By Robert Cunningham, Angelswin.com Senior Writer
This series will attempt to identify other potential front-line starters that the Angels can possibly trade for and we will continue the series looking at the Cincinnati Reds, SP Tyler Mahle.
Contract Status - 2020 will be the last season of pre-arbitration control for Tyler. After that he has the three standard years of arbitration control, for a total of four years of team control before hitting free agency.
Repertoire (2019) - Four-Seam Fastball (56.7%, 93.6 mph), Curve Ball (22.6%, 80.6 mph), Split-Finger Fastball (13.5%, 87.4 mph) and Cut Fastball (6.6%, 90.2 mph)
Statcast Information - Mahle has a below average spin rate on his four-seam fastball. However, his curve ball has above average spin (2,595 rpm). Exit velocity, across all of his pitches, has averaged 88.3 mph to-date in his Major League career. Since 2017, his K% has risen steadily from 15.2% in that year to 23.2% in 2019 with a corresponding drop in BB% from 12% in 2017 to 6.1% last season, resulting in a solid 17.1% K-BB% for 2019. Below is a Statcast graphic of his pitch type and frequency use, including his pitch grouping:
Also here is his 2019 Statcast Plinko graphic showing how often he uses his pitches in various pitch counts:
As you can see he generally starts hitters off with a four-seam fastball or, to a lesser extent, curve ball. Unless he gets behind he generally tries to randomize his pitch repertoire after that, only going to the four-seam when desired or he really needs a strike.
Keep this graphic in mind as we discuss Tyler's repertoire further in this article.
Injury History Risk - Low (Right shoulder tenderness and hamstring strain)
Three-Year History -
It should be noted that in 2017, Mahle pitched only 20 innings in the Majors but also threw an additional 144.2 IP down in the Minors. This is also true to a lesser degree in 2018 and 2019 where he tossed an additional 29.2 IP and 9.0 IP, respectively, beyond his Major League IP.
Also here is Mahle's batted ball data:
Similar to Carlos Martinez, Tyler puts the ball on the ground a lot but he does give up the long ball on occasion. When his pitches get put into play they tend toward the left side and up-the-middle in terms of location with approximately 25% to the right side of the mound.
Before the Castro signing, the Angels would probably have targeted SP Tyler Mahle and C Tucker Barnhart, but the latter is almost certainly out of the picture, at least for now. Certainly there are other players such as RP Raisel Iglesias that the Halos could inquire on but the Reds want to compete and Mahle is likely one of their more available players beyond 2B/CF Nick Senzel, who will cost to much to acquire and is not a need.
On our end the Reds would probably have the greatest interest in one of Andrelton Simmons, David Fletcher, Luis Rengifo, one of our young starters (Canning, Suarez, Barria, and/or Sandoval), or one of our bullpen arms (Robles, Buttrey, Ramirez, et. al.). Since it appears Simmons, Fletcher, Canning, Sandoval, Robles, Buttrey, and Ramirez are here to stay, probably, the Angels likely have Rengifo, Suarez, Barria, and any number of prospects not named Jo Adell and Brandon Marsh to deal.
As a not-so-subtle aside, it has also been reported that the Cincinnati Reds had expressed sincere interest in acquiring, now-signed, Didi Gregorious and, more recently, the Indians Francisco Lindor.
Clearly Cincinnati wants to upgrade over Freddy Galvis, whom they recently exercised a 2020 option on, and Rengifo (and Lindor obviously) would certainly be that, allowing them to move Galvis into a middle infield utility role behind whomever the shortstop ends up being. Additionally, the Reds recently signed Mike Moustakas to play at the keystone and Votto and Suarez man first and third base, respectively, as well, which means SS is the only open hole to fill.
Also, on December 30th, 2019, the Reds signed Japanese export CF Shogo Akiyama from the Seibu Lions on a 3-year deal. This move now leaves top prospect Nick Senzel without a clear positional home.
What this might mean is that Senzel will become the centerpiece of a trade for the aforementioned Lindor. Nick plays center field and second base and, despite the fact that Cleveland traded for two arbitration-controlled seasons of DeShields and signed Hernandez on a 1-year deal, could fit in nicely to the Indians long-term plans at either of those two positions or even third base if Ramirez moves over to the keystone.
Alternatively, if the Reds lose out on Lindor, they could still look to upgrade at shortstop which is where the Angels have a potential solution in young Luis Rengifo. Adding him to their roster could provide, at the minimum, a platoon solution where Rengifo picks up most of the at-bat's versus RHP or he could even enter a full-time role, allowing Galvis to become the utility player he truly is.
Finally, the third option is a three-team trade between the Indians, Reds, and Angels, centered around a Lindor-Senzel-Rengifo based deal (Angels would act as more of a facilitating third party to the primary trade). Multi-team trades can get really complicated but there is a scenario where the Indians might have interest in Rengifo, to replace the loss of Lindor, while the Reds would get the heavily-prized Francisco and the Indians, of course, pick up Nick, while the Angels acquire Tyler Mahle or maybe someone like Brad Hand from the Indians.
A trade might be as basic as this:
Angels trade SS Luis Rengifo to the Reds in exchange for SP Tyler Mahle
The Reds have four core members (Castillo, Bauer, Gray, and DeSclafani) for their 2020 rotation with the 5th spot open to competition. Certainly Mahle could be that fifth starter but they could, instead, use him as a trade chip to fill their SS hole or even flip him for an everyday outfielder. Six years of Luis for four years of Mahle is a pretty equitable trade, so the rough valuations seem relatively close.
Alternatively the trade could expand into a three-team event between the Reds, Indians, and Angels, it might go down like this:
Angels trade SS Luis Rengifo and OF Jordyn Adams to the Indians
Reds trade SP Tyler Mahle to the Angels and 2B/CF Nick Senzel to the Indians
Indians trade SS Francisco Lindor and OF Daniel Johnson to the Reds and RP Brad Hand to the Angels
Here the Angels are using their organizational depth in the outfield and middle infield to supplement the value of the primary pieces of the trade with Nick Senzel going from the Reds to the Indians and Francisco Lindor going back to the Reds. Basically the Angels are giving up twelve years of player control over two young assets for five years of player control (plus one additional team option on Hand) of two experienced assets and the addition of a modest amount of payroll.
There are different permutations to a two-team and a three-team scenario but both the Reds and the Indians have some interesting assets the Angels might want to acquire including Carlos Santana (high OBP 1B), Tyler Mahle, Tucker Barnhart, Brad Hand, and Carlos Carrasco for example.
Many of you reading may be wondering why should the Angels pursue Tyler Mahle?
The answer lies in what appears to be his new secret weapon he used sparingly in 2019, his split-fingered fastball:
This new pitch struck out opposing hitters at a 23% clip and held them to a .110 ISO, good for a wRC+ of 73. It produced a 62.5% GB% which is significantly higher than his other pitches (he was already a ground ball pitcher to begin with). All of this was on a modest .315 BABIP and a pretty crazy 85.2% Z-Contact% (this means hitters made contact in the strike zone) which tells an observer that he trusted the pitch enough that he wanted hitters to make contact, even if it was down the heart of the plate!
Basically, other than a couple of home runs and doubles, the pitch produced ground ball outs and singles, limiting opponent's offensive production from both sides of the plate, particularly left-handed hitters whom Tyler had struggled with previously.
Putting any heavy ground ball pitcher into an infield defensive environment like what exists in Anaheim is pure gold and it should not be to hard for the Angels pitching coaches to take a pitcher like Tyler and convince him to throw his split-fingered fast ball on a more regular basis to balance out his quality four-seam fastball and curve ball.
The bottom line is that Mahle has clearly developed and improved his mechanics, repertoire, and overall ability to pitch during the last three seasons and he appears primed to take another step forward in 2020. His growing ability to put the ball on the ground, via increased use of his split-fingered fastball, would fit well in Anaheim as a mid-rotation starter or possibly even a #2 type.