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The Angels must try to rebuild AND contend


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I started writing this in the Dipoto "One bad streak" thread but decided that was getting to long and we should start another conversation.

 

One discussion in that thread was whether or not the Angels should rebuild or try to contend and rebuild (or "retool") at the same time. Obviously it is easier to do one or the other, but I think the Angels have to try to do both at the same time (contend and rebuild). They don't have the movable parts to do a complete rebuild - or rather they do, but they'd still be stuck with the big contacts - Pujols and Hamilton.

 

So any rebuild will involve keeping Pujols, Hamilton, and Trout. The Angels could trade almost everyone else but that would mean looking at 2017-18 or beyond for contention. Trout is a free agent in 2018, as is Hamilton, and Pujols will be in his seventh year of his contract. What sort of message does that send to Trout if you essentially say the team is going to suck until you're ready to be a free agent? Do you think he'd be willing to sign that long-term contract? Also, the Angels would basically be saying that they're giving up on the Hamilton and Pujols contracts as Hamilton would be gone by the time the Angels contend, and Pujols would be in his late 30s. They've invested too much money in these two players - $375 million! - to give up this quickly.

 

So simply because of those three players the Angels have to try to work with what they have. That said, they have SOME leeway. I would suggest that their players come in a few general categories.

 

First you have the three players above, who are essentially untradeable (although for very different reasons): Trout, Pujols, and Hamilton.

 

Then you have the players that are young, cheap, and talented - players that you want to keep but have a fair amount of trade value: Bourjos, Trumbo, Richards.

 

Then you have the veterans that have trade value but are valuable contributors: Weaver, Wilson, Vargas, Aybar, Kendrick, Iannetta, Frieri, I suppose we could toss in Williams.

 

Then you have a group of spare parts that might have some value for the right team, are pretty easy to replace, but you don't want to give away for free: most of the bullpen and bench, plus Callaspo.

 

Blanton and Hanson are in their own categories - they don't have much trade value, although I suppose someone might want to take Hanson on as a project. Blanton is basically untradeable but unlike the first three players there's little incentive to invest in him because of his relatively small contract ($15 million).

 

So what to do? The Angels are 10 games behind the Athletics and Rangers and 9 games out of the wildcard with tons of teams ahead of them. With 87 games to play I don't think you toss in the chips now, but the Angels will know better by mid-July whether they have a snowball's chance to get into the postseason. So if you're Dipoto you're thinking about who you can move now but you're not actively trying to move anyone, at least until we get a week or so into July.

 

The next question is what to bring in? Obviously the big problem has been starting pitching. Or rather, I'd say the problems are ranked as follows:

 

1) Starting Pitching (desperate)

2) Pujols & Hamilton's production (very serious)

3) Bullpen (problematic)

4) Defense (problematic)

 

3 and 4 can be worked with over time and improved gradually and in the offseason. 2 will either work itself out with time or it won't, but no trades or free agent acquisitions will fix it. So we're left with the starting pitching.

 

The problem, there, is that few teams want to trade good, young pitchers which is what the Angels need. The only way they're going to get anyone worth keeping, that is young at least, is by offering Trumbo or Bourjos. All of the other players that are tradeable will only possibly net the type of players that we would be trading.

 

So the Angels are in a bit of a bind. They don't want to trade Trumbo or Bourjos, but they need young starting pitching. My recommendation is that they shop Hanson, Vargas (if he's healthy), Williams, Iannetta, Downs, even Aybar and Kendrick for young pitching talent. They could probably also throw in Cron and Grichuk as trade chips. I don't think Lindsey will be ready to take over for Kendrick next year, but he'll be close. Aybar might be harder to replace, but the Angels could get a fill-in during the offseason until Stamets is ready.

 

Again, just throwing possibilities out there. Its going to be a rough road.

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I also posted my rebuild comments in that Dipoto thread. This seems like a better place. I don't thinks the Angels need to rebuild as much as they just need to retool. They are very close right now to being a championship caliber team. It starts with pitching and that is where all the effort needs to go for 2014. We need smart choices not expenses ones. Here is what I posted yesterday in the Dipoto thread........

 

I don't think we necessarily need to shred a lot of payroll to win. We just need to make smarter choices instead of thinking the best all around player (historically) on the free agent market is going to help us win. There are a fair number of teams right now that are winning with considerably lower payroll.

 

In preparing this team for next year Dipotto (and Arte) need to take a step back and look at some other organizations that are very successful using players that are not expensive (Rays, A's, Giants, Pirates) and understand what it really takes to build a winning team.

 

Arte is going to have to bite the bullet on those contracts but don't for a minute thing that getting rid of payroll so we can go out and try another expensive player is going to make any difference. There are lots of deals to be had if our GM will really do his homework and stop looking at the higher tier FA. We can probably have a really good team with the current pieces plus some really smart low cost choices. Hamilton may end up like Wells as a part time player. Pujols will always be in there but don't expect the world from him.

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Was thinking about this a bit.  And we are in quite a bind.  The biggest question is, is this a lost year or not?  I think it is.  The only thing we can do is hurt ourselves some more with delusiions of winning, because it's obvious the only way we will get better talent on the MLB club is through free agency.  We can't trade some vital parts to fill gaps.  We don't have much in the minors to trade.  

 

We have to lose and stay in the bottom 10 so our #1 pick is protected.  We also need to go into free agency and pick up players that can make a difference.  

 

Another thing to consider is to start calling up some of our better prospects and get them experience through the season.  Prime candidate would have been 3B.  Till I saw what our #1 prospect is doing in AA.  He's making Hamilton look like a slugger at the moment.  So now 3B is a bigger black hole that I thought.  Which will come later.

 

Pitching.  Williams and Richards should be trotted out there to prepare for 2014.  This is an ideal time to consider a Vargas extension in the low end of 3/$30 area or less.  I don't know what other pitchers are considered MLB talent that we can also give an extended September to.  And just because they are in our top 10 doesn't mean they are MLB talents.  But then again, we are so unhealthy in the pitching department, that I don't know if we are truely as bad as it seems.  Just having Burnett in the pen would change the landscape of the pen.  Add to him if Madson's arm ever heals, and Coello.  Although Coello may have been more of a blind squirrel finding an acorn.

 

Now as far as trade targets.  Pitching is a top priority, but pitching usually comes with a huge pricetag.  I don't think we will be able to get any quality in pitching, without giving up quality.  Bourjos, Trumbo, Trout.  I think we will be able to get prospects, which don't equate to MLB pitching, for some of our players, but nothing that will immediately help the MLB club.  

 

Now here is where I go off the deep end.  I have always said that this person won't be traded from his team, and that he would cost too much.  But right now, the time might be right.  Right now, the Padres are 3.5 games out of first place.  They have 3 good starting pitchers.  And 2 Blantons with a 5.67 and 7.01 ERA and negative WAR's.  So they could use a starter.  They also have a hotshot rookie Jedd Gyorko who has a .802 OPS to match a .913 minor league OPS, and a 1.148 college OPS.  So I don't think his numbers are a fluke.  This is also his first year of MLB service time.  And he plays thirdbase.  

 

It would be near impossible for us to trade for him.  So that guy that was bantered about the last 2-3 years of a trade target might be available.  Headley.  He is currently at a .682 OPS.  Headley would have a higher upside than Callaspo in the mid .700 ops range.  Callaspo is a .700 hitter and that his last Royals year was a fluke.  Headley is also approaching arbitration 3 next season.  

 

So who can we trade to them.  Weaver, CJ, and Blanton are out.  Vargas is probably out with his health issue.  But he would have been a prime candidate, so it's still possible he would be the one included.  That would leave Hanson, Richards, and Williams.  Richards would be good for them for his control left, but that is also something we need.  Williams is also approaching arbitration 3 next season, so might be a good fit.  Hanson would be our ideal person to trade off, since he's in Arbitration 2 next season, and it seems he hasn't adjusted to the AL very well.  Of course it might have to do with his situation, and a change of scenery might do him well, mentally.  Hanson would also benefit from that park, and his numbers are better than their 4/5 pitchers currently, and his past numbers shows some potential that Black can weave.  Would probably have to include one or two players, but nothing really we would miss. 

 

Just throwing a dart on the board.

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 we have a replacement right now in for aybar in slc. romine. this kid can flat pick it and has a cannon for an arm. no stick but on a team with offensive firepower like trout and trumbo, you don't need offense out of that position. aybar's middle level contract would be attractive for teams like st louis, who historically and currently have a black hole at short.

 kendrick's trade value will never be higher than this season. we are seeing the absolute peak out of this guy. while i am personally biased against kendrick (rolls over into too many double plays and historically, at least, is shit at hitting with risp) teams that need an upgrade to middle infield like the pirates could be a trade partner.

 both these guys are leftovers from speed and pitching type teams that the angels were previous to the basher makeup that the angels are now.

if we could get a good combo of hot pitching prospects and maybe a starter for these two holdovers we should jump on it.

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Hamiltown, Trumbo and Bourjos have a lot of value as well and aren't locked to a crappy contract. Aybar and Kendrick have value and their contracts aren't "crappy," but pretty standard for league average players  - and right now Kendrick is more than that. There are a few others as well, it is just that Trout is the franchise player that is absolutely untouchable.

 

Nowani, I don't agree that the Angels are "very close to being a championship caliber team" although I do agree with you that they are closer than many think, or that their record shows. What separates them from being championship calilber? I'd say two things mainly:

 

One, they need at least two #1-2 starters and two #3 starters. In other words, they need at least four starters who are above average, and two who are very good. Right now they have three #3 types (Weaver, Wilson, Vargas), one #4 type (Williams) and a couple #5 types (Blanton, Hanson, Richards). The best-case scenario is that Weaver re-finds his velocity somehow and Wilson continues his incremental improvements, and Richards matures into a #3 type. If all that happened the Angels would have close to the rotation they need to really compete, but I'd rather see them acquire at least one, preferably two, high ceiling arm.

 

The second thing is that they need Hamilton and Pujols to perform better. I can't believe that Hamilton has completely lost it. I know he struggled in the second half last year but he also had some hot streaks. I think the worst case scenario is that he's simply a diminished player who will strike out more and hit for a lower average, but could still hit .270/.800+ with 30 HR...next year. Pujols actually seems to be improving, so it may be that he's now just a slow starter; either way I don't think we can expect more than what he's done the last couple years, maybe .290/.850+ with 30 HR. In neither case are those the numbers Arte's paying for but they'd be good enough, along with the rest of the lineup, to score a ton of runs.

 

So most of the above must come from within. Unfortunately it looks like it might be too late this year to turn the ship around, but with some tweaks - 1-2 quality starters - they could complete. The free agent market for next year looks sparse so it might have to come through trade.

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 we have a replacement right now in for aybar in slc. romine. this kid can flat pick it and has a cannon for an arm. no stick but on a team with offensive firepower like trout and trumbo, you don't need offense out of that position. aybar's middle level contract would be attractive for teams like st louis, who historically and currently have a black hole at short.

 kendrick's trade value will never be higher than this season. we are seeing the absolute peak out of this guy. while i am personally biased against kendrick (rolls over into too many double plays and historically, at least, is shit at hitting with risp) teams that need an upgrade to middle infield like the pirates could be a trade partner.

 both these guys are leftovers from speed and pitching type teams that the angels were previous to the basher makeup that the angels are now.

if we could get a good combo of hot pitching prospects and maybe a starter for these two holdovers we should jump on it.

Historically Kendrick with RISP: .291.342.418 = not historically shit with RISP

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This team has to "retool" because it has too much money locked up to immovable players to "rebuild." They need to make some tweaks and *hope* that things improve next year.

That being said, our farm is beyond horrible. This team caanot lose any more draft picks the next 3-5 years. And they shkukdnt trade away any young talent. They are going to have to rely on second tier free agents and keep their fingers crossed that that they make some good decisions and contend again next year.

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The next question is what to bring in? Obviously the big problem has been starting pitching. Or rather, I'd say the problems are ranked as follows:

 

1) Starting Pitching (desperate)

2) Pujols & Hamilton's production (very serious)

3) Bullpen (problematic)

4) Defense (problematic)

 

 

AJ, if  you are thinking in terms of solutions then #2 is not even part of the problem solving. It is like saying we need stop from falling after jumping off a cliff and cite gravity as the number two problem to fix. We already know gravity is not going to be altered in and of itself so it is no longer really a problem to solve, just something to work around.

 

Currently trading Vargas is off the table as he may not even be healthy in July and even if he is you have to have someone pitch for the Angels next season. In terms of pitchers available in free agency, Vargas is probably the best choice so if he comes out of the blood clot with a clean bill of health then broach an extension before he can test the market. If he balks then trade him.

 

Trading Kendrick at this point would be the highest value in his career when taking into account his current hitting and cost friendly contract. You would need a team in contention that needs a 2nd baseman and also has prospects you can use. Like all trades it isn't just about swapping bodies but for value in return so a list of suitors is needed to discuss further if a deal can be made.

 

This goes for Trumbo or Bourjos as well. They are our best in terms of value to other teams for a well above league average player under club control. So the return for the Angels has to be big in order to not just say they are of better value to keep as a mainstay to remain competitive.

 

That really is the problem, tier ranking what we have not only in terms of trade value but what damage the Angels 25 man roster takes that may not be balanced between what you had needed and the need you created by making the trade.

 

The rest of the infield could be traded to a wider variety of clubs since the returns will not garner multiple top prospects.

 

Ayabr, although a very solid defensive SS is really not that good of an offensive player, relying on streaks to save his batting average but his OBP remains lackluster. He can go and not leave that big of a dent.

 

Callaspo is another just ok guy at his position. If moved the replacement is not going to impact the team one way or another unless he is truly a better third baseman and in which case should have been the replacement.

 

Ianetta is a lousy catcher. Sorry but his ability to get on base offensively is not helping the Angels keep opposing runners off the bases or from taking extra ones. Two years in and Ianetta still doesn't really seem in sync with the pitching staff and is not very good at getting calls from the umpires or handling pitches in the dirt. Conger is definitely a replacement value player for him.

 

Getting back to pitching, the Angels should keep Weaver in hopes he going to rebound. At least he knows how to pitch regardless of velocity. I am not sure Wilson is trade bait with that contract but a pitching desperate contender could shell out for a known veteran. That leaves another big gap in the rotation that is going to be filled with who? Prospects are usually a year or two from being ready otherwise teams wouldn't trade them and just call them up early like we did with K-Rod in 2002.

 

Frieri is a keeper, the rest of the bullpen is up for grabs. Downs is attractive at this point from a raw numbers standpoint. Left hander, good track record, ERA under 2 should get attention. Late bloomer Kohn is looking good, Jepsen has that 97 mph fastball that can lure some interest.

 

After those guys the problem there is not much is worth grabbing so the returns are going to be of lesser quality, meaning less likely to ever reach the majors so are we just giving away players at that point?

 

One pitcher I didn't mention was Jerome Williams because I see him as a completely different category of pitchers. He is the utility pitcher that can pitch late and close, can do long relief, can give your team quality starts and is a borderline starter. This guy is the Swiss Army knife of pitchers and will never recover prospects in terms of overall value he brings to a team that will have plenty of need for him in this rebuild while staying competitive stretch. The only trade I can see would have to be a team that gets it, this guy save lives like a paramedic and is willing to give a high prospect for him. 

 

How much can you trade and still be competitive? Not sure but for certain the Angels pitching staff as it is composed is not competitive. Next year is going to be another poor rotation season regardless of who is kept unless who is traded reaps a better arms than what we have on display now.

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unless you have replacements waiting in the wings, why would you trade your best players? trumbo, aybar, and bourjos have value but if you trade them you're left with glaring weaknesses at those positions. you might as well trade everyone, stock up on young talent, and go through a complete rebuilding period.

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Here are the rebuild steps I would take:

1. Trade Downs and Vargas at the deadline for low level prospects with decent upside

2. Trade Frieri to the Tigers at the deadline for Drew Smyly ( he has no spot in the rotation, but is far too valuable for the mop up duty the Tigers have him doing). He joins our rotation next year.

3. Trade Howie during the offseason for starting pitcher prospects on the cusp of making it to the majors. Options are Braves, Orioles, Dodgers, Jays, Royals

4. Nontender Hanson in the offseason and sign some bullpen arms. I like Belisle and JP Howell to fill out the bullpen next year with one of Belisle, Burnett, Jepsen, Richards as closer

For example, the Braves are trying to unload Dan Uggla. The difference in salary between him and Howie is 7 million. If we swap contracts and pick up all of that 7 million, then I think we would be able to get quite a bit in return. Guys like Alex Wood, JR Graham, Gilmartin are all good pitching prospects who the Braves have o room for in their rotation.

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Almost all of these are tl;dr.

That said, the team won't rebuild. For one, it's built for win now mode, which isn't happening this season (with last season they still had 89 wins, just a slow start). Also, there are quite a few solid young pieces already in place.

There needs to be some changes, no doubt. But I have trouble hitting a long term panic button simply because a couple guys are having very down years or not living close to their median of production. We've seen what happens when things click with the club, the guys just aren't doing it consistently enough. I understand the ideology and long term plan to stick it out because it's such an anomaly to have a guy like Hamilton suck so bad, Pujols play on one foot, or Weaver be out for a long time with a break.

I'm finally on board with a shake up though. I did the whole "it's a long season and the bad players production will even out to career norms", but it simply hasn't as we approach the halfway mark.

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But Lifetime, we just sign 2 superstars. In fact, Scioscia wasn't even counting on Trout to be that big of an inpact when he was called up last season. This team is dysfunctional because of those no trade longterm expensive contracts. Mike Trout wants to win a championship but that may require him to do that somewhere else. Its great to watch Mike Trout get 2-3 hits every game and steal bases but the rest of the team really doesn't get it. He can't carry them.

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