GM for a Day
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By Robert Cunningham, Angelswin.com Senior Writer
So now that we have performed some basic analysis to understand where the Angels are strong and weak and which teams are likely sellers, buyers, or somewhere in-between, we can make more knowledgeable guesses about how the Angels might generally upgrade, whom they might sell, and the probable, more specific target areas of improvement.
The first step is to determine who the Halos plan to build the team around moving forward into the future. These names represent likely, key, productive players, on the 40-man roster, that are either controllable long-term, are on contract, and/or are difficult to move in a trade:
C Max Stassi
1B Jared Walsh
2B David Fletcher
3B Anthony Rendon
LF Justin Upton
CF Mike Trout
RF Jo Adell
CF Brandon Marsh
DH Shohei Ohtani
SP Griffin Canning
SP Patrick Sandoval
SP Jose Suarez
SP Chris Rodriguez
Most of the identified players above are either under contract for one or more seasons (Trout, Ohtani, Fletcher, Rendon, and Upton), arbitration-controlled for more than the 2021 season (Stassi), or are young and controllable (Walsh, Adell, Marsh, Canning, Sandoval, Suarez, and Rodriguez) talent for multiple seasons. This does not mean that one or more of them could not be included in a deal, but the Angels probably want or have to hold on to these names, in all likelihood. Nothing is promised, but this list represents a more probable part of the Angels future.
Also, there are other players who are borderline keepers, such as Matt Thaiss, Taylor Ward, and Luis Rengifo, that are young, controllable, talented players, but may not have a positional home on future Angels squads. These are the type of guys you want to find playing time for, whether in the Majors or down in the Minors, but may serve the team's future, better, by utilizing their value in trade for a position of need.
Now that we know who is more likely to stay, you can create a list of those players the Angels are more likely to move before the Trade Deadline. If the Angels are sellers then anyone with an expiring contract, such as Raisel Iglesias for example, would be fair game in discussions with other teams, as seen below:
SP Alex Cobb
SP Dylan Bundy
SP Andrew Heaney
RP Raisel Iglesias
SP Jose Quintana
SS Jose Iglesias
C Kurt Suzuki
OF Juan Lagares
RP Alex Claudio
RP Steve Cishek
RP Tony Watson
That is a lot of guys heading out the door after this season! Not to mention GM Perry Minasian will have to fill those spots from our farm system, trade, or free agency in order to compete effectively in 2022 and beyond.
This is why the Angels may be faced with a tough decision leading into the Trade Deadline. If they don’t feel really confident they can sneak into the playoffs, selling is a near certainty. Of course, if they improve in July, a chance at a Wild Card spot could increasingly materialize, which may force Minasian and the front office to retain some, if not all, of the names above.
So the bottom line is that if the Halos have less than a 10% chance at the playoffs in late July, they are probable sellers. If they are borderline (say no more than a 20% chance to make the playoffs), they could be both buyers and sellers, trying to move one or two key assets in trade, getting back controllable prospects and/or players in return, while at the same time looking at targets of opportunity to bring in for the remainder of the season. Also, if by some miracle, they make a sustained run for the Division in July, Minasian may gamble, if he can, on a much larger transformative transaction, such as a controllable, bona fide, ace-level starter or impact bat.
Now that we have identified potential keepers and movers, we need to use some of the analysis from the previous articles, to make educated guesses at some of the more probable targets that GM Perry Minasian could focus on.
Starting with the Angels as buyers there are four, more probable, areas that the Angels front office might earmark for upgrade:
As much as everyone wanted Kurt Suzuki to succeed, he has not performed well at all. Known as an offensive-oriented catcher, he has, unfortunately, failed in that capacity and when combined with his very poor defense, he has been a serious liability, despite his apparent rapport with Shohei Ohtani. Finding a backup catcher with good defense and, preferably based on our analysis, the ability to hit right-handed pitching well is a move that would likely bring solid dividends to the team moving forward, particularly if that catcher has long-term team control.
The Angels were in the hunt for Gerrit Cole, previously, and had interest in Trevor Bauer, more recently, so it is not a secret that the rotation has been a source of great grief for the team over the last few years. Finding an ace-level starter is not an easy task, there are not that many truly good top-of-the-rotation guys out there and gambling on a top prospect, who has little experience against Major League hitters, is also a perilous undertaking. This will not be a simple solution and generally teams do not part with this type of elite starter, so this is less probable, particularly when you consider the Angels odds of qualifying for a Wild Card spot. Here, Minasian is more likely to pick up a front-end or middle-of-the-rotation starter with an expiring contract (i.e. they are a free agent after the end of this season), if the Angels really do decide to push in on this season with the caveat that, should a controllable front-end type target become available, Perry may move assets, now, to make that a reality.
Beyond the catching corps and rotation, the Angels could possibly pick up a temporary right fielder on an expiring contract. This will depend on a lot of factors, including the continuing production of Taylor Ward and the performance of Angels top prospect Jo Adell, who is slugging the ball well at AAA Salt Lake City, but is still striking out at an elevated rate. Here, it feels like Minasian will only go outside of the organization if he can acquire an inexpensive, temporary solution, otherwise the team is probably best served with one of the internal options, despite the fact that Ward has not been great on defense, but he has been solid on offense, while Adell struggled in his first call up, but has immense potential on both sides of the ball.
Finally, the bullpen has been a real thorn in the first half of the season, with some acquisitions excelling (Iglesias for instance), while others have been underperforming (Watson and Slegers for example). Basically, if the Angels are competing, this is another area that the front office could probably upgrade without a large expenditure of resources. Finding a reasonably good relief arm, particularly if they are at least decently good against left-handed hitters, would add a lot to the later innings of a ballgame for the Halos.
Of course there are always scenarios we cannot see from the outside and there is a lot of information the Angels know that we do not have, so there is a fog of war that prevents us, as fans, from seeing the full picture here. However, the basic analysis and identification of assets to keep and pieces to sell, based on strengths and weaknesses, can narrow down the search and provide more probable avenues for not only the Angels, but for us, here at Angelswin.com, to explore.
If you were the Angels GM, which players would you keep long-term, which would you try to sell at the Trade Deadline, and what areas of the roster would you try to upgrade?
Up next - 2021 Angelswin.com Trade Deadline Series: Probable Assets to Acquire