Perhaps no trade deadline quandary in recent memory typifies the dilemma front offices face at the end of every July like that of this year's Los Angeles Angels.
The team's best player -- Shohei Ohtani -- is the best player in the sport but is headed for free agency. As the deadline approached, the club was not in great playoff position, but neither was it hopelessly out of the chase. The Halos' second-best player -- Mike Trout -- was on the injured list, and while there was hope of getting him back, you didn't know when, or indeed if, that would happen.
The Angels, as we now know, responded aggressively. They not only kept Ohtani on board, but they traded for Lucas Giolito, C.J. Cron and others. By forgoing the considerable return they could have received in an Ohtani deal, they were taking on a great deal of risk. But the Angels hoped the strategy would spur a winning spree and, just maybe, bolster their case to keep Ohtani when he reaches free agency.
The outcome was a mélange of worst-case scenarios, not the least of which is that the Angels have the worst record in the majors since the deadline. Things got so bad that on Tuesday, L.A. made the unprecedented decision to cut loose Giolito, Matt Moore, Reynaldo Lopez, Hunter Renfroe and Randal Grichuk They just let them go. Perhaps the hope was to save some coin. Perhaps the Angels wanted to let the veterans hook on to a surviving contender while they can still get onto a postseason roster. Whatever the reason, the news was shocking.
Despite it all, it still doesn't mean that the Angels chose the wrong direction at the time, but it does mean, given how things have turned out, that if the Angels knew then what we all know now, things would have played out differently.
Ever since MLB and the MLBPA agreed to eliminate August waiver-wire trades, the end-of-July/beginning-of-August trade deadline has become an all-or-nothing proposition. Teams have but one shot at getting things right, and invariably, some teams are going to choose the wrong direction.
We can know who lands where only in hindsight, and it is with hindsight that we are going to revisit the directions all 30 teams chose at the trade deadline a month ago.