By Robert Cunningham, Angelswin.com Senior Writer
As you can see from the chart above Billy Eppler clearly emphasized team defense and run prevention over batter’s box production last year.
Heading into the off-season, the Angels have parted ways (at least temporarily) with excellent defensive backstop Martin Maldonado and are now in the position of finding a replacement, primary catcher.
Because Eppler clearly values defense behind the dish, controlling the running game, and pitch framing, our next choice will need to be at least average or better with at least two of those skills and perhaps all three. None of our current catching prospects or players appear to fully meet these needs as a primary, full-time catcher, although they can and will be backup receivers.
Beyond the defense, catcher represents a position that the Angels could improve offensively as well, so if Billy can acquire or sign a good defensive backstop with a competent bat the Angels can significantly or at least incrementally improve at this spot in the lineup. However, there is a real likelihood with Maldonado gone that the team will downgrade to some degree defensively so this is a balance Eppler will have to strike in finding a replacement.
In order to understand what may or may not be available we need to build a list of candidates and since defense is always a priority over offense for Eppler we will begin there.
Below is a parsed out list of catchers with a minimum of 50 Games (G) played, from 2016-2018, sorted by FanGraphs ‘Def’ on a per game basis (to level the numbers out as a rate statistic) with only those backstops with 0 or greater ‘Def/G’ and -0.1 or greater ‘Off/G’ because we are making the assumption that one is valued more than the other in our search:
It is patently clear why the Cubs kept David Ross around for so long because even in his last year he was a defensive wizard. You also see why the Angels signed Rene Rivera to platoon with Maldonado because he too consistently picks it behind the plate. To get to the heart of the matter, which is whom the Angels may target in free agency or trade, you need to move a touch further down the list.
Willson Contreras is both defensively sound and is a plus on offense. However he still has four years of team control and the Cubs would have to replace his production so unless they have their eyes set on J.T. Realmuto or perhaps another preferred target, the Angels potential acquisition of Contreras is unlikely, particularly when you consider the price the Angels would have to pay.
Lucroy is certainly available and despite his down year offensively he would probably provide a slight boost in the batter’s box over the Angels collective 71 wRC+ for 2018. He has been a slightly below average pitch framer and an average catch and throw guy his whole career. His defense has always been strong and he would likely be available on a 2-3 year deal. Not an ideal solution but not a terrible one either.
Behind him on the chart is another interesting name, Salvador Perez. The Royals control him for another three seasons for a combined $39.6M. It is a hefty contract but Perez has perennially been an excellent defender and the Royals are not going anywhere soon in terms of competitiveness. Perez like Lucroy also had a down year offensively but he carries a career 97 wRC+ and that would be a huge improvement for the Angels in the batter’s box. Salvador’s one big weakness is his consistently terrible pitch framing skills which would likely cost the team in terms of run prevention. He should not cost a lot in trade and his salary is elevated but manageable.
Mike Zunino was available but the Mariners chose to partner with the Rays rather than send him to an A.L. West rival which is understandable on some level. He would have been a good short-term solution.
Next on that list is everyone’s favorite trade target, J.T. Realmuto. There is a lot to like about him and he brings a presence on both sides of the ball with two years of arbitration control. J.T. would definitely fit the budget in terms of payroll but he will command a strong prospect package including one of our top prospects. The advantage of trading for him now is that you could potentially extend him long-term. If Eppler can acquire him without giving away one of Adell or Canning then he should do it. A package of Brandon Marsh, Jose Suarez, Matt Thaiss, and Trent Deveaux might get it done but do not hold your breath. As a final note, Realmuto has consistently been a poor pitch framer, which is a hidden negative about him not often discussed.
Gary Sanchez is another name that ranks highly on both offense and defense but unless the Yankees have their eyes set on J.T. Realmuto, which would be a downgrade according to this list, he is unlikely to be moved unless he brings back value that New York prefers. On top of that Gary would cost a fortune in terms of acquisition cost which would break the bank for the Angels in all probability.
Behind Realmuto and Sanchez, another popular name, Yasmani Grandal, appears. He is a free agent and will likely command a 4-5 year deal at approximately $16M-$20M per season, based on how the market plays out. He is excellent with the bat, plays good defense and has excellent pitch framing skills. However, that investment would take up a significant chunk of our off-season budget so unless Eppler has other low-cost alternatives at other positions of need, signing Grandal may be out of our current capacity. Good target to acquire but hard to fit into our payroll, will cost us draft pick compensation, and has a history of PEDS use, too. It should be noted that the non-tender’s of Parker and Shoemaker could have been to free up payroll for a move such as this.
As you continue down you see other names of interest including Francisco Cervelli, Buster Posey, Alex Avila, and Wilson Ramos.
Cervelli checks off a lot of boxes but he has a PEDS history that should be worrisome to any team trading for him while Avila can hit RHP well and has an above average defensive reputation, including pitch framing.
Posey would be an interesting target if not for the fact that his salary each of the next three years is about $22M per season. Also he has a history of concussions that would worry any team acquiring him. He would bring an impact bat and quality defense behind the dish but he will also be 32 to start 2019 and the Giants would have to kick in some money to convince any team, much less the Angels, to deal for him. The prospect cost would be light though.
Wilson Ramos is really interesting, primarily because of his bat. He has just enough defensive capability to pair with his batter’s box skills to be a real threat in our lineup and not a liability on the field. Because of his batting skills he could even pick up some time at 1B or DH potentially as well. Ramos will likely command a 3 year deal at about $10M-13M per season, which is doable for Eppler’s projected payroll. Wilson is also a slightly below average pitch framer.
There are certainly other names the Angels could potentially target. Robinson Chirinos had an option year left on his deal with Texas and they mysteriously non-tendered him, shoving him into the free agent pool where the Astros subsequently snatched him up. Chance Sisco has interesting bat potential but is raw defensively. Russell Martin might be a decent stop-gap measure or the Angels could pursue Evan Gattis, Blake Swihart, or perhaps Austin Wynns.
As a final note, when you look around the League there appears to be a real scarcity of top-tier catching talent right now and at a quick glance the pipeline of talent in the Minor Leagues overall does not appear promising. This may lead Billy Eppler to pull another “Andrelton Simmons moment” out of his pocket and pay for a guy like Realmuto or Grandal simply because of the opportunity costs involved and the lack of readily good, available options in the future.
Clearly the Angels need a primary catcher and have no reasonable in-house solutions. Fortunately the market does have some answers but Eppler may have to expend some significant resources to acquire one and is quite likely to do so sooner rather than later.
Break the Bank ($151M+)
High Price to Pay ($101M-$150M)
Middle of the Road ($51M-$100M)
Bargain Basement ($1M-$50M)
Personally if the Angels can acquire one of Grandal, Realmuto, or Ramos we should be in reasonably good shape behind the dish.
However, personally, if J.T. cannot be acquired or Grandal signed, I really like Wilson Ramos as the main target. At about $10M-$13M per season over a short contract he should provide just enough behind the plate while bringing a tremendous amount of firepower to the offense.
Over the last three seasons he has carried a wRC+ of 144 versus LHP and a wRC+ of 112 against RHP. For a team that needs to improve against LHP in the batter’s box, he brings a lot to the table. This does not even take into consideration pinch hitting in the late innings of a game where Wilson will find himself a significant amount of the time nor does it consider the possibility of Ramos playing a touch of first base or hitting out of the designated hitter spot a few games a year which the Angels may need him to do considering the health status of both Ohtani and Pujols heading into 2019.
Arguably the best bat available, an above average defender, good catch and throw, and slightly below average pitch framing, Ramos feels like the gamble the Angels need to take. There is some injury history here with his knees so it is not a surefire choice but in an off-season with multiple needs Wilson feels like the best option if Eppler wants to keep the farm system intact by avoiding a Realmuto trade or, to a lesser degree, a Grandal signing.
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By Robert Cunningham, Angelswin.com Senior Writer
Author’s Note: Immediately prior to publication Nathan Eovaldi signed with the Boston Red Sox on a 4-year, $67.5M deal ($17M AAV). Rather than re-write, the author has decided to publish the original.
The nightmare of pitcher injuries for the Angels has been on-going now for two years. More really if you change the goal posts to include the beginning of Skaggs’ saga.
However, 2018 was not a complete disaster in terms of production for some starters, as both Tyler and Andrew Heaney made strong strides in terms of innings pitched which should translate to a full slate of starts in 2019. Unfortunately, the Angels have lost Garrett Richards to free agency and Shohei Ohtani has already had his Tommy John Surgery (TJS) and will be unavailable to start next season.
This leaves the top-of-the-rotation bare. The Steamer projection system thinks Tyler and Andrew are going to have equivalent seasons in terms of RA9-WAR (2.9 each) which is comparable to a mid-rotation starter (#3 or perhaps #2 type guys). Alex Meyer was not far behind them on that list, but he had top-of-the-disabled list injury concerns and has been designated for assignment.
A touch further down the Steamer projection list, you will find left-handed prospect Jose Suarez and Matt Shoemaker at 2.2 and 2.1 RA9-WAR, respectively. Surprisingly the Angels recently non-tendered Shoemaker, despite his reasonable, projected $4.3M arbitration salary. That was probably a really tough call on Eppler’s part. Diving deeper down the list you may be pleasantly surprised to see top pitching prospect Griffin Canning listed at 1.7 RA9-WAR. Suarez or Canning could be successors to Shoemaker on the roster this season or next if the Angels decide to save payroll space.
As you approach the tail-end of the list you see back-end rotation contributors like converted reliever-turned-starter Felix Pena, Nick Tropeano, and forgotten left-handed prospect Nate Smith. J.C. Ramirez is the caboose on this train, likely because Steamer did not like his significant velocity drop in 2018 and is penalizing him for it (perhaps rightfully so).
Currently, based on the existing roster and MLB service time accrued, the Opening Day rotation projects to be:
Behind that group you have other potential options such as Griffin Canning, Jose Suarez, Luis Pena, Patrick Sandoval, Jesus Castillo, Dillon Peters, Luis Madero, Nate Smith, and, later in the season, J.C. Ramirez.
What we do not see in that group is that ‘Ace’ go-to, top-of-the-rotation guy. Ohtani will very likely not pitch in 2019. Meyer and Richards are gone. All of that adds up to a rotation problem.
Finding, at the minimum, a quality starter that can soak up a lot of innings should be Eppler’s #1 priority. Certainly we have other needs to fill but shoring up the starting five will be critical to the Angels success in 2019.
So what options do the Angels have to improve their rotation?
Free agency has some intriguing options including RHP Charlie Morton, RHP Nathan Eovaldi, LHP J.A. Happ, RHP Matt Harvey, LHP Dallas Keuchel, and RHP Trevor Cahill. It is being reported that the Seibu Lions of Japan have allowed LHP Yusei Kikuchi to be posted, so he too should be available on the open market.
Morton will be in his age 35 season but will probably sign a 2-year deal at about $25M-30M, total, with perhaps an option attached if he does not retire.
Eovaldi is an interesting case. Looking at previous pitchers of similar age coming off of commensurate seasons the closest comparable in recent history is Jhoulys Chacin who signed a 2-year, $15.5M deal. However the potential of Nathan is so much higher, you have to think that he could easily command around $13M-17M per season on a 4-5 year contract, particularly throwing a 97 mph fastball. The danger here is that he has had two previous Tommy John surgeries so there is real risk.
Happ should pull down a similar deal to Morton, probably a 2-year, $30M deal. Harvey could get a bit less than Eovaldi but should be in the same relative ballpark. Keuchel will also probably get something akin to Eovaldi’s contract based on his recent history but with less total years, probably a 4-year maximum deal. Cahill will probably sign a 2-3 year deal.
It had been the author’s hope that the Angels might make room for Garrett Richards at around the $10M range but the Padres blew that up, offering him $18M which was probably hard to not accept on Garrett’s part. The reality is that the Angels probably did not have the roster space to accommodate him as he rehabilitates.
Moving to the trade market there are some potentially intriguing opportunities that may or may not be available including the Diamondbacks LHP Robbie Ray, the Giants LHP Madison Bumgarner, perhaps one of the Indians top RHP’s like Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco, Danny Salazar, or Trevor Bauer, the Marlins RHP Jose Urena, maybe one of the Mets top starters LHP Jacob deGrom, RHP Zack Wheeler or RHP Noah Syndergaard, the Orioles RHP Dylan Bundy, the Blue Jays RHP Marcus Stroman, the Yankees who are actively shopping Sonny Gray, or one of the Tigers starters, RHP Michael Fulmer or LHP Matthew Boyd.
Out of that group Fulmer, Kluber and Syndergaard with their longer control would cost the most to obtain and may, in fact, be unreachable or simply too rich for the Angels. In the next tier down, price-wise, you find three more top-tier names in deGrom, Carrasco, and Bauer. The third tier down you start to see more affordable options like Bundy, Stroman, Ray, Salazar, Urena, Wheeler, Gray, and Bumgarner.
Although trades can certainly include a combination of Major League players and Minor League prospects, the first three names would certainly cost the Angels their top prospect Jo Adell plus more, making one of those three very unlikely unless we were sending back significant Major League talent of our own (possible). The Mets and Indians would almost certainly ask for Jo in the next tier of names but the Angels would probably prefer to send Griffin Canning, Jahmai Jones, or possibly one of Tyler Skaggs or Andrew Heaney as the centerpiece, again making one of those names difficult to obtain.
It is that next group of pitchers that would probably pique Eppler’s interest the most if he decides the trade market is the way to go. Any of those eight names could potentially be had by building a trade around one of Jahmai Jones or Brandon Marsh, as the centerpiece of the deal, perhaps even less in the cases of Salazar, Urena, Wheeler, Gray, and Bumgarner.
One interesting aspect of the free agent and trade markets is the apparent abundance of left-handed starters available. This could present an opportunity for Eppler to trade one of Tyler Skaggs or Andrew Heaney for another area of need and then sign or trade for one, two or even three starters, one of which would be left-handed. For example if the Nationals do sign Bryce Harper to a mega-contract the Angels could possibly trade Andrew Heaney for Adam Eaton and then sign J.A. Happ to replace Andrew’s spot in the rotation.
Ultimately, because our farm system is still developing, Eppler is more likely to target the low-hanging fruit that will not cost a top prospect in trade. Any prospect that is not considered a core long-term piece (think Adell or Canning for example) can be used to facilitate these low-resource deals. Eppler could surprise and execute a straight-up trade of someone like Andrew Heaney for a better starter like Trevor Bauer, exchanging years of control and taking on salary to upgrade to a top-of-the-rotation asset, as well.
By non-tendering Parker and Shoemaker, Billy has additional, available payroll to sign a mid-level starter or make a trade for any pitcher that is available in a deal. The market is full of teams flush with cash to spend so this off-season could turn into a real rodeo with some teams getting tossed off the bronco early and often (particularly if Lackey un-retires).
It should be noted that Halos starters fared decently well against left-handed hitters (LHH’s) in 2018, ranked 12th in all of baseball by K%-BB%. However, against right-handed hitters (RHH’s) we were middle-of-the-pack, ranked 15th in the League.
Eppler is likely to target at least one starter that fares well against RHH’s in his search although that is not a hard requirement. Fortunately there are several starters in free agency (Eovaldi, Lynn, and Happ) and trade (Carrasco, Bundy, Bauer, Kluber, Teheran, Greinke, Junis, Wheeler, Gray, Porcello, Ray, and Godley, among others) that performed well against RHH’s in 2018 and will be potential targets of Billy as we enter the off-season.
Break the Bank ($151M+)
High Price to Pay ($101M-$150M)
Middle of the Road ($51M-$100M)
Bargain Basement ($1M-$50M)
So out of the free agency group, Patrick Corbin clearly had the best overall splits against both sides of the plate but he is now a National. It was going to be a tall order for Eppler to sign him anyway due to fierce competition for his services and the fact he would eat up a lot of open payroll space. Originally I had Corbin pegged on a 4-6 year deal at $20M+ per season and he got the higher end of both of those.
Behind him though, the next best choices include J.A. Happ, Nathan Eovaldi and perhaps one of Matt Harvey, Anibal Sanchez, or Charlie Morton.
It is my opinion that if the Angels go through free agency they will push hard on Nathan Eovaldi or J.A. Happ and only go after one of the other three if they cannot secure the services of either of the first two or through a trade.
If Eppler does pursue the trade market he will likely go after some low-hanging fruit that includes more of the names listed in the ‘Bargain Basement’ category. Many of those names will not break the prospect bank and include Robbie Ray, Jose Urena, Zack Wheeler, Madison Bumgarner, and Sonny Gray.
Out of that group Zack Wheeler and Robbie Ray are of particular interest with the latter likely being more available than the former. However the former would probably only cost us two mid-tier prospects (or perhaps a MLB player) while the latter would cost us a name like Brandon Marsh or Jose Suarez, plus maybe one mid-to-lower tier type prospect in any deal.
If pushed to choose one from free agency, J.A. Happ makes a lot of sense on a 2-year deal at no more than $30M total. This would allow the Angels to ease one of Jose Suarez or Patrick Sandoval into the rotation while maintaining payroll flexibility.
On the trade side Robbie Ray currently appears to be the target that best fits our needs combined with potential availability in a deal. He has two years of arbitration control left so the Angels could possibly extend him if they like his results or move on from Ray when Suarez and/or Sandoval is ready a year or two from now. Bauer would be my dark horse candidate. In fact if the Angels did a Heaney for Bauer trade I could still see the Angels acquiring Ray which would create a really nice starting five of Bauer, Ray, Barria, Skaggs, and Tropeano for 2019 and beyond (not to mention if they sign a guy like Happ or Eovaldi in free agency too). Ohtani rejoining the rotation in 2020 would only make this group more lethal.
In the next Section we will discuss the Catcher position.
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By Robert Cunningham, Angelswin.com Senior Writer
The first years of Eppler’s tenure had a lack of them.
However, in evaluating the Angels as they head into this off-season, it is clear that Billy has more of them with some upper limits to what he can do and achieve.
So with the general understanding of what the likely team goals are as we discussed in the Introduction to this Primer Series let us take a stab at what Eppler might be up to in this current market.
First we need to start with how much Eppler can spend. Based on historical expenditure patterns it appears that Moreno is unlikely to exceed the $190M-$195M mark as seen in the table below:
This means that Eppler, based on our Finances section information, minus the recent subsequent non-tenders of Matt Shoemaker and Blake Parker and barring an authorized increase by Moreno, can spend no more than about $40M or take on contracts that exceed more than approximately $70M in AAV.
As we discussed in the Production section, the Angels could use one or more hitters that are strong against left-handed pitching and can play at one of second or third base and behind the dish. Additionally we need at least one durable starter that can handle right-handed hitters well. Those three holes are the most important to address this off-season.
In addition to that, as outlined in the Depth Charts section, Eppler can, if he so chooses, trade one or more of our Minor League farm assets to improve the team. We have a bit of extra depth in the infield, outfield, and pitching that could be drawn upon as a resource in acquiring a target of interest from another team.
Prior to Ohtani injuring his throwing arm, the Angels seem destined to add a corner infielder but now with Shohei projecting to be the full-time designated hitter in 2019, Albert Pujols will need to be at least a part-time, if not full-time, first baseman.
Because the Angels do not know the full outcome of Albert’s off-season left knee surgery, they also have to plan some contingency moves as insurance which likely includes acquiring one or more first basemen to Minor League deals to play there to begin the season and perhaps all of 2019 in a platoon role in case injury or if age ravages the Machine to the point he is forced to go on the disabled list or worse cannot compete anymore.
Even if Pujols does play, his probable continuing decline in production will force the team to add more offense at the positions that are open for upgrade in order to maintain parity or improve.
Since Eppler values defense so highly (rightfully so) he will likely explore free agents or trade targets that can provide excellent fielding ability in addition to adding some thump or on-base skills to the lineup.
Also, because Ohtani will not be in the rotation, Eppler will almost assuredly be looking to acquire a quality starter, likely, as we said above, a right-handed one. Barring the trade of one of Skaggs or Heaney, which is a real possibility in such heavy left-handed free agent and trade markets, Eppler will likely stay clear of acquiring a left-handed pitcher unless it is someone like J.A. Happ who can handle right-handed hitters.
The bullpen still needs a bit of work but with the acquisition of Ty Buttrey and Williams Jerez in the Ian Kinsler trade, and the eventual return of both Keynan Middleton and J.C. Ramirez, there is a fairly good group of candidates to build a relief corps from for 2019. If the Angels can sign or acquire one more high quality bullpen piece it would add a lot of confidence to the late innings of a ballgame next year. There may even be opportunities to find a promising reliever or two during the Rule V Draft as well.
Billy’s challenge in all of this will be finding the right balance of free agents and trades, while operating within the confines of Moreno’s budget and working toward extending Mike Trout and perhaps others.
This Primer Series is operating under the assumption that Arte stays within a standard financial budget. However as we discussed, Moreno controls how far Billy can go, particularly if it involves a decision to exceed the Luxury Tax threshold, which has only occurred once under his ownership.
If there was ever a year to do it, it would be 2019 or perhaps 2020. Last year was a possibility but the free agent market was lackluster and the team probably made the right decision not to press. All that being said, the Angels are projected, based on the current roster and contracts, to shave a significant portion of team salary after the 2020 season ends (2021: $118M Actual, $109.6M AAV). After 2021, Pujols falls of the books too (2022: $90.375 Actual, $82.93M AAV).
What this means is that the next two years, where payroll is still elevated, might be the best time for Moreno to consider exceeding the Competitive Balance Tax threshold. On top of that alignment, you must consider Mike’s current two years of contractual control and the strong free agent market that the Angels can draw from this off-season. There is some really pricey high-end talent and a mix of mid-level players that could come at more reasonable prices.
Adding all of that together has to give some credibility to the idea that overspending this off-season and/or possibly next year makes sense even if it is by a mild amount. They could then reset before they become a 3rd time offender, which, under the CBA rules, would result in a really expensive tax rate. If the Angels really want to maximize their chances this should be on the table in the author’s opinion for the right assets and should be executed at the right time, whether that is pre-season or at the Trade Deadline.
It is of course not our money but the maximum penalty that the team would pay, if they go over the Luxury Tax threshold by no more than $40M, in the 1st year (2019) of violation, would be $10.4M. In the second year it would be $14.4M (2020). The 3rd year would likely become prohibitively expensive. In terms of relative expenditures with the Angels running a maximum $246M payroll in 2019, this is less than 6% in additional money.
In the end, whether he has additional financial resources or not, Billy will need to address the primary holes identified above. Other needs are secondary or even tertiary to those three belly buttons and the bulk of our resources must go to them.
This brings us back around to Eppler’s increased options.
There are many more routes Eppler can take this off-season that can improve the team. Billy has been taking a steady re-tooling approach the last two years but will that change this off-season?
As an example, let us assume that Billy does not exceed $195M in total actual payroll, i.e. he does not spend more than $40M in actual team payroll and no more than an additional $70M in Average Annual Value (AAV). Could he make the following transactions happen?
This would be a powerful off-season. Extending Trout and Simmons long-term would provide a solid base to operate from as both of them exhibit an incredibly strong work ethic and would lead by example on the field.
On top of that we would use some of our excess prospect currency to acquire Robbie Ray from the Diamondbacks and Jedd Gyorko from the Cardinals at the price of Marsh and Suarez respectively. The deals could be for different players but they represent relatively close acquisition prices. Robbie would be a high strikeout type that Eppler values who can get hitters out on both sides of the plate while Gyorko would provide above average defense at the hot corner while allowing Taylor Ward to spend at least one more year down on the farm.
Finally Eppler could use the excess payroll to sign RHP Nathan Eovaldi and C Wilson Ramos. The former would help the team improve against RHH’s (as does Ray actually) and Ramos would add thump particularly against LHP without hurting the team defensively behind the dish. Wilson could probably pick up platoon time at 1B and hitting from the DH spot as well, based on Ohtani’s and Pujols’ health to start the year, as well as giving us a powerful bench bat on his off days.
Depth across the team would be markedly improved. The outfield would have Jo Adell and Michael Hermosillo behind Trout, Upton, and Calhoun. The infield would have Taylor Ward, Jahmai Jones, David Fletcher, Luis Rengifo, and Matt Thaiss. The rotation would have Griffin Canning, Patrick Sandoval, Jesus Castillo, Dillon Peters, and Luis Madero. The bullpen should have enough young arms to build and maintain a solid relief corps. Only behind the dish would we be light and Eppler might have enough payroll space to secure a solid backup catcher too before all is said and done with this off-season.
Certainly there are other scenarios and routes. Maybe the Angels surprise us all and go into a major spending mode to make a big splash in the trade market to compliment some big signings in free agency? Exceeding the CBT threshold by no more than $20M would cost the Angels, at most, $5M in taxes for 2019.
The above is just an example. It is not meant to be gospel, merely a suggestion or path that might be available to the team. There are many, many more but the point is that Eppler should be able to improve the team this off-season and can do so while keeping most of the teams future intact barring some really aggressive trades and spending which is an option that some may or may not agree with but is available with its own potential rewards, pitfalls and risks for the long-term health of the organization.
Bottom line is that the Angels can really commit hard over at least the next two years and see where they land or can continue the gradual buildup of home grown prospects to create a larger, perhaps even continuous, window of contention over the next several years.
Based on Billy Eppler’s actions to-date as General Manager of the Angels, the author suspects that he will get a bit more aggressive this off-season (as exampled above) but will not break the bank or our Minor League system to maintain a steady path forward with Mike Trout in-tow. Free agents will be signed to fill current holes and Eppler will trade prospects from the fringes (guys who are not in our long-term core keepers) or depth (the aforementioned outfield, infield, and pitching depth) of our farm system.
In the next Section we will discuss the Rotation.
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By Robert Cunningham, Angelswin.com Senior Writer
Now that we have a better understanding of how the team performed overall in 2018, we need to take a brief look at total team depth so that we get a sense of the quantity and quality of available players at each position around the diamond.
In order to do this we will project position player, rotation, and bullpen depth over the next five seasons utilizing the current 40-man roster (as of November 26th, 2018) and our very own Angelswin.com, ‘Los Angeles Angels (2019) Top-30 Prospects‘ list, authored by Jonathan Northrop and representing the collective rankings of the Angelswin.com staff, to fill out the prospect side of the depth chart.
To better visualize this list the author has borrowed Northrop’s depth chart format (he is known as ‘Angelsjunky’ on Angelswin.com), designed for a different article he penned, for use in the Primer Series.
Note that this depth chart is the projection of the author and will likely change this season and beyond based on team needs, trades, designation for assignment moves and non-tenders in the future. It should also be noted that each prospect was placed at their highest Minor League level and the position they played at most during the 2018 season.
First we will start with the position players:
Starting from left to right, you can clearly see the Angels need more help behind the dish. Briceno is a backup catcher at best and the only prospect ranked, Kruger, is at least a year away from the Majors.
Pujols may start the year at first and perhaps even stay there for most if not all of the year but this is likely his last season in a full-time role. During or after 2019 he will probably move to a bench role and may even retire before his contract expires. We will speak more about Albert in the upcoming 1B article. Behind Pujols there are two ranked prospects, Matt Thaiss and Jared Walsh. There is hope that the former will step into the role sometime in 2019 and the latter could also see time if he is not taken in the upcoming Rule V draft where the Angels left him unprotected.
Zack Cozart is projected to start the year at 2B due to his strong defensive ability and the fact that his bat will play up a bit more at the keystone. It is possible that this may be his last season in an Angels uniform primarily due to the fact that we currently have a slate of quality second basemen nipping at his heels, including Jahmai Jones, David Fletcher, and Luis Rengifo, who are very close to impacting the Major League roster.
Simmons should start the next two seasons and may, in fact, be a prime extension candidate on a 5-6 year deal this off-season. Rengifo can play SS (as well as Cozart) so he is a backup option if Andrelton does not want to stay or the Angels do not make an offer. A little further down the depth chart there are three other potential options to play SS including Leonardo Rivas, Jeremiah Jackson, and Livan Soto. Out of that group Jackson has the greatest talent and ability.
At 3B, based on our current 40-man roster, David Fletcher is currently projected to start the season. However, young prospect Taylor Ward is also a strong possibility to take the spot as well. Down on the farm, in Orem, wild card prospect Kevin Maitan could blossom into a star at the position too or could fall flat on his face, as he has a high ceiling but also a low floor (high variability in potential performance).
In left field, Justin Upton has the position locked up for the foreseeable future but he may eventually get moved prior to the end of his contract if the Angels have a need or want to place another player in that spot. Currently there are no clear cut left fielders in the Minors but virtually any outfielder (Adell, Marsh, Adams, et. al.) could play there in the future as left field is the least demanding outfield position.
Trout of course is our center fielder for the next two seasons (and hopefully more!) but if he does leave, Jo Adell or Michael Hermosillo could certainly take over (but not nearly as well obviously) and the Angels do have a pipeline of interesting names that could supplant Adell or anyone else including Brandon Marsh, Jordyn Adams, D’Shawn Knowles, and Trent Deveaux. All four of those names have interesting upside, particularly the first two.
Angels fans are probably looking at the last season of Kole Calhoun roaming right field. Jo Adell, a very bright prospect, is just inches away from a permanent call-up to the Majors to play at that position. Eppler has to be thinking that not only will Jo be an upgrade in right field but the move will provide real relief in the form of payroll and budget. Deeper down the pipeline, Orlando Martinez and young Alex Ramirez also represent future options at the outfield corners.
Finally Ohtani should take up the majority of DH at-bats year-to-year moving forward and the remainder of the DH at-bat’s will be supplemented by other players on the roster. Will English is listed as a depth option but he only hit out of the DH position due to an injury that forced him to not play the field. He is actually a two-way player like Ohtani and will probably get outfield repetitions in 2019.
Now that we have covered position players let us look at the teams rotation options moving forward:
Next year, in 2019, the Angels have, just like in previous seasons, a quantity of rotation depth options but a lack of overall quality on their staff.
This will likely prompt Billy Eppler to acquire one or more rotation pieces likely on short-term rentals to bridge the gap until Shohei Ohtani hopefully returns to the mound in 2020. It should be noted that the Angels have already been rumored to be searching for starting pitching depth which makes sense when you consider the injuries the team has suffered in recent years and the need to get reliable, quality innings out of the teams rotation.
If Billy wants to expend significant resources, a trade for an ace-level starter, if one becomes available this off-season and the trade price does not include Jo Adell, might be in the cards. However, acquiring an ace seems like a much more remote option, particularly since the Halos appear to be taking an incremental rebuild approach while they continue to try and compete every season and a move like this would interfere with the development of our farm system. A free agent signing or trade for a rental type seems to be the more likely path.
So based on the current roster, in 2019, your five most likely, viable starters are Tyler Skaggs, Matt Shoemaker, Andrew Heaney, Jaime Barria, and Felix Pena to start the season. Certainly there are backup options such as Nick Tropeano, newly acquired Dillon Peters, spot-starter Luke Farrell, and even J.C. Ramirez later in the year if the Angels tender him a contract and he is healthy. Additionally there are five prospects, Griffin Canning, Jose Suarez, Luis Pena (if he is not taken in the Rule V draft), Patrick Sandoval, and Jesus Castillo that could be called upon as depth options in the case of a Major League roster injury.
When you shift gears to 2020 the starting rotation projects to be considerably brighter as the team will likely roll out a starting five of Ohtani, Skaggs, Canning, Heaney, and Barria which is a formidable rotation. Additionally the depth will be maintained by prospects like the aforementioned Suarez, Castillo, and Sandoval and other options like Luis Madero, Chris Rodriguez, and Jose Soriano among others. Shoemaker will be a candidate to be traded in the 2019-2020 off-season (assuming he is tendered a contract this off-season), prior to his last year of arbitration control, if he pitches even moderately well in 2019, primarily due to payroll constraints.
This trend continues in 2021 but now Heaney moves up to be the #2 guy while Suarez (or possibly Sandoval) enters the rotation full-time. The team will still have a strong five including Ohtani, Heaney, Canning, Suarez, and Barria. Tyler Skaggs could be an extension candidate in the 2018-2019 off-season or the Angels can simply let his remaining two years of arbitration control play out through 2020, which is why he will likely be replaced before the 2021 season by another prospect left-handed starter.
Finally in 2022 and 2023, the rotation should line up with Shohei Ohtani, Patrick Sandoval, Griffin Canning, Jose Suarez, and Jaime Barria likely leading the pack based on our current roster. Of course a lot of things could change by that time but there is a path to success being built by Eppler and this depth chart shows that we have an array of players that can definitely be building blocks for future iterations of the Halos rotation.
Now, last, but not least, we will look at the Angels bullpen depth chart:
It is pretty clear that Eppler is taking a very fiscally conservative approach to building a bullpen.
Personally, the author agrees with this approach as there is a nearly constant supply of inexpensive, controllable relievers moving in and out of rosters throughout the year and if you have a sharp analytics and scouting team, finding relievers, like the Angels have been doing for the last couple of seasons, is not a terribly difficult task. In fact Billy and the Angels front office appear to be really good at it!
Case in point, when projecting the Angels bullpen in 2019, is a former waiver claim, Blake Parker, likely being our primary high leverage reliever to start the season. Behind him will likely be recently acquired Ty Buttrey who seems to have tremendous potential himself and is the only ranked prospect that Angelswin.com felt was worthy to make our Top 30 list. Behind those two are a familiar cast of characters including Jose Alvarez, Cam Bedrosian, Hansel Robles, Noe Ramirez, and “new guy” Austin Brice.
In 2020, the bullpen will have most of the same names, barring one or more trades (very possible) of guys like Parker, Alvarez, and Robles (if they are not traded or moved this off-season). Williams Jerez will probably be the only identifiable new guy but the bullpen is so fluid there will probably be other names in the picture too.
As 2021 rolls around Buttrey will probably claim the top high leverage role as Blake will almost certainly be gone by then, if not sooner. Justin Anderson will probably be fully in the bullpen picture by 2021, if not sooner, as he is very talented. Again, due to roster fluidity and the fact that relievers are very volatile year-to-year, there will definitely be some new names that enter the picture to compliment the core members of the relief corps.
Finally 2022 and 2023 will probably only have a small handful of familiar bullpen names as many of the guys that are familiar now will have succumbed to injuries, trades, or just outright non-tenders or designation for assignment moves by the organization. If the Angels can find at least a couple of really good relievers to act as the go-to guys for high leverage situations the team will probably be in a good position moving forward.
In the next section we will talk about Eppler’s Strategy.
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By Robert Cunningham, Angelswin.com Senior Writer
Before we can make educated guesses at what moves the Angels will make over the 2018-2019 off-season, we need to understand what they did produce in 2018. You cannot fix something if you do not know what is broken or in need of repair.
Below are two tables, that include all 30 MLB teams, with one sorted by ‘wRC+’ and the other by FanGraphs ‘DEF’:
2018 MLB Teams Sorted by Weighted Runs Created Plus (wRC+)
2018 MLB Teams Sorted by FanGraphs Defense (DEF)
As you can see the Angels did relatively well, ranking in the top half of all teams in both wRC+ and DEF. As a team against LHP the team performed poorly, ranking 23rd out of all 30 teams in wRC+. Versus RHP, they did well ranking 6th overall using the same metric. Generally, the offense benefited a bit more from slugging in the batter’s box as evidenced by their ranking in home runs and ISO for the year.
Flipping to the pitching side, there are two tables below, one for starters and the other for relievers, listing all 30 teams, sorted by K%-BB%:
2018 MLB Teams (Starters) Sorted by Strikeout Minus Walk Percentage (K-BB%)
2018 MLB Teams (Relievers) Sorted by Strikeout Minus Walk Percentage (K-BB%)
Here, the Angels were middle-of-the-pack, with the rotation doing a bit better than the bullpen. Results against left-handed hitters were average while the outcome versus right-handed hitters was a little less palatable.
So what gives? Why did the Angels not perform better overall?
It is actually really difficult to point to any one thing as the root cause as nothing in particular stands out. Offense and defense were above average. The rotation was a touch above average and the relief corps was below average, but not terribly so.
Interestingly, Angels hitters led the League in Pull% as seen in the table below:
This means they hit the ball to the same side of the batter’s box, rather than hitting it up the middle or to the opposite part of the field. This almost certainly contributed to their BABIP issue as it became easier for opposing teams to set up defensive shifts on our hitters (ranked 28th with a wRC+ of 63) because they know we hit the ball so much to one side of the field.
The caveat to hitting the ball so much to the pull side is that the Angels were 8th overall in Hard% contact, which allowed them to defeat those defensive shifts more often because their exit velocities off the bat were harder, putting the ball over the head or out of the reach of defenders. The teams line drive (LD%) and fly ball (FB%) percentages reflect their ability to keep the ball in the air at a consistently above average rate.
One may be apt to wonder if the Halos and perhaps other teams have discovered an inefficiency or advantage to stacking the lineup with so many pull-side hitters with better hard-hit rates? A lot of teams with high Pull% rates also happen to be playoff contenders so it makes one wonder what the advantage may be or is it simply coincidence.
Maybe hitting to the outfield corners, more, is an advantage for right-handed hitters because defensively most teams place their worst outfield defenders in left field? Could power to the corners potentially be advantageous due to ballpark dimensions, overall? There seems to be something to it and it could be a combination of both pull hitting and power and maybe other factors, like the ones above, this analysis did not deep dive into at this time.
Earlier in the season the Angels were running a reasonably modest run differential but then, once the season got out of reach, ended up at -1 to end the year. Additionally they over-performed their expected runs (RE24) a bit but it was marginal in comparison to other teams as seen below:
Hit sequencing (RE24 minus Bat) was an issue as the Angels ranked 24th overall at 8.38 (for reference the League average was 29.08). This simply means that the team as a whole did not score as many runs as expected based on their below average hit sequencing from batter to batter in the lineup. We should note that the team’s focus on pull power and the resulting defensive shifts probably impacted this hit sequencing calculation.
Looking at team stats with runners in scoring, men on base, and bases empty, the Angels were average or better overall based on wRC+ so that was a marginal positive in their favor.
Walks were a touch below League average (bad). Strikeouts were below average (good). Offensive Batting Average on Balls In Play (BABIP) was worst in the League so that hurt the team. Pitching BABIP was average.
So beyond the raw numbers, perhaps their absence from the post-season had something to do with the individual players?
Certainly, there were members of the team who under-performed, some wildly so, and we will examine in detail each position in subsequent articles of the Primer Series.
Over the past handful of years, the Angels have run out more of a stars and scrubs type of team with players like Mike Trout, Andrelton Simmons, Justin Upton, and Shohei Ohtani, being the more notable producers, and a laundry list of league average or replacement players trying their best to compete, but simply unable to make a significant impact in many cases. It did not help that the pitching staff had so many injuries as well.
In the end you can continue to parse out the season but it really just comes down to some bad luck, unfortunate circumstances (injuries), and some mediocrity among individual members of the team. Better luck with balls in play (really hitters who can spray the ball), a boost in production against left-handed pitchers, and an improved bullpen would put the Angels in an enhanced spot, assuming the other 2018 numbers hold true in 2019.
The actual fix here is broad but solvable. Finding one or more position players with high on-base skills, the ability to capably handle left-handed pitching, and maintain quality defense will be important. Adding a starter and perhaps a bullpen piece that can improve our numbers against both left- and right-handed hitters, particularly the latter, will be a tremendous improvement too, particularly in the rotation. Above all, health and team depth will be keys to the Angels success in 2019.
It is up to Billy Eppler to build a winner and it seems like the base is there, just like last off-season, to create a competitive team to take the Angels to the playoffs and a chance to win their 2nd World Series Championship.
In the next section we will discuss Team Depth.
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By Robert Cunningham, Angelswin.com Senior Writer
Now that we have established some of the Angels primary goals, restrictions, and needs we can take a deeper dive into the teams projected finances heading into the off-season.
Below is the projected, 40-man roster, financial table that includes team benefits and all payouts (option buyouts, dead contracts, etc.) owed and is based on the assumption that the Angels bring back all of their guaranteed, contractually-controlled and current pre-arbitration and arbitration-eligible players:
Under these premises, as seen above, projected salary (actual) and Average Annual Value (AAV) will be approximately $161M and $143.3M, respectively.
Here are some notes regarding the table above:
The roster does not consider or include any potential acquisitions, only those who are likely to stay based on the current 40-man roster at the time of publication.
The ‘Payouts’ number has only one input, which is the $500,000 buyout of Luis Valbuena’s 2019 option.
The arbitration numbers for Shoemaker, Skaggs, Parker, Heaney, Ramirez, Alvarez, Bedrosian, Tropeano, and Robles were obtained from MLBTradeRumors.com annual Projected Arbitration series, which is an annual snapshot of all arbitration controlled players, by team, and their projected salaries. Their system has proven to be reliably accurate over the years and the projected salaries for each of the Angels players, listed above, should not vary too widely, resulting in a negligible impact to this payroll discussion.
It is the author’s opinion that the Angels will reward Shohei Ohtani for his superior performance by giving him a higher than normal pre-arbitration salary in the $570,000 range. This is merely speculation but it is not unprecedented in MLB history and would be warranted in Ohtani’s case.
Finally, in regard to the Finances table above, we need to discuss the ‘Benefits’ number. Here is the relevant excerpt from the MLB Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA):
and the following page:
In last and this year’s Primer Series the author has been calculating team ‘Benefits’ using the base sum for 2017 ($219.3M above) and then adding a presumed 6%, as listed in Part (2), based on the low spending during the 2017-2018 off-season, to apply to this one.
Based on brief discussions with the OCRegister’s Jeff Fletcher on Angelswin.com and upon further review of the relevant excerpt above, it is possible that Section (1), Part (a) may contain an elusive, additional sum that should be a part of the ‘Benefits’ number listed in the Finances table at the top of the article. This sum may be close to $5M which has a marginal impact on this payroll discussion but is not a deal breaker overall. It is very probable that Jeff is correct based on discussions he has had with Major League General Managers in the past on this subject. The reader should be advised that Eppler’s ability to spend is probably less than what is advertised above based on Fletcher’s knowledge.
Moving on, the league minimum player salary for 2019 is $555,000, a $10K increase over last year, and is reflected in the Finances table, above. This, of course, applies to the pre-arbitration players except, possibly, for Shohei Ohtani. Please remember that any player not on the 25-man roster receives only Minor League pay unless their contract says otherwise. This simply means that the total payroll number, above, will be offset by about $2M-4M due to roster fluctuation throughout the 2019 season, so please keep that in mind.
As the 2018 season began, the Angels installed a new video board and offered a new series of food concessions which is a continuation of the renovations that the team committed to, as was discussed in last years Financial section of the Primer Series.
These and other upgrades were supposedly in lieu of a new stadium which may have limited significant expenditures elsewhere as the author cited in a FoxSports.com report that indicated Moreno was committed to staying in the current stadium for the next 13 years and would not opt-out.
However, Arte did, in fact, opt-out recently, setting the potential for some off-field drama if the team and the new mayor and reconstituted city council cannot arrive at an amicable agreement for the Angels to stay.
This move, by most appearances, seems to be a non-event and is probably a small-scale leverage tool to extract an additional concession or two from the city to convince Moreno to stay in Anaheim. Unless Arte has secretly negotiated a new stadium deal somewhere else, it seems to be in the best interests of both sides that the Angels stay put in Anaheim moving forward.
Ultimately, it needs to make financial sense to Arte Moreno. The city needs to avoid bad political optics, so they need to ensure that the taxpayers are not screwed and that the city receives tangible benefits in terms of employment, business, and land development opportunities. Stay tuned with the OCRegister’s Jeff Fletcher and Angelswin.com for updates on this topic moving forward.
So, based on the above, Billy Eppler should have above average payroll flexibility once the current financial year closes on December 2nd, 2018. This will allow him to target virtually any player he likes whether it is in trade or through free agency to help reinforce the 2019 Halos squad.
As was stated over the last several years, the caveat to this financial discussion is that Arte has consistently and fully funded team payroll during his time as owner so these perceived cash-related issues and thresholds may just be guidelines and could be violated at Moreno’s whim. In fact Arte did go over the Luxury Tax threshold once back in 2004, albeit, by a measly $927,000.
One potential roadblock that could curtail spending overall is actual team payroll, which is about $17M-$18M higher than AAV. If Moreno does not allow Eppler to go over a specific number, say $190M-$195M (versus the CBT threshold of $206M) in actual payroll, then Billy may not be able to fully utilize all of the Luxury Tax space available. Arte probably could authorize and handle a measured increase but by how much is anyone’s guess due to our lack of complete team financial information and insight into Moreno’s approach to spending under this current set of circumstances.
Keep in mind that one way Eppler can utilize the extra Luxury Tax payroll space is to extend one or more players (Trout being the prime target) on the roster while keeping their 2019 and 2020 actual salaries close to their current and projected numbers. For example if the Angels extend Andrelton Simmons to a 6-year, $102M deal, they can keep his 2019 salary at $13M but raise his AAV from $8.3M to $17M per season, thereby keeping actual payroll even while sponging up some of the excess AAV dollars available.
Remember, as we discussed last year, the team pulls in an annual sum of $150M from their cable deal plus an unknown amount from their partial control of the Fox Sports West Regional Sports Network (RSN) in addition to ticket and merchandise sales.
In the end Moreno completely controls how far the Angels dive in, but it seems crystal clear that Eppler has set a path that will allow Arte to choose exactly how much money is spent, how many resources are expended and where they are applied, and even how long we stay in the deep-end of the pool, which gives Moreno a great deal of leeway to get involved as much or as little as he desires.
To illustrate how Eppler has positioned the team heading into 2019, here is a snapshot of the guaranteed contractual money owed to Angels players in the coming seasons:
The Angels currently have six guaranteed contracts to pay in 2019 for Trout, Pujols, Upton, Simmons, Calhoun, and Cozart, totaling $98,569,048.
In the following year, which is Trout’s last season (currently) of contractual control, if the Angels do not hand out any more guaranteed deals before December 2nd, 2020 and they trade Kole or decline his team option, the total guaranteed money owed that season will decrease to $90,235,714. If they retain Calhoun it will rise to $104,235,714.
In the following year, which is Albert’s last season of contractual control, the total guaranteed money projects to be $45,200,000. After that only Justin Upton’s $21,200,000 remains, in the final season of his 5-year deal.
The good news here is that the Angels are in a better place financially heading into this off-season. In order to compete in 2019 they will spend more, resulting in more commitments, but the trend appears to be heading in what the author would describe as a positive direction. It will even leave room for other extensions, trade acquisitions and free agent signings.
The freedom of those decreasing guaranteed commitments leaves enough room for the Angels to extend Mike Trout this year, likely before Opening Day 2019, after the free agent market has dolled out record contracts to Manny Machado and Bryce Harper. Frankly there are virtually zero roadblocks in Eppler’s way to re-sign Trout other than Moreno’s willingness to spend which, honestly, has never been an issue and Mike’s alacrity to put pen to paper.
It should also be noted that the Angels have a few qualified players entering their 1st and 2nd years of arbitration control. This will result, dependent upon whom the Angels tender contracts to, in about $20M-25M in additional payroll for the upcoming season. It is not a huge amount for the Halos but it will have an impact on team payroll.
This arbitration situation will worsen a bit in 2020 when a lot of these players hit their 2nd and 3rd years of arbitration which will likely result in Eppler trading one or more of them away for other areas of need or perhaps not tendering a contract at all. Certain arbitration players could potentially be extended soon, as well, including Tyler Skaggs and Andrew Heaney for example, eliminating unknown arbitration numbers and adding fidelity to team payroll in succeeding seasons.
The bottom line is that Billy Eppler continues to re-tool the team year-to-year as the Angels continue to compete in the American League West. As a large market team with solid financial flexibility, a core group of competent players, and a rapidly improving farm system the team is set on a path for success despite the setbacks, performance issues, and injuries that have plagued the Halos over the last couple of seasons.
Fans should, however, temper their expectations on whom the team will acquire. As Eppler said recently, “… I’m not going to jeopardize the health of the organization to make sure I check a box.” This simply means that the Angels have set a path to sustainable success and they will not readily deviate from that path on a whim.
Also, if an opportunity to truly upgrade the 2019 team materializes, Moreno may extend the financial rope a modest amount if it involved his proverbial “… right player, in the right situation…”. Again this type of player is unlikely to be acquired by the Angels this off-season. However, if they hit the Trade Deadline and have the opportunity to add one or two finishing pieces to push all-in to make the playoffs, Arte could put his blessing on pushing past the artificial CBT threshold and trading away one or two quality prospects to give a solid nudge to a playoff-caliber squad. A “Big Splash”, as seen in the movie Draft Day, should not be expected in the months leading up to Opening Day 2019.
Based on this outlook the Angels are likely to start the year by staying within their means, remaining under the 2019 CBT threshold of $206M (AAV) with an actual team payroll of about $190M-195M, give or take.
Finally, if the Angels are able to extend Mike Trout this off-season (or next) every Angels fan should rejoice. That, by itself, would be the crown jewel of an exciting off-season.
In the next section we will discuss team Production.
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By Jonathan Northrop, AngelsWin.com Staff Writer
Ranking prospects is an in-exact science, to say the least. Some like to focus more on raw talent, whether athleticism or acquired baseball skills, while others like to look at actual performance. The following list is based upon the subjective opinions of nine different AngelsWin writers and members. The benefit of such a composite list is that we both get a wide array of perspectives and approaches, but we also tend to even out each other’s biases.
A note on methodology: To arrive at these rankings I simply averaged out each ranking; in the case of “honorable mentions,” I counted it as a #31; in the case when a player was neither ranked or honorably mentioned, I considered that as #32 – except in the case of Taylor Ward, who was mentioned on six lists but not on three; those participants felt that due to the fact that his rookie eligibility expired (by 5 at bats) he is no longer a prospect. But I made the judgement call to include him—based on those six lists—because six of nine is a pretty solid majority. If you take issue with Ward’s inclusion, simply erase him from your mental list and move everyone below him up; Luis Madero would be the new #30.
I’ve added in “Ranking Trends” so that you get a sense of the range of how each player was viewed.
The age in parentheses is the player’s 2018 season age, which is based upon the age they are on July 1, the approximate mid-point of the year.
The ETA is based upon age and level, adjusted by my own subjective sense of when we can expect to see that player reach the major leagues.
Finally, I’ve tried to keep the comments as un-opinionated as possible, but in those cases where an opinion is given and seems off-base, don’t blame anyone but this writer.
Without further ado…
1. Jo Adell OF (age 19)
Stats: 290/.355/.543, 20 HR, 15 SB in 99 games at A/A+/AA.
Ranking Trends: Consensus #1.
Comments: Despite a weak finish that saw his overall numbers fall, Adell was everything the Angels hoped for and more, playing at three levels as a teenager. Some scouts and analysts—and not just Angels fans—see him as being one of the highest upside players in the minors. He’s a consensus top 20 prospect in all of baseball, currently ranked #15 on MLB.com’s Pipeline rankings and #17 on Fangraphs’ The BOARD. There’s a real chance that sometime in 2019 he’s the #1 prospect in the minors. He’s the best Angels prospects since You Know Who and a probable future star.
2. Griffin Canning RHP (22)
Stats: 4-3, 3.65 ERA, 44 walks and 125 strikeouts in 113.1 innings at A+/AA/AAA.
Ranking Trends: average 2.1, median 2, range 2-3 (eight 2s, one 3).
Comments: Not bad for a first professional season. Canning utterly dominated A+ (0.00 ERA in two starts) and AA (1.97 ERA in 10 starts) before struggling in the hitter’s paradise that is the Pacific Coast League (5.49 ERA in 13 starts). Expect him to adjust in 2019 and be in the majors at some point. His floor seems to be that of a good mid-rotation starter, his ceiling that of a borderline ace. MLB.com has him ranked #72 and Fangraphs #90.
3. Brandon Marsh OF (20)
Stats: .266/.359/.408, 10 HR, 14 SB, 73 walks in 127 A/A+ games.
Ranking Trends: average 3.3, median 3, range 2-6 (2, six 3s, 4, 6)
Comments: On first glance, a disappointing year – especially after a strong start in A ball. But Marsh greatly improved his plate discipline and showed flashes of better things to come. He’s a good candidate for a breakout in 2019, when he should spend most of the year as a Trash Panda (AA). MLB.com ranks him #98, Fangraphs #58.
4. Jose Suarez LHP (20)
Stats: 3.92 ERA, 44 walks and 142 strikeouts in 117 innings at A+/AA/AAA.
Ranking Trends: average 5.3, median 6, range 3-7.
Comments: Like Canning, Suarez dominated in A+ (2.00 ERA in 2 starts) and AA ball (3.03 ERA in 7 starts) before struggling in AAA (4.48 ERA in 17 starts), but he did eventually adjust. Also like Canning, he’ll start games in the majors next year.
5. Jahmai Jones 2B (20)
Stats: .229/.337/.380, 10 HR, 24 SB, 67 walks in 123 A+/AA games.
Ranking Trends: average 5.3, median 6, range 3-8.
Comments: See Marsh; not a great year statistically, but not only did his plate discipline improve but he adjusted back to second base. I wouldn’t be concerned until we see how his second year at 2B is. There’s a sense that Jones is teetering between a breakthrough to future star status and more of a average regular. #75 according to Fangraphs.
6. Luis Rengifo SS (21)
Stats: .299/.399/.452, 7 HR, 41 SB, 75 walks in 127 A+/AA/AAA games.
Ranking Trends: average 6, median 5, range 4-10.
Comments: Rengifo was a revelation, one of the most dynamic performers in the minor leagues and probably the Angels prospect whose value jumped the most. At the very least he’ll be a very nice super utility player; he may also challenge David Fletcher and Jones for the long-term gig at second base as soon as next year.
7. Jordyn Adams OF (18)
Stats: .267/.361/.381, 0 HR, 5 SB in 29 Rookie games.
Ranking Trends: average 7.4, median 8, range 5-9.
Comments: 2018 first round pick Jordyn “The Dunk” Adams held his own in his first exposure to professional ball. He seemed to be taking a step forward in Orem, hitting .314/.375/.486 in 9 games, before going down with injury. A very athletic player with a high upside, but there’s still quite a range of possible outcomes.
8. Taylor Ward 3B (24)
Stats:.349/.446/.531, 14 HR, 18 SB, 65 walks in 102 AA/AAA games; .178/.245/.333, 6 HR, 9 walks and 45 strikeouts in 40 MLB games.
Ranking Trends: average 8, median 9, range 5-10 (with three not ranked due to loss of rookie status).
Comments:: Angels minor league player of the year? While a dozen or more prospects have higher upside, Ward might have had the best year of any Angel minor leaguer. He struggled at the major league level but deserves the benefit of the doubt. Unlikely to be a star, he could be a solid performer at 3B.
9. Patrick Sandoval RHP (21)
Stats:2.43 ERA, 29 walks and 145 strikeouts in 122.1 A/A+/AA games, including a 0.79 ERA in 7 starts in the Angels organization.
Ranking Trends: average 9.1, median 9, range 5-14.
Comments: Acquired for Martin Maldonado, Sandoval is a very welcome addition to the farm system. Most seem to think he is a future back-end of the rotation starter, but the numbers alone speak of mid-rotation potential.
10. Matt Thaiss 1B (23)
Stats:.280/.335/.467, 16 HR, 44 walks in 125 games in AA/AAA.
Ranking Trends: average 10, median 10, range 5-12.
Comments: Thaiss continues to improve incrementally, although perhaps not quickly enough to get excited about. The jury is still out on his future, whether he’ll be an above average performer or more of a fringe starter/platoon player.
11. Jeremiah Jackson SS (18)
Stats: .254/.314/.491, 7 HR, 10 SB, 15 walks and 59 strikeouts in 43 Rookie games.
Ranking Trends: average 10.1, median 11, range 5-16.
Comments: Jackson showed a lot of game, albeit in flashes of streaky brilliance. After crushing AZL pitching (.317/.374/.598 in 21 games) he really struggled in Orem (.198/.260/.396 in 22 games), so it remains to be seen whether the Angels push him and start him in A ball or send him to extended spring until the short season starts in Orem.
12. D’Shawn Knowles OF (17)
Stats: .311/./391/.464, in 5 HR, 9 SB, 28 walks and 65 strikeouts in 58 Rookie games.
Ranking Trends: average 12, median 12, range 9-16.
Comments: Knowles was considered second Bahamanian fiddle to Trent Deveaux before the season began, but vastly outperformed Deveaux in their first professional showing. He may not have the pure athletic tools of Deveaux or Adams, but there is a sense of him having that x-factor of make-up. Like Rengifo he seems to be more than the sum of his parts, but also like Rengifo it is hard to say how that will translate at the major league level. He’s got a lot of time.
13. Kevin Maitan 3B/SS (18)
Stats: .248/.306/.397, 8 HR, 19 walks and 66 strikeouts, and 32 errors (!) in 63 Rookie games.
Ranking Trends: average 12.1, median 13, range 4-16.
Comments: That range of rankings tells it all about Maitan: He could turn out to be Miguel Cabrera or he could flounder in the low minors and be out of professional baseball in a few years. Perhaps it is time to let go of such comparisons as Miggy and give Maitan the kindness of a tabula rasa of expectations; if you look only at his stat line, you might think “Not bad for an 18-year old in high Rookie ball.” Let’s see how he develops.
14. Jose Soriano RHP (19)
Stats: 4.47 ERA, 23 walks and 35 strikeouts in 46.1 IP at A ball.
Ranking Trends: average 14.8, median 15, range 12-18.
Comments: One of the higher upside pitchers in the system, Soriano flashed excellent stuff but with only mediocre results. A good breakout candidate in 2019.
15. Chris Rodriguez RHP (19)
Stats: Did not play.
Ranking Trends: average 16.1, median 14, range 13-24.
Comments: Did not play due to a back injury. Expectations should be adjusted accordingly, but he’s a similar prospect to Soriano in terms of high ceiling, very low floor.
16. Michael Hermosillo OF (23)
Stats: .267/.357/.480, 12 HR and 10 SB in 68 AAA games; .211/.274/.333 in 62 PA in MLB.
Ranking Trends: average 17.6, median 16, range 13-24.
Comments: A strong defensive player who can field the entire OF, with a bit of pop and speed but mediocre bat. Hermosillo could put it all together in a year or two and be a solid starter, but is the odd-man out in the Angels outfield of the 2020s. At the least, however, he’ll be a very good 4th outfielder.
17. Trent Deveaux OF (18)
Stats: .199/.309/.247, 1 HR and 7 SB in 44 Rookie games.
Ranking Trends: average 17.7, median 18, range 13-27.
Comments: Deveaux looked completely over-matched this year, striking out 68 times in 194 PA. He’s got the talent, but a Jabari-esque batting stance that leaves many scratching their heads. Watch him closely in 2019; he could jump to be in the mix with Adams, or he could continue in the Chevy Clarke School of Prospects.
After Deveaux, there’s a solid drop-off in rankings, with the following players rounding out the top 30:
18. Aaron Hernandez RHP (21)
Stats: Did not play pro ball.
Ranking Trends: average 20.3, median 19, range 12-20+ (one unranked).
Comments: There’s a lot to be excited about with the Angels’ third pick of the 2018 amateur draft; has a good chance of rising quickly up these rankings.
19. Ty Buttrey RHP (25)
Stats: 3.31 ERA, 16.1 IP, 5 walks and 20 strikeouts in 16 MLB games.
Ranking Trends: average 21.2, median 22, range 11-29.
Comments: A savvy pickup in the Ian Kinsler trade, some are considering Buttrey to be the closer of the future; at the least, he’s a central piece of the Angels bullpen going forward.
20. Jared Walsh OF/1B/LHP (24)
Stats: .277/.359/.536, 29 HR, 99 RBI in 128 games in A+/AA/AAA. 1.59 ERA, 5.2 IP, 2 walks and 7 strikeouts in 8 games in A+/AA/AAA.
Ranking Trends: average 21.3, median 21, range 11-27+ (one unranked).
Comments: A bit under the radar, Walsh has been a steady performer throughout his four-year minor league career, compiling a .294/.360/.496 line in 360 games. Definitely in the mix for 1B/RF in 2019.
21. Jose Miguel Fernandez, IF (30)
Stats: .267/.309/.388, 2 HR in 36 games for the Angels. .333/.396/.535, 17 HR in 91 games in AAA.
Ranking Trends: average 21.3, median 19, range 14-22+ (two unranked).
Comments: Held his own in 123 PA in the majors, although without the sexy high average and power numbers he put up in the minor leagues. Should at least be a solid bench piece.
22. Livan Soto SS (18)
Stats: .291/.385/.349, 0 HR, 9 SB in 44 games in Rookie ball.
Ranking Trends: average 22.7, median 23, range 15-26+ (one honorable mention).
Comments:As with Knowles-Deveaux and Jackson-Adams, the less heralded of the two former Braves prospects had the better year, but in this case AngelsWin writers still ranked Maitan higher, perhaps due to Soto’s utter lack of power (so far) and Maitan’s considerable upside. But Soto is a very nice prospect who should rise up the rankings as he works his way through the organization. Gotta love that OBP.
23. Orlando Martinez OF (20)
Stats: .305/.354/.432, 5 HR in 65 games in Rookie/A ball.
Ranking Trends: average 23.1edian 23, range 19-25.
Comments: Notice the tight ranking range. Hit .375/.415/.604 in 12 games in Rookie ball but came down to earth in A, hitting .289/.340/.394. A Brennan Lund-type prospect.
24. Alex Ramirez OF (15)
Stats: Did not play professional ball.
Ranking Trends: average 23.2, median 21, range 17-26+ (two unranked).
Comments: Very young, just turned 16 in August. Another toolsy outfielder to be intrigued by.
25. Jack Kruger C (23)
Stats: .299/.357/.413 with 7 HR in 97 games in A+/AA.
Ranking Trends: average 25.1, median 25, range 16-25+ (one honorable mention, two unranked).
Comments: Became a sleeper prospect and favorite in prospect discussions, perhaps because the Angels are so weak at the position. Could be a future platoon catcher.
26. Leonardo Rivas SS/2B (20)
Stats: .234/.354/.333, 5 HR and 16 SB, in 121 games in A ball (2 in Rookie).
Ranking Trends: average 26.7, median 27, range 22-28+ (one honorable mention, two unranked).
Comments: Really struggled in Burlington after hitting .286/.443/.396 in 2017, and has been surpassed by players like Rengifo and Soto on the middle infield depth chart. Still might have a place as a major league utility infielder.
27. Luis Pena RHP (22)
Stats: 5.03 ERA, 57 walks and 101 strikeouts in 105.2 IP in AA/AAA.
Ranking Trends: average 27.8, median honorable mention, range 15-27+ (two honorable mentions, three unranked).
Comments: A pitcher whose ERA doesn’t reflect his stuff, which is very good. Should at least have a future as a major league reliever, possibly back-end rotation starter.
28. Jesus Castillo RHP (22)
Stats: 4.94 ERA, 31 walks and 60 strikeouts in 98.1 IP in AA.
Ranking Trends: average 28.3, median 30, range 21-30+ two honorable mentions, one unranked).
Comments: His stock fell due to a mediocre year and possible decreased velocity. Could still be a #5 starter or swingman.
29. Kyle Bradish RHP (21)
Stats: Did not play professional ball.
Ranking Trends: average 28.4, median 28, range 22-28+ (three unranked).
Comments: Fourth pick in the draft, with good upside and should have a quick path to the majors.
30. William English OF/RHP (17)
Stats: .220/.325/.260 in 30 games in Rookie ball.
Ranking Trends: average 28.8, median 29, range 22-30+ (two unranked).
Comments: Not a pretty stat line, but there’s a lot to like here: a very athletic outfielder who can also pitch.
Honorable Mentions: Jason Alexander, Stiward Aquino, Jeremy Beasley, Denny Brady, Ryan Clark, Julio de la Cruz, Francisco Del Valle, Joe Gatto, Jenrry Gonzalez, Emilker Guzman, Brett Hanewich, Williams Jerez, Julian Leon, Conor Lillis-White, Brennan Lund, David MacKinnon, Luis Madero, Simon Mathews, Christopher Molina, Oliver Ortega, Mayky Perez, Daniel Procopio, Jeremy Rhoades, Jerryell Rivera, Jose Rojas, Brandon Sandoval, Tyler Stevens, John Swanda, Julian Tavarez, Raider Uceta, Andrew Wantz, Bo Way, Cam Williams, Nonie Williams, Hector Yan.
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By Robert Cunningham, Angelswin.com Senior Writer
Author’s Note: The author does not have full access to complete team financial data so the numbers contained in this series represent either actual, published contractual details or best estimates. Great effort was made to provide factual evidence and details using reliable sources such as BaseballProspectus.com, Baseball-Reference.com, MLBTraderumors.com, BaseballSavant.com, MLB.com, FanGraphs.com, RosterResource.com, Brooksbaseball.net, StatCorner.com, LATimes.com, OCRegister.com (specifically Jeff Fletcher), and Spotrac.com among others.
History tends to repeat itself and unfortunately, despite the organizations best efforts to put a contending team on the field in 2018, the Angels fell short of their goal to enter the post-season once again.
If this is a familiar refrain or you think you are having a case of deja vous, you are not alone. We, at Angelswin.com, have been making the same opening statement to this annual series for the last few seasons with nearly similar results.
Insanity I tell you! Insanity!
But here we are, again, entering the 2018-2019 off-season with the hope that Arte Moreno and Billy Eppler can apply team resources to create a contender now and beyond.
This Primer Series will once again attempt to give Angelswin.com readers insight and knowledge into what is to come by examining and understanding the Angels goals, restrictions, and short and long term needs, based on actual production in recent seasons and what the free agent and trade markets have to offer in the present.
First of all the primary goal, as it is each and every year, is to put the highest-caliber team on the field of play to secure and bring home a World Series Championship. This key objective is the “parent” of every other goal, restriction, and need that Billy Eppler must address in preparation for Opening Day 2019.
As we discussed last year, one all-encompassing goal, restriction, and need is superstar Mike Trout.
You want to win while you have him on your roster which means you need to compete over his current, remaining two years of contractual control (2019-2020) irrespective of Mike potentially signing a career-long extension contract.
It is also a serious restriction because it drives a large portion of front office decision making into a well-defined window. This does not mean that Eppler and the front office do not have a long-term outlook or plan, it is just acknowledging the fact that the Angels best opportunity to win games and get to the playoffs likely resides in the next two seasons.
Finally it is a need in the sense that Trout is a driving factor for Billy to acquire competent players to surround him with over that period of time which has the dual purpose of giving him a reason to sign an extension and stay with the only team he has known to-date. This extension topic will be discussed further in the Center Field section of the Primer Series.
Beyond the goals of winning a World Series Championship and building the team around Mike Trout, the Angels must manage team payroll, follow the rules of the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA), build and manage the front office and coaching staff, continue to construct a top-tier Minor League farm system, and fill several positional needs around the diamond.
This is made all the more difficult by the retirement of long-time Angels Manager Mike Scioscia. In many ways this was not an unexpected outcome. Mike has been at the helm for nearly 19 years and it was only a matter of time before he hung up his secondary spikes. However, if Scioscia gets his way, he may find a way to stay in the dugout.
Despite what you may or may not think of Mike, he was a competent manager and on-field tactician with a very thorough understanding of the MLB rule book. Above all else Scioscia was always the safe port in the storm with about as even a keel, personality-wise, as you can find in baseball.
Brad Ausmus, Eppler’s choice for the next Angels manager, will be challenged to lead this team now and beyond while navigating the daily waters as deftly as Scioscia did. It is not impossible to replace Mike but Ausmus does have a large pair of shoes to fill. The good news is that he has the support of the General Manager and they have proven they can work together over the last year as Billy reconstructs a roster that has lost some key pieces to free agency this season.
The Angels have parted ways with their short-time, free agent, players like Martin Maldonado and Ian Kinsler, freeing up nearly $15M in payroll while bringing in two potential bullpen pieces for 2019 (Buttrey and Jerez) and a potential starter for 2020 and beyond (Sandoval). Additionally, Garrett Richards $7.3M salary comes off the books as well as Blake Wood and Chris Young, liberating another $10M or so.
As we mentioned last season, Arte Moreno may choose to strike, monetarily, in the 2019-2020 window. Free agency is fertile this off-season and the trade market may have some interesting targets for the Angels to acquire.
Really at this point we at Angelswin.com will be surprised if Moreno and Eppler do not get aggressive in some form or fashion soon. Clearly a Mike Trout extension is a real possibility, likely closer to the beginning of the 2019 season, which will be huge if it happens. However, it will take more roster building than that to be successful now and beyond.
This year the Competitive Balance Tax (CBT, also known as the Luxury Tax threshold) line is $206M. Next year in 2020 it will rise slightly to $208M. The following season it will be $210M.
As discussed in last year’s Primer Series, two-time offenders (meaning teams that exceed the Luxury Tax threshold two years in a row) that do not exceed the CBT threshold by more than $40M, pay a milder outlay of cash in comparison to teams that exceed $40M or go three or more years over the CBT line (third-time offenders).
For reference here is the relevant excerpt of the 2017-2021 CBA, Article XXIII, B., (4), b., ii., that shows specific surcharge gates at $20M and $40M:
It seems logical that Moreno would not become a third-time offender nor exceed the CBT threshold by more than $40M, due to the significantly higher tax rates. If he did either of those he may, quite literally, not be able to buy the proverbial yacht fuel Angels fans joke about so much.
Thus the two-year window of Mike Trout (barring a career-long extension) and the potential, two-time CBT violator window could align beginning this year. Let us not forget that Arte is not getting any younger (sorry Mr. Moreno if it is any consolation none of us are getting any younger) and winning a World Series Championship is almost certainly high on his to-do list (as it has been since he purchased the team).
So if there was ever a time to push all the chips in, it would be this two-year window. This in turn may mean that Moreno will authorize Eppler to exceed the Luxury Tax in the off-season or by the trade deadline at the end of July 2019 to give Billy maximum flexibility to build and improve the roster.
The proof, of course, will be in the pudding. If it does happen they could go big and hand out a large mega-signing for someone like Manny Machado or Bryce Harper with opt-outs after 2019 and 2020 (essentially a one or two year high-paid rental) or trade for another superstar like Nolan Arenado or Jacob deGrom now or at the Trade Deadline.
Alternatively, in the overspend scenario, the Angels could spread the money out to multiple players and possibly use significant performance bonuses or short-term, high salary deals as contractual instruments to bring in blue-chip talent if Moreno puts his blessing on it.
No matter what decision is made regarding how much payroll the Halos will add, prior to the start of 2019, one thing seems quite certain: the Angels will be improved, yet again, on Opening Day. Billy Eppler, despite his limited, yet developing supply of prospects, will have marketable assets and a considerable amount of payroll space to apply in trade(s) and free agency.
For the purposes of this series, though, we will assume that Arte Moreno does not allow his GM to exceed the Luxury Tax to start the year. This means we will operate under the presumption that team payroll, in terms of AAV, will not go over the 2019 CBT threshold of $206M. The result is that the Angels will likely spend no more than $190M-$195M, give or take, in actual payroll to start the season. Essentially this means the Angels have approximately $30M to spend.
The reason for that is the team needs to maintain payroll margin in order to make potential trades in-season or before the July 31st deadline to reinforce or upgrade their roster. Keeping a few million in reserve maintains payroll and roster flexibility and is a common business practice that Billy Eppler may, or may not, follow based on acquisition opportunities, team performance, and/or firm instructions and concurrence from Moreno regarding payroll expenditures and permission to exceed the CBT threshold.
Beyond payroll, another very important goal is the continuing growth and development of the Angels Minor League farm system.
The Angels had an average draft in 2015, an above average one in 2016, followed by a top-heavy draft in 2017, and another solid one in 2018. Names like Jo Adell, Brandon Marsh, Griffin Canning, Jahmai Jones, Jose Suarez, Taylor Ward, Jordyn Adams, Jeremiah Jackson, Matt Thaiss, and Chris Rodriguez are just some of the names Halos fans should keep an eye on in the coming years. Some of them will form the core of the next great Angels team in 2020 and beyond!
Part of this more recent success has to do not only with better overall draft picks but the strong efforts of Billy Eppler, scouting director Matt Swanson, and the tireless work of the Angels cross-checkers and scouts around the country. The organization has focused on finding and molding raw, athletic players and it has started to pay off.
Additionally, the Halos continue to dip into the international market. This year they signed 16-year old Dominican outfield prospect Alexander Ramirez for a cool $1M signing bonus. Also, recently, per Angels reporter Taylor Blake Ward, they inked Dominican RHP Danifan Diaz too. It feels like the front office has turned a real corner and fans should expect to hear of other, albeit less notable, international signings heading into the off-season.
In addition to the farm system improvements, Eppler has expertly acquired multiple players via trades and use of the waiver wire. Names like Ty Buttrey, Luis Rengifo, Kevin Maitan, Noe Ramirez, Taylor Cole, Felix Pena, Williams Jerez, Hansel Robles, and Patrick Sandoval are some of the names that did not start in our farm system but were targeted by scouts and the analytics department for their potential and they are now beginning to shine on the field in the Majors and the Angels Minor League affiliates. Some may pan out and others may falter but the organization certainly has an eye for raw talent that cannot be denied.
Yet another goal Billy must address are the positional holes to fill around the diamond, including a primary and backup C, potentially a platoon 1B, a 2B or 3B, based on what they do with Zack Cozart, and possibly a DH. The team also needs to improve offensive production against left-handed pitching and develop or acquire a real lead-off hitter. Also the rotation is unsettled, especially at the top with Ohtani out for next season on the mound, so finding a quality, reliable starter is critical. The bullpen was a bit of a mess in 2018 so adding one or more relievers, particularly with options, to the mix would produce more viable options for next season.
As he tried to do in 2018, Billy will also need to build sufficient depth behind the 25-man roster, particularly in position player and rotation depth. It would not be surprising to see Eppler expertly work the waiver wire, again, to supplement next years squad. In particular, the Rule 5 Draft, this off-season, is potentially fruitful and may have a target or two Eppler might snag to supplement the bench or more likely the bullpen.
Without a doubt there are many challenges here for Billy and the front office to handle. Eppler will have to use his talented scouting system to identify the targets they need and want to acquire and either spend the cash and/or the farm system assets needed to obtain them. Along with that, the Angels farm system took some large strides forward in 2018 and once Eppler is done with the off-season, the team should be truly competitive with greater depth than in previous seasons.
The future success of the franchise is being set no matter whether the Angels retain Mike Trout or he departs during or after the 2020 season. These incremental steps laid by Billy Eppler yesterday, today, and tomorrow should put this organization back on the path to regular, yearly contention over the next several years.
In the next Section we will discuss the teams Finances heading into the off-season.
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By Rob MacDonald, AngelsWin.com Contributor
We learned that Doug White, the Astros bullpen coach in 2018, will replace Charles Nagy as pitching coach on Brad Ausmus staff. I had mixed emotions about the news. I liked Nagy’s knack for rehabilitating pitchers that other teams gave up on and I really liked the fact that a visit to the mound wasn’t going to pour gas on the fire like in the Butcher era. Besides the note from Jeff Fletcher that Doug White may be a surf bro’ of Ausmus, a possible reason given for his selection was to find a way to keep the staff healthy.
LA Times’ Maria Torres tweeted about White’s expertise in Z-Health. Per bengreenfitness.com, Z-Health is a training method that strengthens the nervous system through efficient movement patterns which in turn maximizes the body’s efficiency. My optimism on White’s selection was the fact that he was coming from the Astros organization.
For the past four years, I was an assistant coach at Catalina High School (Tucson, AZ), where my son played. Our program made arm health a priority using a mix of the Driveline’s weighted baseball and Jaeger Sports J band and long toss programs to protect our players’ arms.
In 2017, Ben Fife joined the Catalina coaching staff and gave our program something invaluable, access to a major league resource from the Astros organization. Catalina baseball benefited from the insights and approaches taken by the Astros and it was an education for all the coaches. (For the record, Ben did not have time to ask permission and out of respect for that friendship, I am not including the name of his friend in the Astros organization.)
The Astros resource is someone well versed in their pitching philosophy. Based on the tips shared with Ben over the past two years, I think I can provide some insights on what Doug White may bring to the Angels in 2019. First there will likely be an increased focus on mechanics. The Z-Health method will likely be used to help pitchers maintain control of their body throughout their delivery. I expect a renewed focus on core strength and flexibility in support of that goal. Another clue this may happen comes from Brandon Sneed’s article “How Kate Upton Saved Justin Verlander’s Career.” Beside the relationship between Verlander and Upton, the article covers how Justin Verlander regained his flexibility to use his whole body correctly. The adjustments he made reduced the strain on his shoulder allowing Verlander to regain his form – damn it. We were advised to use short, twenty pitch bullpens that focus just on mechanics. Points of emphasis we received were hand separation, alignment, and using full arm rotation in the delivery. Separate bullpen sessions focused on pitch control and spin rate. The Astros are big on maximizing spin rate to add movement to pitches. Good movement on pitches reduces the need to go maximum effort on every pitch while still getting swings and misses. Fewer max effort pitches will likely prolong the life span of the UCL. Our use of the Driveline program was encouraged and Ben was told to track pitch movement and speed in the bullpens to ensure the program was effective.
The tips received from our source, helped Catalina to a 24-6 record. We made a run in the state championship tournament losing to the eventual champion. Most important, all of our players made it through the season without arm issues. With any luck, Doug White will be able to keep the Angels staff healthy and all the noise about Mike Trout not being the playoffs will go away.
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Point/Counterpoint – Handicapping the Next Angels’ Manager
By Nate Trop and Glen McKee, Unprofessional Gamblers
For the first time since before I (Glen) started shaving my head, the Angels are looking for a new manager. That’s a long time. Think about it: when Scioscia became manager of the Angels, Bill Clinton was still in office. Y2K was still a thing. Pamela and Tommy divorced. “South Park: Bigger, Longer, Uncut” was released. You get the picture. Now, the Angels have to find a new manager, and next season I’ll finally get my wish of having somebody else to be angry at after the Angels lose. As I mentioned somewhere on the board earlier, it will probably be somebody I’ll have to google as soon as he is announced because I’ll have no idea who he is. However, that won’t stop Nate and Me from handicapping the odds of who will be at the helm as we head into the second-to-last season of the Pujols decade.
Eric Chavez: (+250 trips to the DL) Billy Eppler made him a favorite (not the favorite, a favorite) by giving him a big promotion near the end of this season, shortly after it was hinted that Scioscia would be stepping down (aka not getting a contract offer after his current contract expired). His history with the DL should give him an edge with the Angels, who have more time on the DL than, well, somebody who really likes to keep things on the DL.
Dino Ebel (+200 windmills) Dino is not a favorite as Eppler has indicated he is looking outside the organization, but we wanted to take a moment to appreciate Ebel’s years of fluid arm movements, as it appears he will not be back. Godspeed, and take care of that rotator cuff.
Josh Paul (+FU Eddings) There would be some slight irony if Josh was to take the reins.
Brad Ausmus (-100 mehs) Possibly the safest choice. There isn’t much exciting about him, and he’s named “Brad.” He prefers to go by “B-Rad” because “Brad” is his slave name.
Mickey Hatcher (+500 false walks) Don’t sleep on the chances of the Joe Biden of Scioscia’s coaching teams to take the helm. Ah, go ahead and sleep. We could all use some more sleep and the jokester supreme won’t take over.
“Sike Mcioscia” (+??) We only have one picture of this mysterious candidate:
Albert Pujols (+374 GIDPs) Some people have posited the idea, hopefully jokingly, of Pujols being a player/manager with the overwhelming emphasis on “manager.” To quote George Carlin: “Some people are really Facking stupid.” We like Pujols as a person. As a player, well…you know.
Juan Rivera (+50 bat sniffs) Hey, he needs a job. (Glen) I don’t know about you guys, but I sorta miss him. Maybe we could make him co-manager along with Yunel Escobar. That would be a dugout worth watching.
Erick Aybar (-25 IQ points) His on-the-field career is over, and he would be even better in the dugout that the Rivera/Escobar tandem. Hide your hotdog buns, we have a manager that will keep things loose and fun!
Joe Espada (+1000 reality) Joe has emerged as the current favorite, which means absolutely nothing. However, he checks a lot of boxes (which sounds like a crude job description of a gynecologist) (sorry, to the handful of women two women random woman that reads this): outside the organization, comes from a winning team, brown, has a lot of vowels in his name…dude has it all.
Terry Collins (+100 NOOOOO!) He is available, has Angels connections, and almost certainly would be a trainwreck, which is exactly why he will get the job.
Old Hoss Radbourn (+1 great nicknames) This guy has a great nickname, and whoever runs his Twitter account is brilliant. He is also dead, but you can’t get any worse than Scioscia.
Joe Girardi (+more lasagna) He is italian, a former catcher, and an old school type of manager. Where have I heard that before? This would probably be my worst nightmare.
Angelswin.com (+162 sick lineups) What could possibly go wrong with the board managing the team? Man, imagine the fights every single day.
Danny Glover (+1 Tony Danza) Only mentioned because of the movie I won’t name, but imagine him after every loss doing the facepalm and saying “I’m getting too old for this shit.” That would make the losses at least a bit more tolerable.
I’m sure there are more on Eppler’s list that we haven’t covered, but really…
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Mike Scioscia stepped down as manager after spending 19 seasons with the Angels Sunday at the conclusion of game-162 in walk-off fashion.
Scioscia’s managerial record is: 1,650 – 1428)and he’s one of five managers all-time to lead a team for 19+ consecutive years. His 19 seasons with the Angels make him the longest tenured manager in the Majors. Fifth all-time in games managed with one franchise (3,078). Owns a (.536 winning .pct) and his 1,650 wins rank 18th all-time and are second most (Walter Alston – 2040) by a manager with one team. Scioscia was the only Angels manager to make seven playoff appearances (previous best was two) which ranks tied for 12th all-time. Sosh was the only Angels manager to win six division titles, and has won 21 career playoff games including the 2002 World Series.
12 of his 19 teams have finished .500 and above. His .536 winning percentage is the best in club history and is one of six managers all-time to win 1,500 games with one team. Mike Scioscia is also Two-time BBWAA A.L. Manager of the Year (2002 and 2009).
Here’s what former players, colleagues and the Angels current owner had to say about the Angels greatest manager in the history of the organization.
“The dedication and commitment Mike Scioscia has given Angels Baseball over the last 19 years greatly contributed to our evolution into an elite Organization. Mike’s tenure as Manager of the Angels includes six division titles, a pennant, and a World Championship that transformed this franchise, and its perception on both local and national levels. We will always be grateful and proud that the Angels played a part in his Hall of Fame career.
On behalf of the entire Angels Organization, we want to express our gratitude to Mike for his time and devotion as our Manager. We wish Mike, his wife Anne, and children Taylor and Matt the very best; you will always be a part of the Angels Family.
– Arte Moreno, Los Angeles Angels Owner
“As I said in my Angels Hall of Fame speech, Mike changed the culture of the Angels. We went from thinking we could win to knowing we could win. Every spring he talked only once of winning the World Series. He then then turned to using the analogy of taking one step on a ladder to reach our goal. The first season he took over was the most mentally fatiguing season I’ve ever had because I bought into our two biggest thieves were yesterday and tomorrow. He taught me how to prepare for that day to win a major league game.”
– Garret Anderson, Angels Hall of Famer
“Mike Scioscia impacted my career is ways I’m forever grateful for. He brought leadership, vision, and a winning style of play to the teams I was a part of. As the architect of our 2002 World Championship he taught us the importance of “checking your ego in at the door” and playing as a team. I will always remember Sosh’s hilarious morning meetings each spring that were so instrumental in building team chemistry and bonded our teams in ways I had never seen before. His “one day at a time” montra kept his players focus where it needed to be and was the hallmark of the blue collar teams he lead. Sosh’s consistent demeanor and steadiness influenced those around him and brought the Angels organization stability at the helm and their greatest run of success the past 19 seasons. Words of gratitude just don’t seem to be enough for what Mike has meant to us all.”
– Tim Salmon, Angels Hall of Famer
“Mike Scioscia is a true Angel. Mike has dedicated his heart and soul for the last 20 years to making the Angels a first class organization. Over this time, he has become one of the best and most respected managers in the game today. I am forever grateful to Mike Scioscia for giving me the opportunity to start my major league career. He took a chance on me when most experts in the game deemed that I could not play in the big leagues. I consider myself fortunate to have had the opportunity to play for him, learn from him and win with him. I am blessed to call Mike Scioscia a mentor and friend, and the game still has a lot to learn from him. “
– David Eckstein, Member of Angels 2002 World Series Champions
“I had the pleasure to work alongside Mike since his arrival in 2000 until 2011. I simply believe that Mike is one of the brightest baseball minds in the history of the Angels Organization. His passion and commitment to the finest details of his craft are evident in his performance throughout his 19 years in the Angels dugout. From the memorable Spring Training morning meetings and our late night conversations following Angels ballgames to a 2002 World Championship, Mike was the consummate professional. His personal accomplishments never outweighed his desire to compete and win. I was his baseball conscience and he was mine. I wish nothing but the best to Anne, Matt and Taylor. Much success in the next chapter.”
– Tony Reagins, former Angels General Manager
“In the year 2000, the Angels brought on board and welcomed a former “Dodger” …Mike Scioscia as our new manager. Little did we know how the trajectory and the path of the organization would change for the better with his hiring. I have had the opportunity to ‘compete against’ as a player….’play for’…’coach with’… and ‘coach against’ Mike. He defines everything a ‘Champion’ represents. Mike changed the expectations of our organization….brought out the best in all of us…AND no longer did we hope to win BUT we were going to win.
As a player for him; he challenged me, pushed me to new limits and introduced me to a new approach….”Play Free.” He was a World Series champion as a player, so Mike brought instant credibility into our dugout. As a coach on his staff; he showed me how important preparation, conviction, passion, and boldness were in the dugout. Those days when we were not playing well…Mike was always at his best….calm, determined and adamant that we would turn things around. As a coach against him; he forced you to be more prepared than ever. Ready for anything. You never knew what he was going to do next. If your team did not play sound, fundamental baseball then Mike would expose it and capitalize on it.
Mike came into the Angels organization at a time when we had a difficult time reaching the next level. His leadership, knowledge, work ethic, and confidence helped pushed the organization to new heights. Those flags you see out there …flying beyond the centerfield wall say it all…..and….speak volumes about what Mike Scioscia meant to the Angels organization.
Much love and Thanks Mike !”
– Gary DiSarcina, former Angels Infielder & Coach
“I’ve known Mike a long, long time. First as a person I competed against, and then as person I learned so much from. First and foremost, I have the utmost respect for him as a husband and father. His upbringing set the foundation for him treating all of us as his family. His leadership skills and intelligence were the best I’ve seen as a manager since the late Dick Howser in my opinion. I wouldn’t play poker with him because I never knew if we were up by 10 or down by 10. I cherish our friendship. His sense of humor was highly underrated. I conclude by saying to me, he is a Hall of Famer in the baseball world and off the field also.”
– Mark Gubicza, former Major League Pitcher & current Angels Broadcaster
“I first met Mike Scioscia when I was broadcasting for ESPN in the early 90’s. It was a game at Dodger Stadium and Mike was catching Orel Hershiser that night. I asked Mike if he had a few minutes before BP to discuss his catching philosophy along with his game plan for Hershiser that night. We must have sat in the dugout for fifteen minutes as Mike went on about growing up in Philly, then who helped him along the way, from John Roseboro, to Roy Campanella, to Del Crandell. He gave me a scouting report on not only Orel but each Dodgers pitcher. It was awesome. I must have used everything he gave me that night on the air. A decade later, I would truly get to know Mike when he took over the Angels and led them to their first World Championship. He was a natural leader, a man who not only challenged every player but inspired them to be their best. And that 2002 team became the best. From Eck, to Ersty, to GA to Percy, to Tim Salmon, they were a reflection of their manager. No one cared who got the credit. They just wanted to win. And when the team struggled, Sosh gave them a pat on the back, when they got on a roll, he told them they could do better, and when a member of the media went after one of his players after they made a mistake, Sosh had this unique ability to twist the conversation in some self-deprecating way that had the media laughing and the players mistake somehow forgotten. I’ll always remember the look on his face when Ersty caught the final out to win the championship. It was a look of pride, and not for himself, as he searched for coaches and players and trainers and clubhouse guys to hug. Great managers are people who share their success and believe that incredible things can happen when no one cares who gets the credit. Sosh is one of those guys. He’s the very definition of what we want in our leaders. Integrity, trust, toughness. Mike Scioscia is a good man, good son, good father, good husband, good friend. It was my honor to broadcast games he managed. Blessings always,”
– Steve Physioc, former Angels Broadcaster
“I don’t know that I can fully explain what Mike Scioscia has meant to me personally over the last 9 seasons but I’ll certainly try. From the moment I went out to dinner with Arte, Mike and his coaching staff in March of 2010, he has been nothing but the most accommodating person on a daily basis. Maybe it was the connection to Philadelphia through my dad but whatever the case, he made me feel like I mattered every time we talked. And it wasn’t just with me, he made every member of my family feel as if they were the most important person in the room when he visited with them. He was never in a hurry and always took the time to chat about the previous night’s game, his Eagles/Flyers/Sixers and/or everyday happenings in and around the ballpark. I wish more fans had a chance to see this side of Mike. He’s a man of integrity whose loyalty you never questioned. They broke the mold with Mike Scioscia. Tough as nails competitor that wanted to beat you every single night and it carried over into the dugout as manager. What a run…Hall of Fame husband, father and manager. Our loss is the Scioscia family’s gain. Be well, Skip!”
– Victor Rojas, Angels Broadcaster
“Mike encouraged the players to have an aggressive, team-first style of play. His positive attitude enabled the players to focus on the job to be done today regardless of what may have happened yesterday.”
– Bill Stoneman, former Angels General Manager
“In the nearly two decades that I have known Mike Scioscia, the trait that has most impressed me about him is his character. His integrity, honesty and kindness are things I admire in someone I will always consider a dear friend. Professionally, Mike has distinguished himself in baseball as both a player and manager. In his tenure as manager of the Angels, he guided the franchise to heights it had never previously attained. Mike is an integral part of the Golden Years of Angels baseball. He is a Hall-of-Famer in his profession, but most importantly as a person.”
– Terry Smith, Angels Broadcaster
“Sosh is someone that I would want to study under if I was to become a manager one day. I watched him think outside the box on so many different occasions in the clubhouse and on the field. He didn’t care about the scrutiny and the aftermath that came with his decisions. It was the one he felt he had to make at that crucial moment. That’s what true leaders do for everyone he/she is leading. I’m proud to have spent 5 years playing for him. I’ve learned so much in the years I played for him.”
– Torii Hunter, former Angels Outfielder
“Mike was essential in my success and longevity as a MLB player. His ability to show he believed in me on a daily basis as well as teach me tough lessons along the way made it possible for me as a player to fit in and help his team and my future teams moving forward. No matter what point in the game, whether it was offense or defense, you knew you could look in the dugout and have his confidence and support that we would get the job done. His strong presence in the clubhouse as our leader gave us added confidence. Mike created a new buzz in and around Anaheim with his team’s style of play that the fan base will forever appreciate.”
– Adam Kennedy, former Angels Infielder
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Hall of Famer and MLB Network analyst Jim Thome broke down Shohei Ohtani’s swing last night during a MLB Tonight live look-in of his eighth inning home run. Ohtani’s blast proved to be the game winner in last night’s 3-2 Angels victory against the Texas Rangers.
In the clip (below), Thome said, “Ohtani’s kind of got his hands up, watch the front foot get down quick, so there is a little bit of pause there. When you pause and you get your front foot down quick you become an arm and hands hitter. If you get the front foot down and there’s pause one, pause two then you become an arm and hands hitter, it’s a two part [swing]. But, if the front foot hits and then boom, pause and you swing, then that’s where you gain most of your power because it’s a fluid [motion].”
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All eyes have been on Angels rookie sensation Shohei Ohtani this season, and he continues to amaze, both on and off the diamond.
Ohtani continues to crush home runs, and he’s been doing this with UCL damage, which will cause him to undergo Tommy John Surgery in the offseason. Most players would have called it quits during that time, but not Ohtani, who continues to amaze.
Speaking of amazing, you need to see this video of him signing “Despacito” on the team bus, which his teammates talked him into doing as rookie hazing.
That’s a heck of a lot better than dressing up in some eccentric outfit, as many teams have rookies do.
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We all love it when there’s an opportunity to use the #PitchersWhoRake hashtag, but Los Angeles Angels two-way player Shohei Ohtani has brought a whole other meaning to it during the 2018 season.
Sure, he’s only appeared as a pitcher once since the beginning of June and is now potentially facing a long road back to the mound via Tommy John surgery, but that hasn’t stopped him from raking at the plate. He showed us the kind of focus he has on the day it was announced he may need to go under the knife by staying in the lineup and belting two homers a few hours later.
Ohtani’s production on offense has run a little deeper than just this one game, though. He’s been a rousing success overall at the plate — entering Sunday’s action, he’s the proud owner of a .290/.372/.592 triple slash with 19 home runs, and 53 RBI in just 289 plate appearances, which is good for a 161 wRC+.
But the dude’s been on another planet since the start of August.
So if some quick math is done, you can see that just about half of his offensive production for the entire season has happened in the last five weeks. If we include Saturday’s game, he’s actually hit more homers and driven in more runs over his past 90 plate appearances than his first 199.
Mental math is hard for me, so here’s the quick breakdown because I like tables.
Ohtani has even thrown in six stolen bases since the start of August after swiping just two bags in the four months prior for good measure.
It’s a huge bummer that he can’t finish out the year as a two-way player due to his injury, especially when he ends up on lists like these.
What we can enjoy for now, though, is Ohtani the hitter, as he’ll finish the year in that role while deciding exactly how he wants to approach the situation with his throwing arm. For now, let’s just sit back and watch him continue punishing baseballs for the last three weeks of the season.
About Matt Musico
Matt currently manages Chin Music Baseball and contributes to The Sports Daily. His past work has been featured at numberFire, Yahoo! Sports and Bleacher Report. He’s also written a book about how to become a sports blogger. You can sign up for his email newsletter here.
Angels slugger Mike Trout was born and raised in New Jersey, but he’s always been an Eagles fan.
Trout has made it very clear during interviews, and has also been spotted at a few Eagles games.
He apparently attended Thursday’s season-opener at Lincoln Financial Field between the Falcons and Eagles, as he was able to snap a photo holding the Lombardi Trophy. His squad earned it after defeating the Patriots in Super Bowl LII, and Trout reaped the benefits.
Given the mediocrity that surrounds the Angels franchise, that could be the only piece of silverware Trout ever gets to hold, unfortunately.
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By Jonathan Northrop, AngelsWin.com Columnist
I wrote a post several weeks back about Ohtani’s overall upside, positing that as good of a hitter as he is, his pitching upside is just greater. Whereas he could turn into a top 20 hitter, he could be a top 5 pitcher – his stuff is just that good. Of course the problem is volatility. A hitter’s peak value is generally only eroded by chronic injuries, while a pitcher’s entire career can be put into jeopardy by a single injury.
Anyhow, I wanted to talk about Ohtani’s upside as a hitter, inspired by his bomb off Verlander. As of this writing (after the bomb) he’s hitting .276/.353/.542 with a 144 wRC+ and 14 HR in 253 PA. He’s got a 10.3% BB rate and a 28.5% K rate. His BABIP is pretty high at .345, but not so much that we should expect huge regression. In other words, Ohtani has produced close to a .900 OPS, is on pace for 30+ HR over a full season, and his wRC+ would be tied with Manny Machado for 12th best in the majors if he qualified.
In other words, Shohei is already a top 20 hitter in his first season.
One thing that is easy to forget, or at least that I forget, is that he only just turned 24 years old. He’s a few months younger than Taylor Ward and David Fletcher. So while he played in the Japanese majors for a few years, he’s still young enough that he should improve – maybe substantially so. I don’t expect him to become one of the very best hitters in the majors, but he could be close.
What do you see as his offensive upside? Given what we’ve seen so far, how much better can and will he get? Obviously his big issue is hitting left-handers. Compare his splits before tonight:
vs. RHP: .307/.379/.626, 172 wRC+ in 183 PA
vs. LHP: .167/.265/.233, 45 wRC+ in 68 PA
That 172 wRC+ vs RHP is good for 4th in the majors among players with at least 100 PA, behind only JD Martinez, Mike Trout, and Jose Ramirez, and just ahead of Mookie Betts.
That 45 wRC+ vs LHP, on the other hand, is #303 out of 327 batters with 50+ PA vs lefties. Ouch.
He can only get better against left-handers. Let’s say he consolidates against right-handers. All of a sudden his .276/.353/.542 line becomes something like .290/.370/.580, maybe better in peak years. Crazy to think.
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By David Saltzer, AngelsWin.com Senior Writer
In Part 1 of this 2-part series, I’ll discuss some of the complicating factors involved in making a trade. I’ll share some insights into all those involved in the process and how they all work together to make a trade happen or how they can each individually prevent a trade from occurring.
It’s the July trade deadline, and baseball fans are in fever pitch about making trades. On any given day right now, fans are logging millions of visits on sites like MLBTraderumors.com, and posting thousands of trade ideas on sites like AngelsWin.com.
Personally, I like reading Robert Cunningham’s articles for Angels trade ideas, as he does a thorough job analyzing the needs and values of trades from multiple perspectives. His ideas are sound and well-reasoned, and about as logical as any on the internet. They are definitely more thought-provoking than most.
But, for all the other keyboard GMs out there, I thought I’d share some of the insights I’ve gained over the years to show just how complicated it is to make a trade.
So, you want to make a trade? Great! Quick question: how do you do so? If you really think that GM “A” from Team “A” calls up GM “B” from Team “B” and proposes a deal, and gets it done in a single phone call, like in “Moneyball”, then you’ve been duped by Hollywood. Just like no one who lives in Southern California believes that Jack Bauer could drive from West LA to Simi Valley in less than 20 minutes of “real time”, no one I’ve ever talked to within the industry has ever said an MLB team would make a trade of any significance in just 1 phone call and no advance work.
If that’s not how it’s done, then how is it done? To answer that question, you have to really answer two different questions: First, how many individuals/groups within an MLB club need to approve a trade before it gets done? Second, how do you get them all to agree to the trade?
By my count, in talking with many within the industry, before any substantial to quasi-substantial trade happens, there are at least 8 different groups/individuals within every MLB organization who need to approve it. And for many cases, that list can grow to 10 or more groups and individuals. These groups/individuals are: the external scouts (those who watch other organizations), the internal scouts (those who scout their own organization), the analytics team, the director of player development, the MLB team management (field manager and coaches), the medical staff, the financial/contract managers, and the GM. In many cases ownership, and some special advisors to the GM are often very much involved in the decisions.
That’s just for both of the teams involved in the trade! If the player has any limited trade clauses in his contract, add the player and the agent into the mix. The player may have strong preferences as to where he ends up playing, and through his agent, may try to exert some leverage for a contract (such as having an option picked up or not exercised by the team).
So, before any trade actually happens, all of these independent and moving parts have to come together in consensus to make a trade.
Knowing all of this, it’s actually somewhat surprising to see how often trades actually occur throughout the year. Each individual/group plays a substantial and different role in the process, and many trade ideas fall apart because all the groups can’t come to agreement.
I will give you some examples in generality. I will not mention names, teams, etc. You can choose to believe these examples or not, but they are entirely true based on actual discussions that I’ve had with people within the industry.
Many times I’ve talked with people within the industry about certain players that are listed as “available” by fairly reliable sites or reporters. Sometimes, I’ve had scouts tell me “I really like him, but I can’t get the analytics guys to sign off on him.” In that situation, the scouts–the eyes of the game—can’t convince the sabermetrics team (every club has a group dedicated to statistical analysis) to believe that what they are seeing on the field is better than what the numbers are telling them. I’ve heard of many trades killed for players that scouts want because the sabermetrics might say that the player “won’t play as well in our ballpark” or might have some flaw that their analysis found, such as “too much swing and miss in their swing”.
In other cases, I’ve talked with management types who would love to acquire a player but can’t get it done because there is a clause in that player’s contract that the financial people don’t want. The GM may even send one or more scouts to watch that player in every game and will call the scout asking if the player did anything to impress enough to justify the trade. The scout may nix the deal because he’s determined that the proposed player is playing with an “unreported injury,” or “not doing enough to impress him [the scout],” even though the numbers might imply otherwise. And of course, there’s always the possibility that the player’s personality “won’t work in the [new team’s] clubhouse”.
There are times when the team’s manager may be desperate to acquire a player to fill a role on the team, but the internal scouts or player development won’t approve of giving up the talent that it would take to acquire him. This might push a team to making a lesser deal, or even no deal, if the asking prices skyrocket.
Lastly, teams with very involved owners, or owners who have placed firm financial caps on a club has to always get ownership to approve of any deals. That’s not always easy. Trying to convince an owner to go over those limits, or take on a player that ownership doesn’t want, is always tricky. The bigger the move, the more the ownership will be involved in the decision. Even clubs going through a complete rebuild might be reluctant to trade off a key piece if they perceive the player to be an integral part of the team’s marketing.
As for getting all of these individuals and groups to agree, that’s an unbelievable complication that can’t be summarized in any single article. Every trade and non-trade has its own story and nuance. There are so many factors that come into play. Each individual/group involved in the decision has its own interests and goals that may be separate from actual baseball decision. For example, larger market teams are under greater pressure to never do a full rebuild, so even if a team can benefit long-term from a trade, the short-term marketing/financial consequences may prevent the ownership and management from agreeing to it.
Far more trades get into the exploratory phase than ever get reported. Every team is constantly looking for ways to improve on this season and into the future. The amount of information available to organizations is rather staggering, and by the time a trade is completed, has been thoroughly vetted by numerous individuals and groups within an organization. If you, as a fan, are wondering why deals that appear to make obvious sense aren’t getting done, it’s probably because somewhere in the process, one or more parts failed to come together.
So, now that we’ve seen just how many different individuals and groups are involved in making a trade, and how complicated it is to get them all to agree to a trade, in Part 2, I’ll share some insights as to how trades are actually done according to those who have made them.
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By Robert Cunningham, Angelswin.com Senior Writer
Entering the 2018 Trade Deadline the Angels unfortunately have little to offer the buyer market.
Garrett Richards, who would have been a viable piece, is having Tommy John Surgery. Matt Shoemaker would have been a potential target, but he too got injured earlier in the season. Kole Calhoun might have been on the table, but despite his recent performance his value is wildly depressed.
Beyond that group you do have valuable chips such as LHP Tyler Skaggs, LHP Andrew Heaney, RHP Justin Anderson, RHP Cam Bedrosian, SS Andrelton Simmons, CF Mike Trout, SP/DH Shohei Ohtani, and RHP Noe Ramirez, among others.
The problem here is that if you trade any of these players you are creating a hole that must be filled in 2019 and beyond. Some of those holes would be so big (Trout or Ohtani) that you could never fill it in free agency or trade.
Eppler wants the Angels to compete across the remainder of the Mike Trout window of contention and subtracting good players will probably not help the Angels 2019 squad do that, thus trading any of those valuable assets above is likely non-value added to our future.
That leaves a set of probable assets which includes RHP Blake Parker, C Martin Maldonado, LHP Jose Alvarez, and 2B Ian Kinsler. Besides Blake it is a rather uninspiring group in terms of not only value but total performance. Let us look at the probable assets and set some reasonable expectations.
As of the time of this writing, Parker, who just turned 33 years old a month ago, is currently running a K-BB% of 18.8% against LHHs and 21% against RHHs. Beyond the remainder of the 2018 season, he has two years of team arbitration control remaining, making him more attractive to an acquiring team. Blake is making a very reasonable $1.8M this season which means he is still owed approximately $1M for the last half. Because Parker has such good overall splits, his list of suitors could be extensive.
The Cubs, in particular, have not fared well against both sides of the plate. Additionally, the Giants and Athletics could use a dual-way threat like Blake in their bullpen. Finally, the Braves, Diamondbacks, and Cardinals could also be likely suitors. This list certainly is not comprehensive, but it does represent the most likely set of trade partners.
To be clear the Angels could simply choose to retain Blake and it would be one less hole to fill in 2019, particularly in a bullpen that has been inconsistent this season. However, the flip side is that Parker is on the wrong side of 30 and his rising arbitration cost would begin to impact team payroll after this year. If the Angels get a good offer for him, you must think Eppler would consider it.
Top 3 Trade Partners: 1) Cubs, 2) Giants, and 3) Braves
Potential Return: Blake is not a pure rental and has reasonably good cost control at this point in his career and his arbitration prices are likely to be suppressed if a team brings him in to pitch in a non-closer role. Parker could bring back a quality MLB-ready player or a Top-150 prospect in combination with one or two additional prospects of varying quality.
Machete is having another strong defensive season with an accumulated FanGraphs DEF value of 7.5. He is hitting better against RHP (86 wRC+) than LHP (67 wRC+) but his overall career splits are nearly identical. However, his offense is not what he is known for and there are many teams out there that could use him defensively behind the dish and take advantage of his excellent pitch-framing ability. He is making $3.9M in his last year of team control which means he has about $2M left for the last half of this season.
To understand which teams would benefit from a more defensive-oriented catcher like Maldonado we have to take a special deep dive using team catcher defensive values to determine which of them could use his services. In the end the following teams could benefit from Martin’s services including the Rockies, Diamondbacks, Red Sox, Cardinals, Nationals, and Brewers.
Because the Angels have not extended Machete at this point, he is almost certainly going to be traded by the deadline or the end of August waivers. Before that happens though the Jacob Realmuto situation will need to resolve itself and he is likely to be traded to a team with a better farm system which means that the Angels will more likely deal with the remainder of the playoff teams looking for an upgrade.
Top 3 Trade Partners: 1) Red Sox, 2) Cardinals, and 3) Rockies
Potential Return: Maldonado is a pure rental, as he is a free agent after this season. His $2M salary is not cheap but it is manageable for virtually every team in baseball, so it is not a roadblock. Martin will not bring back a truly significant piece, but he could command a good quality relief prospect or one mid-level prospect or two lottery ticket types from the low Minors.
Long an unappreciated lefty-killer, Alvarez has quietly performed since he was acquired in trade with the Tigers for Austin Romine in 2014. Jose currently is making $1.05M in 2018 which means he has about $600K left on his 2018 contract. However, he does have two more years of arbitration control and is only 29 years old, so his controllability will garner some interest.
Jose continues to perform well against left-handed hitters and is currently running an 18.6% K-BB% in 2018. His split against right-handed hitters is well below average at a 7.8% K-BB% so an acquiring team would be bringing him aboard strictly as a LOOGY which limits his overall trade value.
Looking at our playoff-bound team list the following teams might have interest and include the Cubs, Cardinals, Braves, Brewers, Giants, Athletics, Diamondbacks, and Phillies.
The relief market will need to settle a bit before Alvarez is potentially moved so he is more likely to be traded closer to the deadline or more likely, perhaps, in the August waiver period. If the Angels move Parker, Jose will likely remain on the squad for the remainder of the year as Eppler probably does not want to completely reshuffle the deck chairs for the 2019 bullpen.
Top 3 Trade Partners: 1) Diamondbacks, 2) Cubs, and 3) Mystery Team
Potential Return: Alvarez is a long-term controllable piece, but his value is limited overall by his inconsistent ability against right-handed hitters. His market heading into the 2018 Trade Deadline seems limited which makes me believe that unless a team suffers a significant injury he is more likely to be kept and moved in the offseason or retained for the Angels 2019 bullpen. If he is moved Jose would probably bring back a mid-to-low level type prospect or two lottery-ticket types from the low Minors.
The Angels 36-year-old, rental 2B has struggled mightily in 2018. His BABIP has been about 50 points lower than his career numbers and despite his low strikeout rate (9.7%) he is failing to find the holes, resulting in a wRC+ of 80 which is 28% lower than his career average. Basically, he is in full age decline and he may find it difficult to acquire a starting position in 2019.
On top of those negative numbers and outlook, Kinsler is making $11M this season and that means he has approximately $6M left for the year, making him an expensive rental. This in turn will make any potential return a low one, perhaps even just a cash trade to get his salary off the books.
Beyond the doom and gloom there are a couple of reasons he could find a new home by the end of August waivers. The first is that his usually good defense is still in place and there may be one or more teams that would find value in that. The second item is that his offense against RHP is still solid at a wRC+ of 96 year-to-date.
So what team needs a 2B that is potentially heading to the playoffs? Here we must take our 2nd table (vs. RHP) and filter it by 2B to generate the following list of teams that includes the Rockies, Brewers, Dodgers, Mariners, Red Sox, and Indians. All those teams have suffered poor 2B offense against RHP.
Top 3 Trade Partners: 1) Rockies, 2) Brewers, and 3) Mystery Team
Potential Return: Kinsler is a pure rental who can still provide sufficiently good offense against RHP and is above average defensively at the keystone. There are only two teams that are desperate for an upgrade at 2B right now, the Rockies and Brewers, and Kinsler is certainly not the only available keystone player available on the market as Brian Dozier will probably draw more interest for sure. Certainly, the Dodgers, Mariners, Red Sox, and Indians have probably thought about upgrading as well but Kinsler may not represent enough of an improvement for them. This means that Ian will probably, at best, bring back a lottery ticket type player based on his remaining salary for 2018 unless the Angels kick in some money.
There are certainly other Angels team members that would have significant value in trade but if you move any of them you will create another hole to replace on the roster for 2019.
Rumors have circulated that Tyler Skaggs, Andrew Heaney, Cam Bedrosian, and Justin Anderson have all received inquiries leading up to the 2018 Trade Deadline and rightfully so.
However, Skaggs and Heaney have finally worked through their injury issues and seem to be performing at the level we hoped they would so does it really make sense to remove what could be a strong component of our 2019 rotation, particularly since both are lefties?
Additionally, Billy Eppler must be careful which, if any, pieces he moves out of the bullpen in trade. Parker is just as likely to stay as he is to be moved and replacing his production will require a free agent signing or trade to fill that gap. Moving young prospect Anderson with his 6 years of team control or Bedrosian who is still has 3 years of arbitration control after this season will create a new hole the Angels will have to address.
The bottom line is that the pieces that have value in trade also have potential value for the 2019 squad, unless they are in their last year of control, like Maldonado. Eppler’s vision of the 2019 team will be augmented by the decisions he makes now.
It is the author’s opinion that Martin Maldonado will be traded before the end of August and there is approximately a 60% probability that Blake Parker will be traded as well. Jose Alvarez will likely be retained for now and Ian Kinsler will probably be shipped off to the Rockies or the Brewers if they miss out on someone like Dozier.
The rest of our tradeable assets seem more remote as they can all make our 2019 team strong and we are trying to win in the Mike Trout window of contention. Certainly, Eppler might have a trade on the table for someone like Heaney for instance that makes a lot of sense in a 2019 retooling of the team, but it is hard to see how we can definitively move Andrew and sufficiently replace his production next season.
Angels fans need to prepare for the probability of little-to-no fireworks at the Trade Deadline this year.
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By Robert Cunningham, Angelswin.com Senior Writer
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness…” – A Tale of Two Cities
It was the 13-3 start, it was the 36-46 record since, it was another potential Trout MVP season, it was a galore of injuries to match.
The Angels had a lot of promise heading into 2018. And despite the fact some of that potential was realized, the team’s inability to find a consistent rhythm and create steady production has the Angels limping toward the 2018 Trade Deadline with some important decisions to make about their future.
This two-part series will examine the Angels potential trade chips and which teams could possibly benefit in executing a trade with the Halos.
To determine which teams have the greatest likelihood of being buyers before the end of July, we need to examine the standings and create a list of ballclubs that might pull the trigger on a trade.
In order to build a list, we will use FanGraphs Projected Standings, sorted by 2018 Year to Date Win Percentage, to see which teams are in the driver’s seat for their Division race and those that have a decent chance at a Wild Card spot:
FanGraphs 2018 Year to Date by Winning Percentage as of 07/21/2018
The American League seems all but locked up at this point. The Yankees and Red Sox and the Astros and Mariners are vying for the Eastern and Western Divisions, respectively. The Indians appear to have their Division locked up (barring a surprise surge by one of their Central rivals). Only the Athletics have a chance to close the gap, and they will need to improve to have a better shot at making that a reality.
On the other side, in the National League, the spread is much larger. In the Eastern Division the Phillies have a small lead over the Braves, followed by the fading Nationals. The Central has the Cubs ahead of the Brewers by just a couple of games with the Cardinals within striking distance. Finally, in the West, the Dodgers have pulled into first but the spread behind them is tight with the Diamondbacks, Rockies, and even the Giants within arm’s length of not only the Division title but the Wild Card.
So essentially about half of the teams in baseball are potential buyers at the Trade Deadline. Some of these teams are more heavily invested in winning this season, particularly the Mariners, Diamondbacks, and Giants and to a lesser extent the Nationals. Those teams are probably the ones more likely to spend the last of their prospect capital to improve however they can. The rest can afford to be a bit more selective but have the resources to make a big splash on a Jacob deGrom, Zach Britton, or Chris Archer type if they so desire.
The next question, as we posed last year, is what general areas do each of these playoff teams need to improve upon?
Using FanGraphs, again, we can determine those general areas of need by utilizing left and right-hand splits for both team hitting and pitching to reveal playoff team’s strengths and weaknesses.
FanGraphs 2018 Team Hitter Splits (wRC+) vs. LHP as of 07/21/2018
Playoff teams that are more likely to need help here include the Brewers, Phillies, Giants, Nationals, Athletics, Dodgers, Cardinals, Rockies, and Red Sox. These teams may be more likely to fill a position of need with a hitter who is good against lefties as the Dodgers recently did with the acquisition of Manny Machado (thereby denying other playoff teams the best overall hitter on the market).
FanGraphs 2018 Team Hitter Splits (wRC+) vs. RHP as of 07/21/2018
Against the other side of the mound the following teams are more likely to need help, including the Diamondbacks, Rockies, Braves, Phillies, Nationals, Brewers, Giants, and Cardinals.
FanGraphs 2018 Team Pitcher Splits (K-BB%) vs. LHH as of 07/21/2018
On the pitching side, teams that are more likely to need help against left-handed hitters include the Cubs, Cardinals, Braves, Brewers, Giants, Athletics, Diamondbacks, and Phillies.
FanGraphs 2018 Team Pitcher Splits (K-BB%) vs. RHH as of 07/21/2018
Finally, against right-handed hitters, the following teams are more likely to need help, including the Cubs, Athletics, Rockies, Giants, Mariners, Braves, Diamondbacks, and Cardinals.
An interesting note from this simple exercise is that there are three teams that don’t seem to have a clear weakness based on the numbers presented above and include the Astros, Yankees, and Indians. There is certainly a case to be made that all three of these teams could enter the offseason as they are currently constituted and would have a real shot at winning.
The reality, however, is that all three of these teams can and should (and have in the case of the Indians acquiring Brad Hand) improve incrementally to not only strengthen their playoff chances but to deny their potential competitors from acquiring strong rentals to use against them.
So, the final step in this basic evaluation is to examine each probable Angels trade piece and see if there is a good fit in trade with one of these potentially playoff-bound teams and will be presented in Part 2 of this mini-series.
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By Steve Zavala, AngelsWin.com Columnist
When the season began, the Angels starting rotation was much of an unknown filled with questions and concerns. Andrew Heaney, Garrett Richards and Nick Tropeano were all coming off three straight injury-riddled seasons. Prized prospect Shohei Ohtani was coming over from Japan with high expectations. Alex Meyer and J.C Ramirez hurt the Angels depth early on with season-ending injuries. The team had several promising pitching prospects in the minors but did not have a set timeline as to when they would be ready for a call-up to the majors.
And most importantly, the team has been waiting for a pitcher to step up and finally have an All-Star caliber season to lead the rotation.
In the midst of it all, the starting rotation has overachieved expectations as they have been led by the emergence of a new ace, Tyler Skaggs.
The 26-year-old left-hander is currently having a breakout, near All-Star type season and by far the best year of his career. Skaggs is currently on pace to set career highs in ERA, innings pitched, and strikeouts while also sporting an impressive 2.3 WAR– which is higher than his first five seasons combined (0.8). His eight quality starts this season has already tied a career from that of his 2014 season but he has done it in three fewer starts so far.
Skaggs is most notably impressing with his 2.69 ERA, which leads all Angels starters and currently ranks 9th among qualified AL starters. June has arguably been his most impressive month. Among qualified AL starting pitchers with at least 20 innings pitched, Skaggs leads all starters with an outstanding 0.67 ERA in June.
Now while ERA does not paint the entire picture as to why a pitcher is having major success or is struggling, Skaggs has in large part been able to successfully minimize damage when in trouble and finish with a quality start. While Skaggs has allowed a mediocre .246 opponents batting average (BAA), he has been fair in allowing a .226 average with runners in scoring position (RISP) and an overall .199 average with men on base. This can be credited also to his success against lefties as he has held them to a .178 average.
Seeing a pitcher be able to take command of a situation when in trouble such as when the opposing team has RISP is like a breath of fresh air for Angels fans. The fan base has had to endure seasons with starting pitchers who struggled mightily to escape RISP situations such as with Joe Blanton, Ricky Nolasco and C.J Wilson.
Skaggs has delivered the most when needed by the Angels, whether it has been to end a losing streak or to clinch a pivotal series win. Over the course of the first half of the season, Skaggs has earned the trust of Angels manager Mike Scioscia to go deeper into games and fight his way through difficult innings. From his seven scoreless innings performance against the Astros in April to his latest start which saw him go seven scoreless against the Royals, Skaggs has been the workhorse pitcher that the Angeles desperately needed this season.
Now when digging deep to examine his pitch arsenal, he uses four pitches: four seam fastball, curveball, changeup and sinker. None of his four main pitches are a nasty, lights out pitch that can fool batters time after time even when the opponent has an idea of which pitch to expect. Instead, Skaggs has been effective with his command and aggressive when ahead of the count.
Starting with his four seam fastball, the pitch has undergone gradual improvement over the years. His fastball is not an Aroldis Chapman type that would light up the radar gun or a Max Scherzer type with excellent command in the high 90s. Instead, it ranges in the low 90s with an average speed of 92 mph. It is not outstanding like Scherzer’s or atrocious like Jered Weaver late in his career but at the end of the day, it is effective.
Skaggs utilizes his fastball 41% of the time, most of any pitch. Last season in 16 starts, opponents were hitting .290 off of his fastball but in comparison to this season, opponents are hitting .235. Also last season, he recorded a .303 on batting average on balls in play (BABIP) while having a .295 BABIP this season. As alluded to before, it is not great nor atrocious but it gets the job done.
One trait about his fastball is that he is beginning to throw it high out of the zone. This is preferable for Skaggs especially when he is ahead in the count and looking to fool a batter. As seen in this pitch, Skaggs goes for the high 92 mph fastball to strike out Jake Marisnick.
Onto his curveball, the pitch has become one that Skaggs is relying on more but has not had consistent results with it. Last season, he threw the curve 432 times in 113 plate appearances while recording a .208 BAA. This season, he has thrown the curve 455 times in 116 plate appearances but opponents are hitting .264 against it. The .264 BAA is not something to worry about but rather a pitch that could need vast improvement, especially down in the zone.
When used effectively and with control in the zone, it could be his biggest strength pitch. A 75 mph curve, which he has recorded 40% of his strikeouts with, can be his nasty pitch if developed well. Skaggs’ curveball has a good, late drop as seen in his last start against the Royals with his 6th inning strikeout of Salvador Perez.
Skaggs’ 84 mph changeup, his 3rd main pitch, has also undergone a positive transformation with superb direction and movement. Opponents are hitting .180 against the pitch. He has also doubled the SwSTR%, swings and misses percentage, up to 14.8%. To an extent, his changeup success can be credited to playing behind an outstanding Angels defense as the pitch has a .207 BABIP.
With his 4th and final pitch, Skaggs’ 91 mph sinker is far from what he had hoped it would deliver this season as opponents are hitting .300 against it. He has recorded just three strikeouts from it with a 40.2 Swing%. If he can get the sinker to suddenly become a reliable one that can be used as a strikeout pitch, it would only give him more flexibility and options to finish off a batter.
Even with his success this season, there is still room for improvement. His fastball and changeup are two pitches that he has had promising success with when located in the zone but he must still work to perfect his sinker and curveball. At this stage in his career, Skaggs is a work in progress but there is promise in his pitch arsenal. The Angels are finally starting to see Skaggs’ potential as a starter but at this rate, the best is yet to come.
Skaggs is one of the bright spots on an unbalanced Angels team that is currently on a rough patch over the past month. If the team begins to pick it up with the offense producing up to their capabilities and bullpen suddenly becoming a reliable force, then Skaggs could very well be leading the pitching staff into a tightly contested playoff race. Among others, the Angels hope that Skaggs performances over the past three months are not a one-hit wonder but rather the beginning of a new chapter as the Angels prominent ace.
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By Tres Hefter, AngelsWin.com Contributor
Piggybacking off this thread from the winter…with so many threads jumping up each day on different bullpen trade ideas, I thought it might be a good time to create one centralized “What would you do?” thread for all to post their ideas in.
We’re still 6 weeks out from the trade deadline, but signs point to an earlier than usual trade market developing this year, and the Angels certainly are in a position where they may need to move sooner rather than later to stay in the race. Needs and costs will obviously change over the next month and a half, but we’re probably at a point where we can generalize these ideas enough to come close to the mark.
Here’s my ideas…
1) Acquire a controllable SP // Angels trade LHP Jose Suarez, OF Michael Hermosillo, and IF Leonardo Rivas to Miami for RHP Jose Urena
The Angels receive Urena (2-8, 4.18 ERA, 3.75 FIP, 1.16 WHIP) immediately steps into the back of the Angels rotation and offers stability with significant upside at a great value, as he’s making league-minimum and is under control through 2021. His presence allows the Angels to utilize Tropeano and Pena as additional bullpen depth, and he helps fill a 2019 rotation void if Richards leaves via FA.
The Marlins receive an MLB-ready SP prospect in Suarez who would have been titled an Angels’ rotation too far left, an OF prospect they can play everyday instead of Shuck and Maybin, and a promising potential lead-off hitter and IF prospect in Rivas.
Expansion Idea: The Angels add OF Brandon Marsh (and perhaps RHP Cam Bedrosian) to the deal, and receive either RHP Kyle Barraclough (1.11 ERA, 3.47 FIP, 0.77 WHIP, 9.5 K/9) or RHP Drew Streckenrider (3.55 ERA, 3.01 FIP, 1.24 WHIP, 10.9 K/9) as well, replacing the #2 trade on my list.
Comparable Targets: Dylan Bundy (BAL), Jake Junis (KCR), Aaron Sanchez (TOR), Zack Wheeler (NYM), or Jameson Taillon (PIT) with Marsh added into the deal.
2) Acquire a controllable RP // Angels trade RHP Joe Gatto, RHP Jesus Castillo, and RHP Cam Bedrosian to Toronto for RHP Ryan Tepera
The Angels acquire a steady reliever in Tepera (2.75 ERA, 3.51 FIP, 1.17 WHIP, 9.5 K/9) who comes under control through 2021 and cheaply, on the verge of entering arbitration.
The Blues Jays receive a change of scenery project in the option-less Bedrosian who is squeezed out of the ‘win-now’ Angels pen, as well as 12 years of control of projectable arms who should see MLB innings in Gatto and Castillo who are a little less crucial after the acquisition of Urena and growth of Canning, Barria, Pena, and Jose Rodriguez, as well as the ’18 draft class.
Comparable Targets: Adam Cimber, Kirby Yates (SDP), Mychal Givens (BAL), Ryan Stanek, Jose Alvarado, Chaz Roe, Matt Andriese (TBR), Jared Hughes (CIN), Tony Barnette (TEX), Bruce Rondon, Luis Avilan, Xavier Cedeno (CWS), Sam Freeman, Jesse Biddle, Dan Winkler (ATL), Alex Wilson, Shane Greene, Louis Coleman (DET), Kevin McCarthy (KCR)
3) Acquire another RP, either a pending FA or expensive vet // Angels trade RHP Cole Duensing and OF Nonie Williams to Chicago for RHP Joakim Soria
The Angels add another layer of depth to the pen, absorbing a few million in salary for veteran presence and potentially declining talent. Soria (3.00 ERA, 2.50 FIP, 1.15 WHIP, 10 K/9) provides an option with closer experience.
The White Sox receive salary relief, but also two once-heralded prospects who have failed to achieve any real results, but still have time on their side.
Comparable Targets: Darren O’Day (BAL), Tyler Clippard (TOR), Bud Norris (STL), David Hernandez (CIN), Yusmeiro Petit (OAK), Anthony Swarzak (NYM), Trevor Cahill (OAK), any of the names mentioned in #2
4) DFA Luis Valbuena…and maybe Jefry Marte.
Luis, I’ve been one of your strongest supporters, but you haven’t been able to find a rhythm this year and the future is nigh. Cut bait and send him packing, maybe he gets warm enough Eppler is able to replicate a Cron for Rengifo or David Hernandez for Luis Madero heist.
Jose Fernandez replace Luis, and while he won’t match the power numbers, he’ll be a far steadier and balanced offensive player, costing pennies and able to play additional positions. If Marte returns and also fails to produce, he too finds an end to his Angel days, replaced by Fletcher, Cowart, or even Thaiss or Ward.
…and, cheating a bit by throwing a hypothetical fifth move (or first post-midseason move?) one post-deadline August trade possibility:
5) Acquire Adam Jones or Andrew McCutchen
Either would handle 4th OF/RF during a stretch run or playoff series, should Calhoun, Young, and Blash fail to ever amount to anything. Their salaries and age are high enough that it likely wouldn’t cost much more than one or two of names like, at most, Jewell, Pena, Rodriguez, Barash, Lund, Walsh, Houchins.
Resulting roster: SP: Likely Richards, Skaggs, Heaney, Barria, Urena, with Lamb, Felix Pena, Luis Pena, Miguel Almonte, and Canning as depth, and Ohtani, Trop, Shoemaker on DL and possible to return.
RP: Soria, Parker, Tepera, Anderson, Alvarez, Noe Ramirez with above SPs, Jewell, Paredes, Morris as depth and Johnson on DL.
Line-up: Remains the same.
Bench: Fernandez IF, Briceno/Rivera C, Marte/Fletcher/Ward/Thaiss/Cowart IF, and Chris and Eric Young/Liriano/Blash/Revere as 4th OF options
New Top 30 Prospects:
Adell, Canning, Marsh, Jones, Thaiss, Ward, Maitan, Jordyn Adams, Rengifo, Jeremiah Jackson, C. Rodriguez, Soriano, Lund, Rivera, Deveaux, Hunter Jr., Pena, Knowles, J. Rodriguez, Soto, Walsh, Gibbons, Bradish, Hernandez, Yan, English, Uceta, O. Martinez, A. Ramirez*, Bonilla*
Graduates: Barria, Fletcher, Jewell, Paredes
Departures: Suarez, Hermosillo, Rivas, Gatto, Castillo, Duensing, Nonie Williams
I tried to make moves that took advantage of our farm, without eating into our best prospects, and still securing MLB-ready players who would help for the long-term without breaking payroll. It also sets up the team well enough to still conceivably push for the playoffs now, but definitely doesn’t boost our chances significantly.
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By Jonathan Northrop, AngelsWin.com Contributor
What I’m about to share with you is so mind-blowing that it is worth its own thread outside of the Troutstanding one. Let me take you for a journey…
I went through every seven-year span in baseball history, from 1871-77 to the current one, 2012-18, and looked at WAR leaders over those seven year stretches. Why seven years? Because that is how long Trout has been a major league regular, so it encapsulates the fullness of his career thus far. I then compared the WAR leader to the runner-up, and noted the gap the two. Why? Well, when we are talking about dominance it is always relative to his peers. I would argue that the best definition of dominance is just that: how good a player is relative to his peers. There have been many players who have had truly amazing years, but seven years gives us a sense of sustained dominance, and the true greats combine peak greatness and sustained dominance. For instance, Norm Cash (10.2 fWAR in 1961), Darin Erstad (8.7 fWAR in 2000), and Jacoby Ellsbury (9.4 fWAR in 2011) have all had seasons that could safely fit into a Hall of Famer’s peak, but the difference is that players like Mantle, Bonds, and Trout have those kinds of performances season after season.
Anyhow, so we’re looking at 142 seven-year spans of time, from 1871-77 to 2012-18. There are 33 players who have had the most dominant seven-year spans, from Ross Barnes to Mike Trout. Trout has done it for three years in a row, starting in 2010-16 even though he didn’t play in 2010 and barely in 2011. The current span, 2012-18, is his first full seven-year stretch and, of course, we’ve still got 90 games to play.
Here’s the current WAR leaders (Fangraphs) for 2012-18:
1. MIke Trout 60.4
2. Josh Donaldson 35.9
3. Andrew McCutchen 34.9
Anything look funny there? Well, the gap between Trout and Donaldson is huge: 24.5 WAR, or 3.5 WAR a year! Trout has averaged 8.6 WAR during that span vs. Donaldson’s 5.1. Think about that for a moment.
OK, so how does that 24.5 seven-year gap compare to the rest of baseball history? How many seven year gaps are as big or bigger? The answer is….
And none are particularly close. The second largest gap is 1989-95 when Barry Bonds accumulated 58.5 fWAR over Cal RIpken’s 38.6, a gap of 19.9 WAR. And no, it wasn’t early 00s Bondzilla, when Alex Rodriguez was always relatively close and a terrifically great (if roided) player in his own right. And no, it wasn’t Babe Ruth, when the often under-remembered Rogers Hornsby was a strong second fiddle (although the two of them were often quite far ahead of the rest of the pack).
So let me put this another way: Mike Trout has been more dominant relative to his peers over the last seven years than any position player in major league history.
Let that sink in. I’ll say it again in a slightly different way for effect, so you really get it: Over the course of Trout’s full-time career, he has been more dominant relative to the field of position players than any player has been in all of baseball history. According to fWAR, of course.
So let me ask you. If that is the case, is it not then the case that Trout–so far, at least–has been the greatest player ever? I mean, isn’t that the logical extension?
We can leave that as an open-ended question, because I’m not quite ready to answer in the affirmative, even though the numbers say as much. But let’s finish up with a bit more.
So there have been 33 “7WAR” leaders (seven-year span fWAR leaders). Of the 33, 20 have done it at least three times – which is Trout’s current total. Given Trout’s lead over the lack, he is an absolute lock to do it at least two more times, so five. So far only 12 players lead 7WAR five or more times. Chances are Trout will do it a time or two more.
And the most? No, it isn’t Ruth, its Bonds, with 15. Yes, that’s right. Bonds has been the 7WAR leader 15 different times, every year from 1986-92 to 2000-06. What a beast.
OK, I’m done. Hope you had a cloth of some kind nearby.
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Here’s a quick look at the Angels top minor league players at the midway point of the season.
Congratulations to Jose Miguel Fernandez on graduating to the majors, while collecting his first major league hit in his first at bat against the Twins this past weekend. Fernandez is hitting a cool .444 with two doubles across three games for the Halos thus far.
Hermosillo was also recalled a few weeks back after Kole Calhoun went on the DL, but I wanted to make sure we gave him some love for his accomplishments with Salt Lake over his 2+ months of play there.
So who’s the next Angels farmhand to get promoted? Your guess is as good as mine, but let’s take a look at the numbers they’ve put up to see who may warrant a promotion next.
1B Jose Miguel Fernandez: .345/.412/.562 10 HR, 20 BB
2B David Fletcher: .353/.398/.566 6 HR, 7 SB, 37 RBI
SS Luis Rengifo: .330.432/.491 3 HR, 26 SB, 35 BB
3B Taylor Ward: .348/.439/.525 7 HR, 33 RBI, 10 SB
LF Brennon Lund: .276/.367/.388 3 HR, 33 R, 14 SB
CF Jo Adell: .283/.339/.549 10 HR, 39 RBI, 8 SB
RF Jabari Blash: .324/.421/.746 18 HR, 44 RBI
C Jack Kruger: .275/.367/.360 3 HR, 26 BB, 10 SB
DH/U Jared Walsh: .287/.384/.622 18 HR, 54 RBI
1B Matt Thaiss: .293/.352/.513. 10 HR, 38 RBI
2B Jahmai Jones: .253/.352/.419 6 HR, 30 BB, 9 SB
SS Leo Rivas: .238/.376/.350 3 HR, 6 SB, 45 BB
LF Torii Hunter Jr.: .274/.362/.391 1 HR, 14 SB
CF Michael Hermosillo: .265/.387/.477 7 HR, 7 SB
RF Brandon Marsh: 257/.348/.372 3 HR, 34 RBI, 9 SB
C Connor Fitzsimons: .372/.400/.655 2 HR, 5 RBI (8 Games)
U Jose Rojas: .304/.383/.514 6 HR, 5 SB
SP Griffin Canning: 1.85 ERA, 55 K, 48 2/3 IP, 1.03 WHIP
SP Jose Suarez: 3.31 ERA, 77 K, 51 2/3 IP, 1.35 WHIP
SP John Lamb: 3.44 ERA, 54 K, 49 2/3 IP, 1.29 WHIP
SP Luis Madero: 3.05 ERA, 35 K, 44 1/3 IP, 1.11 WHIP
SP Luis Pena: 4.27 ERA, 63 K, 59 IP, 1.20 WHIP
RP Jeremy Rhodes: 1.70 ERA, 27 K, 37 IP, 1 Save, 0.89 WHIP
RP Ryan Clark: 3.23 ERA, 39 K, 30 2/3 IP, 6 Saves, 1.34 WHIP
RP Jake Jewell: 2.86 ERA, 32 K, 34 2/3 IP, 5 Saves, 1.56 WHIP
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