Angels stand pat as division rivals deal away

Angels stand pat as division rivals deal away

BALTIMORE -- It turns out Jerry Dipoto -- general manager of the team most affected by the harpoon Billy Beane fired at the industry on Thursday morning -- experienced the Jon Lester trade the same way the fans did.

"My first reaction was like any other baseball fan," the Angels' GM said. "'Wow. That's Jon Lester. Jon Lester is a stud.' We've seen him on the postseason stage before. He's been great. A good move for the A's. They traded something very real away. They had their reasons. I'm sure Boston had theirs. But we'll focus on our own team."

Dipoto and the Angels, as expected, stood pat while the madness of Thursday's non-waiver Trade Deadline swirled around him.

The A's got Lester and former fan favorite Jonny Gomes from the Red Sox in exchange for another fan favorite in Yoenis Cespedes, getting a couple of rentals for a player who was signed through 2015, in what was the ultimate "win-now" move.

The Tigers, the team that eliminated Oakland from the playoffs each of the last two years, answered by acquiring former Rays ace David Price in a three-team trade that saw the Mariners land center fielder Austin Jackson.

Dipoto's moves came much earlier, when he acquired three back-end relievers -- closer Huston Street, lefty specialist Joe Thatcher and veteran right-hander Jason Grilli -- in a span of 22 days. There were never enough prospects to acquire a front-of-the-rotation starter, and Dipoto was always hesitant to pluck away from the Major League club.

So this is the group that will look to close the 2 1/2-game gap with the A's for the American League West crown and control of baseball's best record.

"I'm not disappointed," Mike Trout said. "I'm happy with the team we have. We're playing good baseball. I mean, what do we want?"

Dipoto didn't make another run at Price on the final day -- he already knew acquiring him wasn't a possibility -- and he wasn't close on anything in the hours leading up to the 1 p.m. PT Deadline.

"Not at all," the third-year GM replied.

The Angels still have money to spend and could still add a starter in August, when players must slip through waivers to be traded. But when asked about that possibility, Dipoto offered a response that appears to be a genuine reflection of how the front office feels about its current roster.

"We like our team," Dipoto said. "We weren't looking to add anything in today's Deadline. We'll keep our ear to the street if there is some injury or under-performance. But we have the ability to run out a starting rotation that is pretty darn good, and has been all year long, a bullpen that should match up with just about anybody in the league, and an offense that has been one of the top three run-scoring offenses in the league all year long."

Will it be enough, though?

Winning a division is at a premium, so as to avoid having the entire season come down to one Wild Card game. The A's, AL West champs two years running, entered July with the best rotation ERA in the AL, then added Lester and Jeff Samardzija. The AL Central-leading Tigers, looking to make the playoffs for the fourth straight year, now deploy the last three AL Cy Young Award winners (Max Scherzer, Justin Verlander and Price) and the last three AL MVPs (Miguel Cabrera twice and Verlander).

"Obviously great pickups by those teams," Angels ace Jered Weaver said. "Those guys are pretty good at what they do. Any team that picks up guys of that caliber, obviously it's going to help them, no doubt about it."

Weaver's Angels, meanwhile, are trying to cash in on an ever-shrinking championship window.

They'll have 10 more games against the A's, including three in Oakland for the second-to-last series of the regular season. And they'll get plenty of chances against Lester, who has posted a 3.54 ERA in 11 starts against the Angels if you include the playoffs.

"They were good yesterday and they're good today," Scioscia said of Oakland. "We knew that. We have a really good team. Our focus has to be on us continuing to play at a high level and continuing to improve."

The Angels will need their offense to get back in gear, back to the unit that averaged five runs per game before the All-Star break and not the one that has averaged just over three in the second half.

They need C.J. Wilson, expected back off the disabled list to start on Saturday, to bounce back after giving up 19 earned runs in 16 2/3 innings from June 24 to July 9.

They need their bullpen -- a bullpen that sports a 1.85 ERA in July -- to carry a significant load.

And now, to catch the A's, they'll probably need a little bit of luck, too.

"When we're rolling, going good, we can beat anybody," Trout said. "That's our mentality."

Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Gonzo and "The Show", and follow him on Twitter @Alden_Gonzalez. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.