DETROIT — At some point before the July 31 trade deadline, the Angels will have to assess their record and division deficit and determine whether to add a piece for a playoff push, stand pat or pull the plug on the season and look for trades to build for the future.
The last scenario seems most likely, even after an improbable 7-4 victory over the Detroit Tigers in Comerica Park on Wednesday night; the Angels are 35-43 and 10 games back in the American League West. But General Manager Jerry Dipoto is nowhere close to making such a determination.
"We are not a buyer, we are not a seller, we're the Angels, and we're sitting here trying to win a game today," Dipoto said. "Our sense of urgency has to be today, tomorrow and every day. We're here to put the best team we can on the field, and we'll assess that as we go."
The Angels hardly seem positioned to make a run. Their most effective starting pitcher this season, Jason Vargas, had surgery to remove a blood clot in his left armpit Wednesday and will be out for about a month.
Right-hander Tommy Hanson was scratched from Wednesday night's start because of right forearm tightness and appears headed to the disabled list. Ace Jered Weaver, a 20-game winner last season, is struggling with a 1-4 record and 4.65 earned-run average entering Thursday's game against the Tigers.
The Angels have shown flashes of promise, winning eight straight in May and six of eight games earlier this month. But they've been unable to sustain much momentum, their breakdowns coming in every phase of the game — offense, defense, starting pitching, relief, baserunning — and often.
"It's a compilation of events, truthfully," Dipoto said. "We have not performed to our ability in a lot of different ways. … It's frustrating. We have a little more than half a season left to turn things around. There's a ton of talent in that clubhouse. We have to find a way to be more consistent and do the little stuff well."
Of all the team's problems, Josh Hamilton's performance after signing a five-year, $125-million deal in December is the most vexing. The five-time All-Star and 2010 AL most valuable player has been a shadow of his former self, hitting .215 with 10 home runs, 27 runs batted in and 79 strikeouts.
"The back of his baseball card says there's a pretty good chance he'll snap out of this, so my confidence level is really good," Dipoto said. "He's had a lot to deal with in life. If there's a person in that clubhouse who knows how to battle adversity after a rough half-season on the baseball field, he's the guy."
Will Hamilton's struggles, along with the uncertainty surrounding Albert Pujols, who has been slowed by knee and foot injuries this season after signing a 10-year, $240-million deal before 2012, make the Angels more hesitant to dole out nine-figure contracts to free agents in the future?
"There's a risk in every deal you do," Dipoto said. "The additions we've made, we're glad we made. I'm not going to assess future off-seasons. You don't know what opportunities are going to be in front of you. At the time, you measure the risk and make the right decisions. There are no black-and-white answers in this game, or in life."
Owner Arte Moreno told USA Today this week that the Angels have not opened negotiations with 21-year-old phenom Mike Trout on a multiyear contract. Asked if they should begin talks soon, Dipoto sidestepped the question.
"Mike has been a stud," Dipoto said.