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MLB.com Columnist

Lyle Spencer

Halos good example of midseason deals gone awry

Halos good example of midseason deals gone awry

Halos good example of midseason deals gone awry

Baseball is a game of patience, of "staying within yourself" in the vernacular of the clubhouse. Organizations, like players, can be guilty of pressing and trying to do too much, with frustrating consequences.

The underachieving Angels serve as a case study of the perils of hurling caution -- and young talent -- to the wind with go-for-the-broke midseason deals that can leave you brokenhearted.

In 2009, 2010 and 2012, the Angels unloaded a total of nine prospects and one established pitcher, Joe Saunders, in trades that brought Scott Kazmir, Dan Haren and Zack Greinke to Anaheim.

The idea in each case was to land the rotation hammer that would help them nail down a World Series championship. In each case, the moves seemed to make sense when they were made.

Gambling, as we all learn, comes with risk. You usually don't see the final tab on these kinds of transactions for years. But this much we know: Kazmir, Haren and Greinke could not drive the Angels where they longed to go and now ply their trade for the Indians, Nationals and Dodgers, respectively.

Those nine prospects the Angels sent away include two almost certain National League All-Stars this season -- Brewers shortstop Jean Segura and D-backs starter Patrick Corbin -- and several other potential stars, such as D-backs starter Tyler Skaggs and Rays reliever Alex Torres.

Sean Rodriguez, part of the 2009 package for Kazmir, has been an invaluable all-purpose player for Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon. Torres, the little lefty, has been lights out for the Rays in relief this season.

Strong-armed Johnny Hellweg and Ariel Pena, accompanying Segura in the 2012 Greinke deal, are highly regarded by the Brewers.

Saunders, the other name player in the 2010 Haren deal, won big games for the D-backs and Orioles and is now a serviceable starter for the Mariners. Corbin and Skaggs have the look of frontline starters in Arizona for years to come.

That's a lot of merchandise to surrender for three arms no longer in your employ.

Kazmir struggled with his control in Anaheim and was released in June 2011. He's 4-4 in 12 starts in his comeback campaign in Cleveland.

Haren gave the Angels 2 1/2 seasons of durable, high-quality work. When his option for 2013 was not picked up, he signed with the Nationals and was struggling (4-9) before going on the disabled list.

Greinke, a free agent after going 6-2 in 13 starts for the Angels, accepted $147 million from the Dodgers, who are not unhappy with the deal.

The Angels, meanwhile, handed $125 million to Josh Hamilton after letting Torii Hunter walk as a free agent, and acquired Jason Vargas, Joe Blanton and Tommy Hanson to fill rotation slots. Vargas has been excellent, but the early returns, overall, are not favorable.

The Angels are easy targets. But they were merely doing what most big-market clubs would have done in their place -- exchanging potential assets for proven goods -- when they dealt for Kazmir, Haren and Greinke with their eyes on the big prize.

When you're going for championships and the hearts of fans in the nation's second-largest market, the drive to make the big move is compelling. The Dodgers can attest to that.

In reflection, maybe the Angels overvalued the veteran starters they acquired, or those stars didn't perform as expected. Or maybe they undervalued the young talent they sent away. Maybe it was a combination of both, or something else entirely. 

They were aware of Rodriguez's talents when they included him in the Kazmir trade. But they couldn't have anticipated Torres, in 2013, giving the Rays 20 consecutive scoreless innings while allowing just nine baserunners and striking out 27 hitters.

At the time he was sent to Milwaukee, Segura was considered a fine infield prospect but no sure thing. Nobody, including the Brewers' talent evaluators, envisioned him emerging so quickly as one of the game's most exciting and productive players.

Remaining with the Angels, he likely would be their everyday third baseman, joining Erick Aybar on the left side of an athletic infield.

Corbin, viewed by scouts as a potential No. 4 or No. 5 starter down the road, is an even bigger surprise than Segura.

Corbin is 9-0. With no-decisions in five starts while giving up two or fewer runs, he could be 14-0. 

Taken with the Angels' sixth pick (No. 80 overall) in their exceptional 2009 Draft best known for delivering Mike Trout, Corbin wasn't the most attractive part of the deal from Arizona's end. That was Skaggs, the angular lefty with the killer curve. He could be as good as Corbin.

The third prospect in the Haren deal, pitcher Rafael Rodriguez, did not pan out, but the D-backs aren't complaining.

The swap has a fascinating back story. Jerry Dipoto was Arizona's acting general manager in 2010, looking to move Haren's contract with the best deal available. He settled on the offer by Angels GM Tony Reagins.

When Arizona hired Kevin Towers as its GM after the 2011 season, Dipoto moved to Orange County to replace Reagins. Asked about the Haren deal, Dipoto said he thought it worked from both ends and he'd have pulled the trigger if he'd been running the Angels.

The business of baseball can be maddening. The secret is to stay in the moment, remain upbeat and resist dwelling on the losses.

For Angels faithful, this is easier advised than done. When your mission is World Series or bust, there is no joy in getting busted.

Lyle Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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