems of having too many lefty starters. But the 30-year old southpaw hurler is better than all of the Angels' current options other than Ohtani. It's not quite clear if the Cardinals would deal Montgomery not even a year after acquiring him for Harrison Bader, but Montgomery is in the last year of team control, which means that he might be available for a discount price in a trade given the Cardinals' lack of leverage.