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Three Lineup Questions (and Answers) for 2020


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1. Do the Angels pick up Kole Calhoun's option?

Short answer: No, or at least probably not. Kole is having his best year since 2016, hitting .237/.328/.480, a 111 wRC+ and a 2.1 fWAR, which puts him #77 of 146 qualifying MLB hitters. While that's not exactly star cailber, it is quite solid - and remember that an average full-time player is a pretty good baseball player. There are three reasons they don't pick up his option: $12 million, Jo Adell, and Brian Goodwin. The Angels save $12 million by not taking his $14 million option (there's a $2M opt out), which is money they desperately need to spend on pitching. While Jo Adell could probably use a bit more AAA seasoning, he doesn't need a full season's worth - and probably only needs a month or two; you don't want to block one of the best prospects in all of baseball, especially when he could probably equal Kole's performance right now for <5% of the cost. Finally, Brian Goodwin--after starting really strong and then cooling off--has been playing really well again, stabilizing as a pretty good player. Through 8/25 he's hitting .284/.346/.502 with a 123 wRC+ and 1.8 fWAR in 348 PA. In other words, even if his .365 BABIP goes down next year, he's probably about as good as Calhoun with the bat. He's not a good defender, but he's good enough to hold the fort until Adell is ready - with Michael Hermosillo, or a possible free agent, as the 4th outfielder.

So while we're going to miss our favorite ginger, you don't spend $12M just because he's a fan favorite, especially when you can replace his production quite easily from within for much less, and when it would block the Angels' best prospect since Mike Trout. Thank you for the memories, Kole.

2. How do the Angels solve the infield logjam?

SS is the only clear answer, with (a hopefully healthy and resurgent) Andrelton Simmons playing full time in (possibly) his last year as an Angel. At first they have Pujols, Thaiss, Walsh, Ward, and maybe eventually Upton if Brandon Marsh plays well in Salt Lake. At 2B/3B/UT they have a rising Rengifo, a solid Fletcher, a surprising La Stella, a promising Thaiss, and an adjectiveless Cozart - and even Quad-A Jose Rojas could factor in.

The two groups--1B and 2B/3B/UT--are linked by Thaiss, who could play either 1B or 3B, but otherwise the other players are either/or. So what will happen? How will it play out? The easy answer is that whoever plays the best, plays the most. Maybe that is a cop out, but that's just how it is. The only thing we know for certain is that Simmons will be pencilled in as full-time. I would guess that Cozart is released in spring training. La Stella will be given the chance to build upon his breakout first half of 2019, which leaves Fletcher and Rengifo for 2B/UT. I think Fletcher is as good as he'll get; maybe he stabilizes as a .300 hitter, but I don't think he'll improve substantially from what we've seen -- which is plenty good enough to either start at 3B or be a super utility player. Rengifo has a lot of room to grow, however; right now he's not as good as Fletcher, but it would seem he has greater upside.

Thaiss has flashed major league talent in his 113 PA so far, but also looks lost at the plate at times and very rough at 3B. 2020 could see him in a Luis Valbuena role, playing 1B/3B as necessary. He could also be a trade candidate - as could Ward, who doesn't seem to have a place on the major league club (ditto Rojas). Walsh might have a slight edge for a roster spot due to his two-way capability, but might not be good enough at either "way" to warrant a roster spot.

So there are no clear answers. Chances are Simmons and La Stella are full-time, Pujols playing time is diminished, Cozart is let go of, at least one of Thaiss, Ward, Walsh and Rojas are traded; it may even be that the Angels package Fletcher or Rengifo in a trade for a pitcher, or La Stella if he comes back healthy and hits well for a couple weeks to end the year. But there could be surprises. What if Cozart looks great in spring? What if La Stella doesn't? There are lots of moving parts, but at least we can say with some degree of certainty that all of those parts are already on the team.

3. Whither Catcher?

It is hard to imagine the Angels starting the year with Max Stassi and Kevan Smith as the catching tandem, with Anthony Bemboom and Dustin Garneau as depth (what happened to Jose Briceno?). Both are very limited players and the back-ups are back-ups to back-ups. Best-case scenario and Stassi re-discovers and builds upon the player he was in 2018, and Smith re-finds the bat he showed earlier in the year, and stays healthy. But it could also be disastrous.

I've advocated for the Angels going hard after Yasmani Grandal. He's going to be 31 years old and pretty expensive--my guess is something like 3/$45M--but he's having his fifth year in a row of 4+ fWAR, a span in which his overally 23.9 fWAR leads all MLB catchers. Think about that for a moment: having a 4 WAR catcher; in the 59 years of Angels baseball, they've only had a 4 WAR catcher three times: Ellie Rodriguez in 1974 (4.0), Brian Downing in 1979 (5.0), and Lance Parrish in 1990 (4.6). Bob Boone's best was 3.2 (twice), and Bengie Molina's was 2.2. Even if he starts to decline, the Angels could do worse than getting 10+ fWAR out of Grandal over the next three years.

But even though Grandal would basically be a replacement for Calhoun on payroll, chances are Eppler goes the budget route and signs a cheaper free agent. Travis D'Arnaud, perhaps? 

Summary (or the TLDR Version)

1) So...no on Kole, with Goodwin warming RF for Adell until he's ready  sometime in the first half (my guess would be May or June), with Hermosillo as 4th outfielder.

2) We'll just have to see how it goes in the infield, with numerous configurations. But it will work itself out internally by who plays best (and is healthy).

3) Who knows? Unlike the IF, the question is whether or not to seek outside help, and if the answer is yes--which it probably should be--do they go big (Grandal) or another patch-job? My hope is Grandal but I would guess something more like d'Arnaud.

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I don’t think they will re-sign Kole, I am thinking it will be Goodwin’s job (not that that is a good thing) coming out of spring training until Adell is ready.  

I think we will see Simmons extended but only after we see the starting pitching resolved.  They need to know what the budget will be for that before spending more money on Simmons.  I think we will see Rengifo start the season in the minors and Fletch and LaStella up to start the year with Thiass as our back up corner infielder.  If LaStella proves he can play some first base then maybe we see Thiass in the minors to start with Rengifo up.

Grandall is a luxury item that can only happen if we sign Cole and acquire the second arm in a trade where the pitcher makes very little money.  

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1. Nope, to much money. decline the option,  worry about whether to sign him towards the end, and if he sign, that's also fine\

2. dang some guys and see there values, but if Kole does not sign, we maybe able to play Either Flect or Rengifo in Right with Goodwin.

3. good question about Briceno, always felt he was the backup of the future ( could have helped with all those past balls). Castro is another name to consider, left hand hitter know for his work behind the dish. Will be cheap/

main focus will be on pitching, i'm not expecting much of a change, other than a trade involving the infielders. 

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Kole is signed but at a lower salary.

Thaiss or La Stella is traded for another need.

Cole becomes an Angel.

Pujols plays another year.

Simba is extended.

Bullpen is revamped, again.  Garcia and Cole are gone.  New arms are picked up from the scrap heap for a run at 2020.

Canning, well I think we all know what the future holds.....

Barria, Suarez and Sandoval return to the rotation with much improved numbers.

Ausmus finds new ways to grasp defeat from the jaws of victory because he has the stats to support it

 

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Any money they spend will be on pitching.  

- I think AJ's absolutely right regarding Goodwin and Adell.  Adell is heading to the Arizona Fall League, which MLB teams have lately treated as the final step before a promotion.  Typically, the Angels would find themselves under fire for delaying Adell's service clock, but in this case, because he's showing that more minor league seasoning isn't a terrible idea, and because Goodwin is showing that he deserves an everyday look as a starter, and because Hermosillo is showing that the hernia is finally behind him and he's performing like he dynamic player he is, Goodwin will likely be the starting RF until May or June.  Then one of two things will happen.  1. Hermosillo will be demoted, Adell will be promoted and Goodwin will move back to 4th OF.  2. Goodwin is let go, Adell is the starting RF and Hermosillo functions as the 4th OF.  Either way, Adell's time is coming, and it's coming fast.  

- The infield log jam is about to get solved.  Just speaking plainly, the Angels offense is good enough, long term.  Their defense is too.  But their pitching is not.  So the GM will reallocate some of that offensive or defensive value as pitching value.  In other words, there will be a trade.  The Angels biggest trade trip is obviously Brandon Marsh.  And because La Stella earned his shot as the starting 3B with an all-star performance this year, he'll be back at 3B/1B.  Simmons is at SS.  Fletcher /Rengifo are at 2B/UT, and Pujols, for at least the beginning part of the year will be at 1B.  But this means there's no room for Thaiss, Ward, Walsh or Rojas, at least not immediately.  Just a guess, but I think Marsh and Thaiss will be packaged together along with Jeremiah Jackson in return for Matthew Boyd from the Tigers.  

- Again, I don't think offense will be the focus, but undoubtedly, Smith's inability to keep the ball in front of him is a problem.  My guess is he'll end up playing winter ball and will be focusing strongly on his defensive ability.  So I do think it's going to be Stassi and Smith with Bemboom as the third catcher. 

But by answering those and trading from our depth, I think that opens up the Angels to spend big on a free agent pitcher.  Perhaps due to a simple lack of creativity, I believe that pitcher to be Gerrit Cole.  And I have to think that Gerrit Cole, Shohei Ohtani and Matthew Boyd will be a vast improvement over the likes of Harvey and Cahill this year.

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The team should be giving at bats to Ward and Walsh, and playing Thaiss and Rengifo full time. Let's see what these guys can do and whether they can be counted on to help next year.

The team is loaded in positional players who are somewhere between competent and superstar. All available money should be spent on pitching. 

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There is no way i'm trading Marsh + for Boyd, Boyd had nice little run in the first half, but since than he's had an era over 5 in 46 innings.

Simply sign Cole to a contract, make a trade or sign Hamels. 

Line-up

Flect

Trout

Ohtani

La Stella

Upton

Pujols

Goodwin

Simmons

Catcher

Rotation

Cole, Ohtani, Sp/Hamels, Heaney and Canning. 

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9 minutes ago, Vlad27Trout27 said:

There is no way i'm trading Marsh + for Boyd, Boyd had nice little run in the first half, but since than he's had an era over 5 in 46 innings.

Yep. In his last 14 starts he has an era of 5.49

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I’d welcome a Marsh for Boyd deal if Marsh made up about half the value. Boyd’s been stung since mid-June by HRs, but has still struck out about 100 over his last 70 innings while maintaining a decent hit and walk allowed rate. I’ll chalk up some poor performance to regression, trade rumors, and playing on a poor team. I don’t think he’s as dominant as he his first 13 starts were, nor as poor as his last 13. 

His control and salary are incredibly appealing when you consider how much flexibility he gives you to still spend future money in free agency, enough value that it outweighs a regression to a very good #3 type that gives you 180-200 innings of 3.50-4.00 ball. I realize that isn’t terribly different from Heaney, or all that impressive, but shoring up the rotation with an arm like that, signing Cole, getting Ohtani back, and a new year for Canning, Sandoval, Barria, and Suarez (though surely one is dealt) makes for a really good rotation really quickly, without touching the payroll aside from Gerrit.

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Nobody has laid out yet the plans for ohtani pitching pattern.  If they are going to go back to the every six day, you need to find ANOTHER pitcher.  If you get cole he either gets 5-6 less starts or you find a way to have some pitchers going 5 days and some (one?) going every sixth.  Not sure ausmus is smart enough to figure that out.

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7 minutes ago, Vlad27Trout27 said:

Marsh only gets trade for a front of the line arm!

Therein lies the problem - I don’t think anyone on the Angels farm short of Adell, Canning, or a really, really high-value quartet, maybe even quintet, of prospects gets you a front of the line arm in a trade. Demand is too high, that type of pitching is at an absolute premium, and we have fierce competition on the trade market from SDG, ATL, HOU, and NYY right out the gate.

The only way the Angels can trade for a frontline arm this winter without sparing Adell or Griff is by using Marsh for an arm that has a strong chance at developing into a frontline arm. I don’t think Boyd is a dominant #1, but he’s at the age and showing enough promise in 2019 that he very well might rattle off 2-3 very good years in line with a really good #2-3 on a staff. We need that badly. If Cole actually signs here and Ohtani returns to form you have a tremendous trio atop the rotation for very low payroll; and you might not need Boyd to pitch like a #1 in that scenario. 

Jose Quintana cost Dylan Cease and Eloy. The years of control, floor, and ceiling for Boyd make him extremely valuable.

Edited by totdprods
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5 minutes ago, thebloob said:

Nobody has laid out yet the plans for ohtani pitching pattern.  If they are going to go back to the every six day, you need to find ANOTHER pitcher.  If you get cole he either gets 5-6 less starts or you find a way to have some pitchers going 5 days and some (one?) going every sixth.  Not sure ausmus is smart enough to figure that out.

I’m sure he is.  Dude has an Ivy League education, all you are asking him to do is look at a schedule, put Ohtani every Sunday and with the help of Eppler put arms every 5th day or so using off days and minor league call ups to get a schedule to work.  Hell one of our guys on here figured it out, granted it was one of the smart guys, but still, if fans who do this for fun can figure it out certainly someone who’s job it is can figure it out.  

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I’ll concede that if you wait a year, Marsh might develop enough that he does get you a frontline arm as a headliner, but I also think if we wait a year, his value to the Angels also shoots up considerably as Upton will be a year further into his contract and we’ll have a clearly idea, for better or worse, of what Adell, Goodwin, Lund, Hermosillo, and perhaps Jones and Walsh May offer. 

I guess I have a lot of confidence in Adams, Knowles, Deveaux, and our internal stopgap OF depth - including guys like Fletcher or Rengifo who could cover LF for a season if the IF filled up with Rengifo/Fletcher, La Stella, Thaiss. Adams could end 2020 in AA just as close to ready as Marsh or Adell are now if he has a big year, and could provide a really similar immediate skill set. 

I just feel that, as of Aug 2019, if the Angels want to trade for a frontline arm this winter, they’ll have to gamble based on who they can trade. They’ll have to gamble on someone like Marsh for a gamble of a SP like Ray or Boyd, and have to hope that arm achieves their ceiling, just as the acquiring team will be hoping Marsh becomes a frequent All-Star, and not another say, Josh Reddick. Most likely, neither happens. The Angels get a solid 2-3 on the cheap for a few years, the acquiring team gets an above-average, but not elite, everyday outfielder.

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As far as prognostications go, this thread is one of the most logical. Most premises make sense, and implementing the changes will be relatively easy excepting  for free agent competition. 

But what looks sensible and reasonable on paper and in the future rarely comes to pass as expected. 

Even if all these position changes work out well, the team still won't contend till they seriously revamp their pitching. 

But since you can't just isolate one problem at a time you do have to orchestrate the entire roster in real time, factoring in short and long term probabilities.

Assuming that pitching is the main priority and is upgraded enough to be at least average, then I would look for a lineup next year that can at least match what we've seen this year at their best.

Not necessarily become an instant slugger's row, but good enough to help win games with a pitching staff that won't be dominant but will be better. 

One instant improvement from within.

When La Stella was in a groove he really ignited the offense. Homers early in the game, unexpected production, a tough out wherever he was in the order. If he comes back close to that level it will be a big addition from within. And allows for positional shuffling or platooning, and another source to replace Calhoun's production. 

Just  seriously upgrade the starters, fine tune the bullpen, tinker with their roles, and the team will be a marginal contender next season even if the rest of the team is collectively no worse than this year.

But beyond 2020, deeper long term changes should be prioritized. Assuming big changes to the pitching are made before the next season starts. 

 

 

 

 

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46 minutes ago, Vlad27Trout27 said:

see i don't see Boyd developing into a 2-3, I see him more of 3-4. Also with the way Upton has been thos season, Marsh may he important to keep. 

we still have guys like Adam's, jackson, Jones that can still develop and be part of an important trade.

Well, I don’t see many #3-4s striking out 12 per 9. And even with his struggles, he still has a WHIP of 1.16 - that’s pretty damn good, and much, much more in line with a #2-3, even an ace. 

And it’s a lot easier to allow 30 HR to bad luck than it is to strike out 200 with good luck. 

His track record doesn’t back it up, but he’s had promise in the past and is young enough to he stepping into a new level for his prime. I didn’t buy it at first, but look through some of his starts and he’s been a force. I’d bank on him being much closer to a #2 than a #4 over the next few seasons.

And all the names you mentioned can step in and fill Marsh’s role.

I’ll also add that I have zero interest in this move unless it’s secondary to adding Gerrit Cole - maybe a Ryu, Hamels, Bumgarner, or Wheeler, or in addition to an Odorizzi/relieves and a solid bat add like Grandal or Donaldson. If Boyd was marquee deal of the offseason, no way I make that trade. 

Edited by totdprods
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Isn’t Calhoun’s option a 1mil buyout?

3 hours ago, AngelsLakersFan said:

I would not expect to see Grandall in an Angels uniform

Didn’t they pursue him this last offseason? If they were willing to pay him for multiple years last offseason, I wouldn’t be surprised to see them go that route again. 

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3 hours ago, RBM said:

I would like to see a trade for Robbie Ray. He has one year of control so you could probably get Ray without giving up Marsh. I'm thinking Suarez/Barria and Walsh/Ward/Rojas.

I would put Marsh in the mix along with someone else for adding Carson Kelly.

There’s no way they’re gonna part with someone like Kelly - a catcher that good and young is worth a fortune. 

And I doubt you get Ray, even with his last year of control, for that package. There’s a reason these guys didn’t get dealt in July - the price is extremely high, and I’d imagine even as a rental he’ll cost you at least something closer to Suarez and Marsh - the second prospect would have to be a good step up from Ward, Walsh, or Rojas at least, I’d think.

His price will be down a bit being offseason and less control, but it’s also a lot easier for other teams to make competitive offers without being in-season too. 

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I'd like the Angels to ask Washington about Anibal Sanchez. He's got 1 year of control and a team option for 2021. I'm not sure if he would cost as much as Ray, but one would think the Nats are still looking to compete and would want MLB ready talent. So a Walsh/Rojas/Suarez package is certainly possible. Then again, who knows? They'd be selling high on him so they may want more.

Ideally, the Angels will have signed Cole and someone like Odorizzi first. 

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1 hour ago, tdawg87 said:

Ray would absolutely cost Marsh. I'd love to have him, but I don't see Eppler trading prospects for 1 year of control.

And that brings me back to Boyd being the most realistic trade target...Ray is certainly has the track record, but Boyd’s control ultimately tips the scale for me. And the salary. The difference in arb salary between the two is a #5 SP, a good vet RP, or a solid vet catcher, or two decent bench bats. 

47 minutes ago, tdawg87 said:

I'd like the Angels to ask Washington about Anibal Sanchez. He's got 1 year of control and a team option for 2021. I'm not sure if he would cost as much as Ray, but one would think the Nats are still looking to compete and would want MLB ready talent. So a Walsh/Rojas/Suarez package is certainly possible. Then again, who knows? They'd be selling high on him so they may want more.

Ideally, the Angels will have signed Cole and someone like Odorizzi first. 

I was surprised to see Sanchez had rebounded so well, if I recall he was pretty awful to start the year. Still - he’ll be 36 next year and his strikeouts are dropping, walks increasing, hits increasing...he’d have to come at a very low price. One of Walsh or Rojas and maybe a throw-in arm is about as high as I’d go. It’d have to be framed as a salary dump for Washington, which is possible.

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