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OC Register: Q&A: Analyzing the Angels deadline moves, and non-moves, and beyond


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CLEVELAND — With the passing of the trade deadline, the Angels’ essentially roster is set for the rest of this season, which makes this a good time to take stock of where they are and where they’re going.

After losing five of seven in a frustrating homestand, they are 56-54, trailing by six games for the second wild card.

We took your questions on Twitter and our Angels Facebook page.

Q: Are we throwing in the towel with no new pitching? — @ds8106

A: For this season, it seems like it. However, the towel was probably thrown in a while ago. General manager Billy Eppler knew they had a long way to go to catch the Houston Astros last winter, so he chose a conservative approach. He held on to all the top prospects and avoided any long-term contracts that could affect future spending. He took a few short-term chances with the hope that, if some things broke right, they could grab a wild card. But all three of their free-agent pitching signings (Matt Harvey, Trevor Cahill and Cody Allen) were whiffs. Given that none of that worked, and along with the tragic passing of Tyler Skaggs, the Angels have been stuck on the fringes of the playoff race. There was little Eppler could do at the deadline that would significantly help the 2019 team make the playoffs, and he didn’t feel the prospect cost for players controllable beyond 2019 was appropriate.

Q: Why a catcher and why not (Dustin) Garneau? — John Clarke

A: Many fans were puzzled when the Angels acquired Max Stassi at the deadline. The Angels didn’t really have a true defensive specialist at catcher going forward. Jonathan Lucroy is going to be a free agent at the end of the year. Kevan Smith is more of an offensive catcher. Their top catching prospect, Jack Kruger, is in Double-A and probably wouldn’t be ready next season. As for Garneau, clearly the Angels feel Stassi is a defensive upgrade. The Angels also have Stassi for three more seasons. It’s clear the Angels feel getting a defensive whiz behind the plate can help their pitchers, which is obviously a need. Stassi is perhaps a poor man’s version of Martín Maldonado, who had also been a backup catcher known an elite defender without much success at the plate when the Angels got him.

Q: What is the plan with Lucroy, Smith, and Stassi all out of options? — @ZacharyMLang

A: That’s an excellent question. I don’t know the answer, but we’ll find out by Friday, when the Angels will have to add Stassi to the 25-man roster. The Angels won’t have three catchers on the roster, and they can’t option any of them. So either one is going on the injured list – and none were hurt as of Wednesday – or one of them is going to be gone. Obviously, the Angels just got Stassi, so the choice will be between Lucroy and Smith. The Angels have viewed Lucroy as the starter when both have been healthy, but Smith is the one who is still under control beyond this season.

Q: Jeff, will they at least spend huge in offseason for an actual ACE?  (Madison) Bumgarner?? They are wasting Mike Trout’s prime years… — @irishzorro2010

A: Eppler has said that spending on free agents has to be coordinated with the development of the rest of the team, and the young core is actually going to be in better shape this winter than in previous years. Young players like David Fletcher, Luís Rengifo, Griffin Canning, José Suarez,  Jaime Barría and Ty Buttrey will all be making around the big league minimum next year, with Jo Adell likely also in the mix. Last winter, the Angels didn’t have any minimum-salary players they could comfortably pencil in to prominent roles. So instead of having to spread their payroll to fill five or six holes, they can use it for two or three. That means aiming for better players. Obviously, pitching is their primary need. All of that is a long-winded way of saying, yes, I expect the Angels to compete at the top of the free-agent pitching market, starting with Gerrit Cole, who is a native of Orange County.

Q: Will they still be be afraid and refuse to break the luxury tax threshold in the off-season?? That seems to be the exact reason they go dumpster diving every winter. They need to do whatever it takes to A. Bring Gerrit Cole home and B. sign a second top line starter (ie. Hyun-Jin Ryu /Bumgarner) — @TheRealArt_B

A: Just two teams exceeded the luxury tax threshold in 2018. The Angels payroll, depending on how you calculate it, is around the top quarter of major league teams. Plus, as I said in the previous answer, Eppler is more interested in spending when it can make a difference. If a team has a 75-win core of young players, you can’t just throw money at it and add a bunch of 30-year-old free agents and make it a 90-win team. If you have an 85-win core, you can add a couple free agents to get above 90.

Q: Will Fletcher, Rengifo and Andrelton Simmons be our everyday infield next season? — @RePLAY619

Q: Does Zack Cozart get another chance to be an everyday player next year for the Angels? Or have the young guys (Fletcher, Rengifo, Taylor Ward, Matt Thaiss, etc) done enough to push Cozart off the roster? — Greg Luttrell

A: These questions obviously are worth being combined. As for Cozart, he is not going anywhere this winter. The Angels are going to have to pay him, so they may as well bring him to spring training and see if his most recent shoulder surgery has helped make him an effective player again, even if that’s as a bench player. If not, they now have more alternatives than they did last year or even at the start of this season, thanks to the development of Fletcher, Rengifo and Tommy La Stella. So I expect them to go into spring training Simmons at shortstop and Fletcher, Rengifo, La Stella and Cozart all in the mix for playing time at second and third. Whoever plays the best will play.

Q: With the Albert Pujols contract running through 2021 and the emergence of Thaiss looking like a Major Leaguer and (Shohei) Ohtani being the obvious DH, what do the Angels do with the situation? Pujols is the obvious out but it’s tough to let 25M sit on the bench all year for multiple seasons. — @LTBU271

A: First, it’s a little early to say Thaiss has established himself as a major league player after 49 plate appearances. Like the Cozart situation, this is one the Angels can let play out on the field. Unless the Angels trade Thaiss or Pujols unexpectedly retires, they will have both players in spring training, and they will play according to their production. The Angels also still may have Justin Bour, who is arbitration eligible. Don’t forget that Ohtani will be pitching next season, which will open up the DH spot more often for Pujols or anyone else. Plus, next year rosters are expanding to 26, which makes it a little easier to carry any position player who isn’t playing as much.

Q: Any idea what’s the plan for Ohtani next year. He’s really turning into a great hitter but I think he needs consistent at bats not just hitting 3 times a week. — @CesarCM13

A: This is a good question. Since Ohtani still has a ways to go in his pitching rehab, it’s a little early for the Angels to figure out if they want him pitching once a week, as they did last year, or on a normal five-day rotation, like other starters. It’ll probably be something in between. If he pitches once a week, and gets the day off before and after, that’s four days a week at the plate. However, as he gets going and they get more comfortable with what he can handle physically, I would not be surprised to see them let him hit the day after he pitches. It’s tougher to let him hit the day before, because if he gets hurt they’d be in a bind for a starting pitcher the next day.

Q: Chances Jo Adell is called up this season and how soon? — @d_leyco

A: Adell has cooled off at Double-A lately. Also, Eppler said he sees value in players going to Triple-A. Even though the raw talent at Double-A is similar to Triple-A, the players at the higher level have more big league experience and provide a different challenge to help add polish to a prospect. If Adell doesn’t get called up to Triple-A within the next week or so, I doubt he’s going to be up in the majors at all this year, although it is still possible. Another factor to consider is that the Angels don’t need to add him to the 40-man roster this winter, so if they bring him up this season, then he’s going to take up a spot all winter that could have otherwise gone to someone else. Each year that the Angels system gets deeper, their 40-man roster gets a little tighter.

Q: Out of all our top prospects, including those who graduated this year (Canning, Rengifo, Buttrey) who would you say is expandable? I know Eppler said he tried to trade from the surplus of position players. Just curious if they value some over others, say Thaiss over Rengifo or Fletcher? — Ruben J. Rosas

A: Eppler said they had trade discussions involving all of their top prospects except one, which was presumably Adell. It seems like the best prospect they have who could be traded is Brandon Marsh. Marsh is an outfielder who is only a year or two from the majors, and between Trout, Adell and Justin Upton, the outfield is going to be full for a while. The only opening for Marsh would be if Upton needs to move to first base or DH, which seems like a longshot since they have players at those spots too. It also seems as if Taylor Ward has been passed on the depth chart by Thaiss, and they play the same positions, so perhaps Ward could be moved in a trade.

UP NEXT

Angels (LHP Dillon Peters, 2-0, 3.06) at Indians (RHP Mike Clevinger, 5-2, 3.28), 4:10 p.m., Fox Sports West

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2 hours ago, AngelsWin.com said:

Stassi is perhaps a poor man’s version of Martín Maldonado, who had also been a backup catcher known an elite defender without much success at the plate when the Angels got him.

 

Isn’t Stassi rated higher overall defensively due to pitch framing? Calling him a poor man’s Maldonado seems like an odd description, IMO. I think it has more to do with the Astros souring on Stassi for some reason and liking Maldonado. 

2 hours ago, AngelsWin.com said:

I expect them to go into spring training Simmons at shortstop and Fletcher, Rengifo, La Stella and Cozart all in the mix for playing time at second and third. Whoever plays the best will play.

Theoretically, maybe. At this point, the chances that Cozart gets a spot on next year’s roster is lower than the chance of the Angels making the playoffs this season. His best case scenario is likely utility infielder. But given his suckage at defense since he’s been here, even that seems unlikely. I expect he gets dfa’d next Spring. 

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Good stuff, as always. 

"Eppler has said that spending on free agents has to be coordinated with the development of the rest of the team, and the young core is actually going to be in better shape this winter than in previous years." 

This is exactly it. Some fans want Eppler to just throw money around willy-nilly, but it has to be coordinated with the young core. Next year should be a clear step forward, and even if they aren't quite ready to win 90+ games even with a rotation upgrade, they'll be close enough to make this the year to spend on pitching...also given the fact there's a good amount available.

@Jeff Fletcher, I would quibble with your statement about the infield in that I think there's a bit more certainty than you imply. La Stella and Fletcher are locks for the roster and probably for starting gigs, at 2B/3B in some form or fashion. Cozart will compete with Rengifo in spring training for super-sub. If he impresses, Rengifo has options and can always start in AAA and be called up in case of injury. He'll get his chances. If Cozart is good and healthy all year, Rengifo would be a nice trade chip, or just wait until Cozart is off the books and then commence as super-sub in 2021 and beyond, or start if the Angels decide not to extend one of Simmons or La Stella. If Cozart flops, they'll probably release him.

Of course this is confused somewhat when you factor in Thaiss. While the 3B experiment was a nice idea and I think he has what it takes to becoming a solid defender, his future on the major league team is probably at 1B. In 2020 he can platoon with Pujols, get a bit of time at DH and maybe at 3B, just to keep that option open.

One other possibility is that La Stella starts at 2B, Thaiss at 3B, and Fletcher as super-sub, and Rengifo in the minors or traded. But the point is, Fletcher and La Stella are locks for the major league roster, and the fluid players are Cozart, Rengifo, and Thaiss.

Over the next couple years, the infield is far more fluid and uncertain than the outfield. Simmons, La Stella, and Cozart are signed through 2020 and not beyond. Fletcher and Rengifo are talented, multi-positional players. Thaiss can play a passable 3B. Jahmai Jones has stalled but is still on the radar for 2021-22. The only thing we can say with absolute certainty is that Cozart won't be an Angel in 2021. Other than that, the 2021 infield could look a variety of ways. 

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44 minutes ago, Angelsjunky said:

But the point is, Fletcher and La Stella are locks for the major league roster, and the fluid players are Cozart, Rengifo, and Thaiss.

I disagree. A lot of things can happen. 

People get traded. People change positions. 

Edited by Jeff Fletcher
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18 minutes ago, Troll Daddy said:

Why didn’t Eppler trade Calhoun at the deadline? No takers? The team would save approx $3.5M in payroll and pickup a prospect or two. 

Now they pay a extra $1M (buyout) and end up with Butkus. Is there a Calhoun extension in the horizon?

LOL: People who complain about stat nerds who ‘make decisions based on spread sheets and don’t watch the game’, while simultaneously complaining about a decision made that is contrary to what the numbers say. Thank you for making my day. ?

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1 hour ago, Sean-Regan said:

LOL: People who complain about stat nerds who ‘make decisions based on spread sheets and don’t watch the game’, while simultaneously complaining about a decision made that is contrary to what the numbers say. Thank you for making my day. ?

I’m not sure what you’re blabbering about but I was looking for opinions as to why he wasn’t traded.

Personally, I’m ecstatic that I get to watch him finish the season in a Angels uniform. 

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