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OC Register: Angels Offseason Options: Marwin Gonzalez


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(This is the latest in a series of quick profiles on players who fit for the Angels to add over the winter. They are purely “informed speculation,” based on what we know about the Angels’ roster needs along with General Manager Billy Eppler’s preferences and history. We’ll have a new one every weekday, until the GM Meetings, which are the unofficial start of the hot stove season.)

MARWIN GONZALEZ, UT, Houston Astros

The basics: Gonzalez is the gold standard of major league utility players. Just this year, he’s played seven positions, all but pitcher and catcher. He peaked in 2017, hitting .303 with 23 homers and a .907 OPS. He is going to be 30 next season.

2018 season: Gonzalez’s numbers dipped, his average falling to .247 and his on-base percentage to .324. The Astros still found a spot on the field for him almost every day. He played in 145 games.

Contract status: Gonzalez is a free agent, after making $5.125 million in 2018.

Why he makes sense: Just like durability is the key for pitchers, versatility is a key to the Angels’ needs on the position player side. One of their most fluid positions is first base because Albert Pujols’ status is undetermined after he underwent knee surgery. Ideally, the Angels would get someone who could play first when Pujols can’t, but who can also do something else when Pujols is playing. Getting another player who plays only first would create too much of a roster crunch. That’s why the Angels traded C.J. Cron. Gonzalez fits perfectly, because he can play everywhere. He also is a switch-hitter, making him the ultimate Swiss army knife. He’s a younger version of Ben Zobrist. Although his career .318 on-base percentage is just average, over the past two years he’s got a .349 OBP.

Why he doesn’t: For all of the reasons Gonzalez is a good fit for the Angels, he’s also a good fit for a lot of other teams, including the Astros. By all accounts, the Astros are interested in keeping Gonzalez. That’s going to drive his price tag up, probably starting in the neighborhood of three years at $10 million per year. Considering the Angels need to use most of their resources for pitching, they might not be able to swing a guy like Gonzalez, instead settling for the someone like Daniel Descalso (Marwin Lite). The Angels also want to guys like David Fletcher, Taylor Ward and Luis Rengifo a chance, so they might not want to invest that much in someone who doesn’t necessarily have an everyday spot.

Previous players: C J.T. RealmutoRHP Nate EovaldiRHP Sonny Gray, LHP Patrick Corbin, LHP CC Sabathia, UT Daniel Descalso, RHP Julio Teheran, LHP Gio Gonzalez.

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30 minutes ago, Torridd said:

I still say the biggest problem is the offense.

It might be, but we have a lot more hitting prospects to assess this coming year or two than pitching. 

Best to use 2019 as an opportunity for Fletcher, Ward, Thaiss, Rengifo, and to a lesser degree Hermosillo, Walsh, Way, Briceno, and Fernandez, to prove they can be long-term solutions. Adell, Jones, and even Marsh could be in the fold by end of year too. 

Thats a lot of depth which will affect our future greatly. Shouldn’t jam up too many hitters ahead of them. They can still buy midseason if there’s need.

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On the subject of hitting prospects, what does everyone think of Thaiss at this point?   He's had 2.5 seasons in the minors, after being drafted from a nat'l college power (Virginia), yet he still seems underwhelming for a mid first round pick.    For comparison, Cron was drafted 22nd in 2011 from a decent at best college program (Utah), and made it after 2.5-3.0 seasons.

Disapointment?   Or will he finally take the next step to get here?   

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2 minutes ago, Angel Oracle said:

On the subject of hitting prospects, what does everyone think of Thaiss at this point?   He's had 2.5 seasons in the minors, after being drafted from a nat'l college power in Virginia, yet he still seems underwhelming for a mid first round pick.

Disapointment?   Or will he finally take the next step to get here?   

I wouldn't be surprised if he's traded. He's still blocked by Pujols for 3 more years and he hasn't played well enough to force the issue

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1 minute ago, AngelsFaninGA said:

I wouldn't be surprised if he's traded. He's still blocked by Pujols for 3 more years and he hasn't played well enough to force the issue

That's where the next discussion gets interesting.

Arte paid Hackilton some $70 million and traded him.   Why is it that people are assuming that Arte won't pay Pujols the full $59 million due after 2019, and have him retire then?

Pujols has had a sub .700 OPS since April 2017, and is maybe the worst runner in MLB.    What is there to like about that?    Ease him out in 2019 (90-100 starts), and then he retires.  

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3 hours ago, Torridd said:

I still say the biggest problem is the offense.

The offense is indeed an issue. Its masked by trout, and to a lesser degree simmons/upton and ohtani (who can still be figured out, sophmore slump).

So we absolutely need to improve the offense.

But pitching is huge. Especially with a staff thats hurt all the time.

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On 10/24/2018 at 10:46 AM, Angel Oracle said:

....Arte paid Hackilton some $70 million and traded him.   Why is it that people are assuming that Arte won't pay Pujols the full $59 million due after 2019, and have him retire then?

He wouldn't hesitate to pay him but, unlike Hamilton, he will give Pujols a lot of input in the decision....the rub will be if Pujols says "I ain't quittin"....I don't think that will happen...something will be worked out....let him retire and be a bench coach, something like that....

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They can simply negotiate to pay his remaining $59 million (+ interest) over the length of his 10 year personal services contract from 2020-2029.  

It doesn't help against the luxury tax threshold as the AAV against it is locked in at $24 million/season, but it gives Arte at least say an extra $22 million in actual dollars for each of 2020 and 2021 to bring in new players, and only adds some $7-8 million (including interest) to what he is actually paying out for 2022-2029. 

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This continued narrative about Pujols not playing out his contract is full of holes.  Albert Pujols still views himself as a productive player.  He sees data that tells him he's still hitting the ball hard and is among the league leaders in this area.  He's just hitting it at people. 

The idea that he's going to retire soon is just not realistic.  Just because people keep posting this narrative doesn't mean it's going to happen. 

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25 minutes ago, Angel Oracle said:

They can simply negotiate to pay his remaining $59 million (+ interest) over the length of his 10 year personal services contract from 2020-2029.  

It doesn't help against the luxury tax threshold as the AAV against it is locked in at $24 million/season, but it gives Arte at least say an extra $22 million in actual dollars for each of 2020 and 2021 to bring in new players, and only adds some $7-8 million (including interest) to what he is actually paying out for 2022-2029. 

I think something like that is doable....we'll see....Pujols can make it difficult if he wants to....

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18 minutes ago, True Grich said:

This continued narrative about Pujols not playing out his contract is full of holes.  Albert Pujols still views himself as a productive player.  He sees data that tells him he's still hitting the ball hard and is among the league leaders in this area.  He's just hitting it at people. 

The idea that he's going to retire soon is just not realistic.  Just because people keep posting this narrative doesn't mean it's going to happen. 

It won't be Pujols' idea,  but if it does happen, it'll come from the organization though. 

Eppler's job is to build a winner, and if the team ever gets to the point where Pujols at 1B is the difference between the season ending early and going to the playoffs, he'll make the switch.  It'll be unpopular, but it would be best for the team. 

The fact that Pujols is still going to be the starting first baseman tells me all I need to know in how they view 2019.  Eppler doesn't currently feel he's the difference between winning and losing.  In fact, the difference between Pujols and your league average 1B right now is 50 OBP points and 2-3 wins.  

So 2018 for example, the difference between having a league average 1B and Pujols would've resulted in an 82-80 team instead of an 80-82 team.  No difference really.  

But 2020 and 2021 are the years it appears to me the Angels are completely serious about contending in, and I don't think Albert Pujols will be the starting 1B for either of those. He'll be a part time DH when Ohtani isn't pitching or resting, and he'll be a power bat off the bench and the backup 1B.  Still a leader, and valued member of the team, but no longer the featured "guy". 

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1 minute ago, Scotty@AW said:

.....The fact that Pujols is still going to be the starting first baseman tells me all I need to know in how they view 2019.  Eppler doesn't currently feel he's the difference between winning and losing.  In fact, the difference between Pujols and your league average 1B right now is 50 OBP points and 2-3 wins.   

Not sure it's that simple Scotty....Eppler has to allocate his money and paying a full time 1bman plus Pujols not to play might not make as much sense as spending his money on pitching.....it may make sense if Pujols regresses some more though....

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5 minutes ago, DMVol said:

Not sure it's that simple Scotty....Eppler has to allocate his money and paying a full time 1bman plus Pujols not to play might not make as much sense as spending his money on pitching.....it may make sense if Pujols regresses some more though....

I think that is largely dependent upon who the replacement is and how much that replacement costs, as well as Albert himself.  

I'd argue that he's already reached the point where it's becoming necessary to replace him if they want to win.  But they aren't close enough to the A's, Astros or Yankees yet to make that switch.  If they're fighting them and are within striking distance, then absolutely, we'll see Albert replaced. 

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10 minutes ago, Scotty@AW said:

I think that is largely dependent upon who the replacement is and how much that replacement costs, as well as Albert himself.  

I'd argue that he's already reached the point where it's becoming necessary to replace him if they want to win.  But they aren't close enough to the A's, Astros or Yankees yet to make that switch.  If they're fighting them and are within striking distance, then absolutely, we'll see Albert replaced. 

Including if they are seriously in the 2nd WC race in late July 2019?    If they are, and his OPS is in the mid .600s, they HAVE to take him out of the lineup.

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Where was the Angels biggest deficit in terms of production last year?  

In 911 plate appearances or approximately 1.5 players worth of at bats, they got -3.0 wins from the likes of valbuena, blash, Chris Young, Eric Young, Kaleb Cowart, and Jefry Marte.  

Even as bad as Hermosillo, Ward, Calhoun, JMF and Cozart were at the plate, they combined for almost a win 1137 pa.  That's not good, but it's still not as bad as the above.  

Calhoun and Cozart are going to occupy starting positions.  So we are kinda stuck there whether we like it or not.  But who is chosen to take over as the 4th OFer and to occupy Valbuena's role becomes critically important.  On top of that, if you can relegate Fletcher to a util role instead of leaving him as a starter, you've strengthened your bench even more.  Fletch was good for 2 wins over 307 pa and 80 games mostly because of his defense.  

Locking in to Gonzalez for 3 years is risky because he could actually become Valbuena pretty quickly.  So it's a tough choice but you have to get better on the bench.  Descalso actually provided equal production to that of Gonzalez this year but he's 3 years older.  It also matters who you choose to backup the OF.  In all likelihood, you can get both Descalso and Jon Jay for less than what Gonzalez would cost.  

What I'm saying is that I'd rather see Ward and JMF and Fletcher get at bats than some sort of half assed hodgepodge  bench filled with below replacement level guys again.  

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