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  1. SAN DIEGO — Get ready for ColeFest. As the winter meetings convene in San Diego, topic No. 1 figures to be the landing spot for Gerrit Cole, who is poised to sign the largest contract for a pitcher in major league history. The only question is which team will give it to him. The Angels and New York Yankees are believed to be the top two suitors, with the Dodgers likely in the mix as well. All three teams have already had face-to-face meetings with Cole, which allows for speculation that a deal could happen any day. Of course, it also could drag past the new year, as the top free-agent deals did last winter. When it’s over, expect Cole to set a record. The largest contract for a pitcher went to David Price, who signed a seven-year, $217-million deal with the Boston Red Sox in December 2015. The highest average annual value for a pitcher belongs to Zack Greinke, who makes $34.3 million per year under the six-year, $206-million deal he signed with the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2015. At the time of Price’s deal, he was entering his age 30 season. In the previous three years, he’d posted a 3.01 ERA over 93 starts with 8.9 strikeouts per nine innings. Greinke was entering his age 32 season, with a 2.30 ERA over 92 starts and 8.3 strikeouts per nine innings over his previous three years. Cole will be pitching in his age 29 season next season. Over his last three years, he’s posted a 3.20 ERA in 98 starts, with 11.7 strikeouts per nine innings. Over his last two years, though, he’s got a 2.68 ERA over 65 starts. Cole also compares favorably to Max Scherzer, who signed a seven-year, $210-million deal in January 2015. Scherzer was entering his age 30 season, with a 3.24 ERA and 10.5 strikeouts per nine innings over 97 starts in the previous three years. Considering Cole hits free agency at least a year younger than any of those three, he ought to be able to break the records for average annual value and total value. The Angels and Yankees, at least, seem eager to pay the price, if the industry perception is accurate. Each team, however, has selling points the other can’t match. The Angels are Cole’s hometown team. He attended Orange Lutheran High and UCLA. He has talked about how he grew up as an Angels fan, and attended games regularly at Angel Stadium, including the 2002 World Series. Houston Astros teammate Josh Reddick believed Cole’s preference for the West Coast was so strong that he predicted Cole would sign with a team “west of Nevada.” The Angels also offer Cole the opportunity to play with Mike Trout, who is signed for the next 11 years, and with two-way sensation Shohei Ohtani. Cole said in August that he’s fascinated by Ohtani and loves watching him. Despite all that, if Cole’s priority is to have a chance to win the World Series every year, the Yankees have a clear edge. With more resources than any team in the majors, the Yankees always have a powerful team that is in the running for the World Series. Although they haven’t won a World Series since 2009, they have made the playoffs in seven of the 10 years since, and they haven’t had a losing record since 1992. The Angels have made the playoffs just once in the past 10 years. They have four consecutive losing seasons, and in 2019 they lost their most games since 1999. Even if Cole signs with the Angels, they will need some help – either from further additions or breakouts from current players – to make the playoffs. The Angels would likely to try to convince Cole they can be consistent winners soon if he joins the core that includes, Trout, Ohtani and top prospect Jo Adell. Trout showed his confidence in the plan when he signed his deal in March. Obviously, the Dodgers may represent the sweet spot with the best of both sides: geography and a chance to win. Neither the Dodgers nor the Yankees has a need for Cole as acutely as the Angels, though, which could prompt owner Arte Moreno to simply make an offer Cole can’t refuse. Moreno was frustrated enough by the string of losing seasons that he led the decision to fire Brad Ausmus and bring in Joe Maddon as the manager. He also said he plans to increase the payroll in 2020, although he wouldn’t say by how much. General manager Billy Eppler, who is in the final year of his contract, has not signed any free agent for more than the $28 million the Angels committed to Zack Cozart two years ago. It seems obvious Eppler is going to have to do that this winter if the Angels are going to compete in 2020. If the Angels don’t get Cole, expect them to make a run at Stephen Strasburg, with whom they’ve also had a meeting. Hyun-Jin Ryu and Madison Bumgarner are also free agents. Related Articles Source: Stephen Strasburg, Angels had face-to-face meeting Is potential Angel Stadium deal fair for both sides, or ‘laughable’? The debate is on Hoornstra: At last, the Angels can grow permanent roots in Anaheim Angels acquire Dylan Bundy from Baltimore Orioles for 4 minor league pitchers Angels agree to stay in Anaheim through 2050, stadium to be sold for $325 million They also could try to trade for a pitcher like Robbie Ray of the Arizona Diamondbacks or José Quintana of the Chicago Cubs. While Eppler has refused to say much about whom he’s after, he’s made no secret of the fact that the Angels need pitching. They have Ohtani, Andrew Heaney, Griffin Canning, Dylan Bundy, Patrick Sandoval, Jaime Barría, José Suarez, Dillon Peters and Félix Peña on their starting pitcher depth chart right now. “We would be open to supplementing that group with increased talent if we can make that work,” Eppler said. “We like talented players here. If those players are available, we can execute a trade for that player or pursue a free agent deal.” View the full article
  2. By Robert Cunningham, Angelswin.com Senior Writer Out of all of the positions of need the Angels might punt on this off-season, catcher seems the most likely out of the group. This is not because the Angels would not like to place the best catcher they can find in the position but rather more a resource allocation issue, due to the higher payroll priority need in the rotation. Realistically, catchers are, at most, in a 70%/30% split, typically leaning more toward 60%/40%, nominally in a platoon where one backstop picks up more at-bat's against RHP. There are a handful of backstops like Yasmani Grandal or Salvador Perez, for example, that play a lion's share of the games but, for most teams, the nominal split is standard. So investing in a guy that only plays about half the games is generally less appealing to a GM and Eppler is well aware of this, as it is not dissimilar to his approach for building the bullpen (investing to much in part-time and/or volatile players). For Billy it is typically more efficient to find defensive-minded catchers with good platoon splits to place into a backstop corps, because defense, particularly at the up-the-middle positions (C, SS, 2B, and CF), has always been a critical objective for him. Many casual fans of baseball do not fully understand how critical a good defensive catcher is and their impact on every pitch of the game (framing, relationships with the pitchers, umpire rapport, and other intangibles) so acquiring good backstops is important. The Angels current group of catchers all have warts of some sort. Stassi will probably not start the season but does combine excellent defense (see chart below) with weak overall offense, particularly against LHP. Kevan Smith, who was just non-tendered by the Angels, crushed LHP but was not the best overall defender in the world, which is why he is now off the roster. Finally, Anthony Bemboom, also a defensive-minded receiver, can hit decently against RHP but he, too, is probably a backup option only (he has an option remaining, however). So what does Eppler do here? If resources are tight in combination with the real possibility that Stassi may not be able to start the 2020 season, due to his injury, how does Billy proceed? The team is in a precarious position at the moment in a catching market that, on the surface, appears to be drying up. On top of all of that, our team depth at the catching position is also very light and our only top-level prospect, Jack Kruger, is currently exposed to the Rule 5 Draft. To help shed further light on this issue let us take a look at the top defensive catchers, based on FanGraphs 'Def' score, broken out on a rate basis per game (Def/G) over the last three seasons with a minimum of 30 Games (G) played, to see which backstops have consistently performed well behind the dish: 2017-2019 FanGraphs Top 35 Catchers Def/G with Minimum 30 G's Played As you can see Stassi has ranked quite high in Def/G over the last three seasons, which explains why Eppler made the trade for him. It seems likely that the Angels will monitor Max's surgery and recovery and if they feel comfortable they will retain him for the 2020 season (and may have to, now that Grandal and Zunino have signed with other teams). Looking deeper at the list above, for possible free agent signings and trade targets, you can see unlikely acquisitions like Hedges, Perez, and Vazquez who are all locked in with their respective teams in all probability. At the top of the list is Flowers who had an option year for 2020, worth $6M, that the Braves actually declined and paid his $2M buyout but then turned around and re-signed him to a $4M contract, thus reducing his AAV for 2020 down to $4M (an interesting technicality). At first glance this re-signing points to Flowers playing in Atlanta next year but the Braves just signed Travis d'Arnaud to a 2-year deal, probably as their primary catcher, so Tyler could prove to be expendable in trade which would probably pique Eppler's interest if true. Beyond those names our old friend Maldonado is a free agent. Willson Contreras could also be a target for the Angels but Eppler values defense so much, he seems a less likely acquisition. Other names like Luke Maile, Danny Jensen, Reese McGuire, Austin Barnes, Jacob Stallings, Jason Castro, John Ryan Murphy, and another familiar face, Rene Rivera, might be options too. Finally, if Billy wants to flirt with inexperience behind the plate, he could target near MLB-ready prospects such as Keibert Ruiz (as suggested by Angelswin.com member InsidePitch) or maybe Andrew Knizner, for example. This route seems really risky in such an important season for Eppler, however. Ultimately, the front office needs to add some depth here. This will require a modicum of payroll space, probably on the order of $1M-$10M give or take, dependent upon the target(s). Likely Outcome: Angels will sign a defense-first backstop to pair with Max Stassi such as Jason Castro or Martin Maldonado. Because defense is so important Max will probably pick up at least 50% (or more) of the starts with the primary/backup (Stassi could wind up as either) getting the rest. Stassi hits RHP better than LHP which is not saying a lot because he is poor against both sides of the mound. Having a platoon mate like those mentioned in this article will at least improve offense to a degree while still maintaining high quality defense or at least a semblance of it behind the plate. There is an outside possibility that Eppler signs two of the above and releases Stassi but Max feels more like a short-term (1-3 years) mainstay on the roster because of his top-notch defensive work behind the dish. Author's Choice: If Eppler does go low-level or punt, signing Jason Castro (good vs. RHP) or even simply picking up a recent non-tender like John Ryan Murphy or Luke Maile would be sufficient. Additionally, acquiring one or more Minor League catchers with options that are MLB-ready would be useful from a payroll perspective. Depth can also be improved by Minor League signings of any residual catchers left without a home on the open market. However I, personally, would like to see the Angels improve behind the dish by acquiring a high-quality defensive receiver with shorter years of control (reduces acquisition price) like Tyler Flowers (less likely) or Luke Maile (more likely). The former may not actually be available while the latter was recently non-tendered by the Blue Jays, making him a very attainable solution. Beyond those two I personally like Danny Jensen and Reese McGuire, both still on the Blue Jays 40-man roster. Supposedly the Blue Jays are listening to offers on both and it feels like McGuire would be the best fit in our lineup and for our payroll situation. Tucker Barnhart of the Reds would also be a nice target but he is not quite as good defensively as Reese, so he is a lesser choice. So based on this discussion either of the following two trades would make some degree of sense: Angels send RP Hansel Robles to the Braves in exchange for C Tyler Flowers Why? The Braves have built up their bullpen but adding another experienced reliever with two years of arbitration control (2020 and 2021) with a projected $4M 2020 salary is a reasonable exchange, particularly since it is a nearly equitable swap for Tyler's $4M salary and one year of contractual control. The d'Arnaud signing potentially gives Atlanta the freedom to move Flowers as well (less likely but possible). For the Angels this is a payroll neutral trade that gives them one of the best defensive catchers in baseball right now, who can also hit, for one year until they figure out a better solution long-term behind the dish (or extend Flowers, possibly if acquired). Angels send SP Jaime Barria and OF Orlando Martinez to the Blue Jays in exchange for C Reese McGuire Why? The Blue Jays are in need of starting pitching (in addition to OF and bullpen help) and the addition of Barria gives them a back-end starter with five years of team control. Jaime is still relatively young (23) and has upside. Also they get an OF prospect in Martinez that can potentially be part of a future Blue Jays squad 2-4 years down the road. In return the Angels get a long-term backstop option in McGuire who grades out well defensively and has hit well in a limited sample size in 2019. Reese can partner with Stassi to form a solid defensive tandem behind the dish for at least the next couple of years or more, thus settling our backstop situation for the foreseeable future. Conclusion: The Angels have more options to trade for, rather than sign, a defensive-oriented backstop and that is the slightly more likely route Eppler will take since he favors up-the-middle defense so much (actually good defense at every position period) and can find that more readily by swapping players and prospects with another team. Particularly catchers like Maile or McGuire, who still have an option left, are probably more appealing to Billy and the front office. Eppler could make a surprise left-turn and pursue an offensive-minded bat like Contreras, Chirinos, Cervelli, Ramos, or Astudillo but that seems less probable, barring a good value signing or ability to pick one of them up with an advantageous trade package. Based on published stories and trade rumors the catching market seems to have a lot of fluidity and moving parts to it where some teams want to move an extra catcher so it would not be surprising to see one team acquire a backstop and then move one of their current catchers to the Angels. So figuring out the field of Eppler's probable targets feels more difficult to predict this year but if you follow the trail of evidence, it points to strong defense as the primary suspect, thus the list above. In the end, as Billy said recently, the Angels could cross their fingers and simply roll with Stassi and Bemboom so there may be little, if any, movement behind the dish this off-season, but gut instinct, and the aggressive posture toward the 2020 season, begs otherwise. View the full article
  3. Although the Angels have been widely assumed be in the thick of the race to sign Gerrit Cole, they have also had a face-to-face meeting with Stephen Strasburg, according to a source. Angels general manager Billy Eppler has refused to detail which free agent pitchers they were pursuing, other than saying on Wednesday that they have “talked to a large portion” of the free agents. News that the Angels have met with Strasburg face-to-face, rather than simply talking to agent Scott Boras about him, would seem to indicate a serious level of interest. While Cole is considered the top pitcher on the market, Strasburg is a close second. Strasburg, 31, is two years older than Cole, so he won’t command the same type of contract. Strasburg grew up in the San Diego area and attended San Diego State, although he is not believed to have a preference to sign with a West Coast team. In fact, the industry perception is that the Washington Nationals are the front-runners to re-sign Strasburg, who helped pitch them to a World Series title this year. The New York Yankees also reportedly had face-to-face meetings with Strasburg and Cole this week. In 2019, Strasburg posted a 3.32 ERA in 209 innings, finishing fifth in the National League Cy Young voting. He has a career 3.17 ERA. The Angels are looking for more starting pitching, even after making a trade to get Dylan Bundy from the Baltimore Orioles on Wednesday. As of now, they have Andrew Heaney, Griffin Canning and Bundy as apparent locks for the rotation, with Shohei Ohtani likely to be added once he completes his rehab from Tommy John surgery later this month. Jaime Barría, José Suarez, Patrick Sandoval, Dillon Peters and Félix Peña also will compete for opportunities, either in the rotation or as spot starters. Related Articles Is potential Angel Stadium deal fair for both sides, or ‘laughable’? The debate is on Hoornstra: At last, the Angels can grow permanent roots in Anaheim Angels acquire Dylan Bundy from Baltimore Orioles for 4 minor league pitchers Angels agree to stay in Anaheim through 2050, stadium to be sold for $325 million Angels non-tender catcher Kevan Smith View the full article
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  5. Hello DMax,

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  6. Hello tntoriole,

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  7. When Anaheim released details of a proposed Angel Stadium deal on Wednesday, Dec. 4, the praise and criticism began almost immediately. The topic of debate is a potential agreement through which the city would sell the 153-acre Angel Stadium property, stadium included, for $325 million; the buyer is a business entity in which team owner Arte Moreno is a partner. Moreno would also commit his team to play baseball in Anaheim until at least 2050, and the city has requested other benefits that are being hammered out. The deal, which still needs the Anaheim City Council’s approval, would essentially put a ring on it after months of will-they-or-won’t-they drama, as the two sides prepared to negotiate for the 53-year-old stadium. Opinions diverge as to whether the proposal is good for everyone involved, but those who want to share theirs will have to speak up soon, with the council expected to vote on the land sale portion of the deal Dec. 20. So how are people evaluating a possible deal that’s worth millions to Anaheim taxpayers and hard to put a price on for Angels baseball fans? ‘A home run’ Anaheim Council members Lucille Kring and Trevor O’Neil said they think the proposal is fair and, importantly, gets the city out of the stadium business. When you’re the landlord, “You’re the one who fixes the toilets and you’re the one that does everything, and when it’s vacant you’re the one that takes the loss,” Kring said. Anaheim officials have said the stadium needs an estimated $150 million in repairs and upgrades, and the current lease requires the city to pay six figures annually for maintenance. If the deal goes through, Kring said, “The residents, the taxpayers do not pay one single dime.” Besides the lump sum from the land sale, the city will get ongoing revenue from property and sales taxes as the land around the stadium is developed with homes, restaurants and shops, and other businesses, O’Neil said – and all that money can help pay for police service, parks and other things residents want and expect. “Everything that I hear from people in the community is all about keeping baseball in Anaheim, and we’ve accomplished that,” O’Neil said. “It’s a home run as far as I’m concerned.” Not so fast But the speed with which the deal was drafted and will be brought up for a binding vote leads Councilman Jose Moreno to conclude it’s being done “in the dark of night under a cloud of secrecy.” (Jose Moreno and Arte Moreno are not related.) Moreno has waged a months-long and largely unsuccessful campaign to open the negotiation process more to the public: the council majority declined to release the appraisal before a potential agreement was reached, and on Tuesday, Dec. 3, it wouldn’t agree to hold a public workshop on the draft deal at its regular Dec. 17 meeting, three days before the first key vote. (Moreno said he’ll hold his own community meeting.) Paul Kott, who owns a local real estate business, acknowledged he doesn’t know all the details but questioned the appraised land value – which ranges from $225 million to $475 million – and the price Anaheim seems willing to accept. The city deal would work out to $2.1 million an acre, but Kott said properties in or near the Platinum Triangle area where the stadium sits have gone for more than twice that. “I would say that those values (in the appraisal) are way too low based on what properties in that area are selling for recently,” he said. Add in that the final price tag on the prime developable acreage will likely be reduced to compensate the buyer for land-using benefits the city is requesting – extra park space and affordable homes – and Moreno considers the $325 million offer “laughable.” How does it compare? It’s unusual but not unique for Major League Baseball teams (or their wealthy owners) to own their own parks, said ballparkdigest.com publisher Kevin Reichard, noting that about eight teams – including the Dodgers – are their own landlord. Anaheim’s proposed deal seems in line with how other cities have helped spur money-making development around their stadiums, he said, and it avoids often-criticized taxpayer subsidies. “This is definitely a big-picture deal for both Anaheim and the Angels,” Reichard said. “By and large, these sports entertainment districts have proven to be pretty successful.” From a taxpayer’s perspective, the deal could certainly be worse, said Neil deMause, coauthor of “Field of Schemes,” a book about public financing of sports venues. He noted a 2013 draft agreement that might have let Arte Moreno develop the parking lot land under a long-term lease for $1 a year; city officials have said it was simply a discussion starter. But the new proposal’s unknowns – such as how much the city’s asks for the community will cost – make it hard to evaluate, deMause said. “I’m concerned that whenever you get something done in a rush like this, it’s a recipe for a bad deal.” Related links Angels agree to stay in Anaheim through 2050, stadium to be sold for $325 million Angel Stadium talks: What constitutes a ‘fair’ lease deal for Anaheim? Stadium maintenance, debt eat into Anaheim’s revenue from hosting Angels baseball After second meeting with Angels over stadium lease, mayor says ‘it’s clear’ they share same goals For the Angels, the proposed stadium sale would certainly help achieve a key objective, which team spokeswoman Marie Garvey described as “being able to control our destiny and create a great fan experience.” And about those fans? Much of the social media reaction expressed relief or satisfaction that the Angels’ future seems settled – before posters turned to questions of the team name or how to improve its record. “If I’m a fan, I’m just tickled pink that the two scenarios right now are the team staying in a renovated ballpark or the team playing in a new ballpark” on the same site, Reichard said. (Angels officials said they’re looking at all options for the stadium.) But he cautioned fans not to get too excited yet – big real estate and development projects often take longer than expected. View the full article
  8. The Angels, like millions of us here, have always been renters. At birth, they rented Dodger Stadium from the Dodgers. Since 1966, they rented Angel Stadium from the city of Anaheim. Now, on the verge of their 60th year of existence, the Angels will finally own their own home. It’s an authentic Southern California story. Under a monumental proposal announced Wednesday, the stadium and the 153 acres of land around it would be purchased by SRB Management, LLC, of which Angels owner Arte Moreno is a partner. The proposed agreement would keep the Angels in Anaheim until at least 2050. It must be formally ratified by the Anaheim City Council on Dec. 20 to take effect. The devil is always in the details. We can’t make a full assessment of those details until they’re codified by the city. But the two sides agreed enough on the basics to announce them Wednesday, as first reported by colleague Alicia Robinson. Optional extensions allow the Angels to play in Anaheim until 2065. Affordable housing and parkland would be part of the site development. SRB Management can cast its imagination upon most of the area between State College Blvd. on the west, Katella Ave. and the Amtrak/Metrolink rail lines on the north, the Santa Ana River on the east, and Orangewood Ave. on the south. It might imagine a new ballpark someday. The best part of this proposal? The $325 million going to the City of Anaheim would benefit residents who have never watched a baseball game and never will. Anaheim mayor Harry Sidhu, who campaigned on a promise to fight to retain the Angels, touted the ancillary revenue that comes from having a Major League Baseball team in town. Wednesday, the city of Anaheim estimated those tax revenues would net $7 million annually. Now this amounts to a bonus – not a means for justifying this deal to all of Anaheim’s 358,000-plus residents. Coincidentally, the proposal fell on the same day that St. Petersburg (Fla.) mayor Rick Kriseman made an announcement of his own. The Tampa Bay Rays had been contemplating a “shared season” agreement with Montreal, Canada. The particulars of splitting 81 home games between two cities in two countries were always difficult to grasp. The net effect would have been a major loss for St. Petersburg, which has long needed to replace the light-industrial warehouse known as Tropicana Field. Kriseman announced that any two-city arrangement will not happen before 2028, if it takes effect at all. He also said Rays officials declined an offer to explore full-time stadium locations throughout the Tampa Bay region, including Hillsborough County and the city of Tampa. This is emblematic of the kind of impermanent, incremental “progress” that hovered like a dark cloud above the Angels’ fate for years. In St. Petersburg, the Rays’ existence is steeped in nonsense. They occupy the second-largest city in their market. The Tropicana site is separated by several miles from the Tampa Bay waterfront, which is several miles removed (by boat or by car) from Tampa, the largest city in the region. By not exploring full-time stadium locations elsewhere in Hillsborough County (which includes Tampa but not St. Petersburg), the Rays invite more questions than answers. The big question: if the best place for a ballpark isn’t located closest to where most fans in the region live, where is it? So it went in Anaheim. In 2013, city officials failed to re-negotiate the stadium lease with the Angels. Plans for the team to refurbish its stadium in exchange for developing and profiting off the surrounding land were dashed. Moreno then explored the possibility of moving the team to Tustin. Against Moreno’s wishes, former Anaheim Mayor Tom Tait negotiated with developers who envisioned apartments, offices and a hotel towering over the American League’s second-oldest ballpark. Those development plans were never formalized. Still, the Angels opted out of their stadium lease in Oct. 2018, allowing them to explore another move. Then in January, the City Council extended the deadline, but the Angels and Anaheim faced from a Dec. 31 deadline, by which the Angels would have to give the city a year’s notice if they planned to quit the current lease early. Related Articles Angels acquire Dylan Bundy from Baltimore Orioles for 4 minor league pitchers Angels agree to stay in Anaheim through 2050, stadium to be sold for $325 million Angels non-tender catcher Kevan Smith MLB’s era of ‘load management’ is just getting started Angels’ Shohei Ohtani cleared to begin throwing off a mound It wasn’t just fans who felt moved by these clouds of impermanence. The mayor of Long Beach, Robert Garcia, approached the Angels about building a park on an undeveloped waterfront site near his city’s convention center. This move never passed the basic geography test. But if basic geography matters so little in Tampa, or in Montreal, or in Oakland, who’s to say it would carry the day in Southern California? The site that always made the most sense was the same one the city of Anaheim purchased from three farmers in 1964. Now – or at least soon – the Angels will sign a contract that formalizes what fans intuited all along. View the full article
  9. The Angels filled one of the holes in their starting rotation by acquiring right-hander Dylan Bundy from the Baltimore Orioles on Wednesday, a source confirmed. The Angels sent four minor-league pitchers to the Orioles, including right-hander Kyle Bradish, who was ranked the Angels’ No. 21 prospect by MLB Pipeline. None of the other three pitchers – right-handers Isaac Mattson, Kyle Brnovich and Zach Peek – were ranked in the top 30. Bundy, 27, was considered one of the top prospects in baseball for a few years after being selected fourth overall in the 2011 draft. He’s never quite lived up to that in his time with the Orioles. Bundy has a career 4.67 ERA, including a 4.79 mark in 2019. He has been durable lately, though, starting 89 games over the past three seasons. Bundy started 30 games last season, striking out 162 in 161 2/3 innings. The Angels did not have any pitcher make more than 18 starts, and Trevor Cahill led the team with 102-1/3 innings. The Angels have shown a preference for pitchers with high spin rates, and Bundy fits that criteria. His fastball spin was in the 86th percentile in the majors each of the past two seasons. General manager Billy Eppler said last month that the Angels’ preference was to acquire two starting pitchers. Their rotation currently includes Andrew Heaney, Griffin Canning and Shohei Ohtani, who is in the final stages of his rehab from Tommy John surgery. They also have Jaime Barría, José Suarez, Patrick Sandoval and Dillon Peters to compete for starts at the back of the rotation or as spot starters. Certainly, the Angels will need to sign at least one upper-tier starting pitcher if they hope to be considered contenders in 2020. Related Articles Angels agree to stay in Anaheim through 2050, stadium to be sold for $325 million Angels non-tender catcher Kevan Smith MLB’s era of ‘load management’ is just getting started Angels’ Shohei Ohtani cleared to begin throwing off a mound After second meeting with Angels over stadium lease, mayor says ‘it’s clear’ they share same goals They have been widely connected to Gerrit Cole. The top free-agent pitcher, Cole is an Orange County native. The Angels have already had at least one meeting with Cole and his agent, Scott Boras, according to a source. Boras also said last month that he had had lunch with Angels owner Arte Moreno. Bundy is projected to make $5.7 million in arbitration in 2020, which would leave plenty of payroll space for the Angels to add a pitcher of Cole’s caliber. If they miss out on Cole, they could make a run at Stephen Strasburg, Madison Bumgarner or Hyun-Jin Ryu. Zack Wheeler, another top starter who had been connected to the Angels, agreed Wednesday to a deal with the Philadelphia Phillies for $118 million over five years, according to multiple reports. More to come on this story. View the full article
  10. Anaheim’s hometown baseball team would continue playing in Angel Stadium for another 30 years, and the city would sell the stadium and 133 acres around it to a business partnership including team owner Arte Moreno for about $325 million, under the proposed outline of a deal that Anaheim City Council members were briefed on Tuesday, Dec. 3. Negotiating teams for the city and the Angels reached agreement on key deal points after meeting just three times in November, although both sides spent months preparing for talks. The sale proposed in the three-part deal is a significant departure from the status quo: the city built the stadium in 1966 and has at times faced criticism over what some say are generous lease terms for a reportedly profitable baseball team and its billionaire owner. “For every fan who told us to keep the Angels, this proposal would do exactly that,” Mayor Harry Sidhu said in a statement. “This proposal reflects what we’ve heard from the community – keep the Angels, a fair land price, money for neighborhoods, ongoing revenue, affordable housing, parks and jobs for Anaheim.” Any deal was expected to hinge on the sale or lease and development of property around the stadium, and the land still likely will be developed with apartments and condos, restaurants, hotels and entertainment businesses – but the city now will make money from increases in property and sales taxes rather than getting a direct cut of stadium or development revenue. The draft agreement also is expected to provide other specified community benefits, but those details are still being worked out, city spokesman Mike Lyster said. The council is expected to vote on the land sale portion of the deal at a special meeting Dec. 20, with a development agreement and community benefit provisions to follow in the spring. The purchaser, SRB Management LLC (which includes Moreno and other undisclosed partners), would need city approval of development plans for the property – those are expected to emerge in the next few years. Angels officials are still considering whether to renovate the stadium or build a new one, team spokeswoman Marie Garvey said. They’ve hired HKS Architects – which designed Minneapolis’ recently opened NFL stadium and is working on a new ballpark for the Texas Rangers – to explore their options. “We appreciate the mayor’s leadership in working to keep the Angels here in Anaheim, which has been our home for over 50 years,” Moreno said in a statement. “Today is the first step in enabling us to invest in our future by building a winning team and delivering a high-quality fan experience.” The team’s existing lease was drafted in 1996, when the Walt Disney Co. owned the Angels, and it lasts through 2029, with optional extensions through 2038. Earlier attempts to negotiate a new deal between 2013 and 2016 failed. In fall 2018, the Angels announced they’d be opting out of the stadium lease this year. That sent city leaders scrambling to arrange fresh talks with the goal of keeping the team. But after the newly elected Sidhu got the council in January to reinstate the old lease and extend the opt-out window, there was little visible progress for months. While they’re still working out some details of a deal that will last decades, city information describes provisions including: Commitment of the team to play in Anaheim through 2050, with optional extensions adding up to 15 more years. Sale of 153 acres, including parking lots and the 45,483-seat stadium, to SRB Management for $325 million. Community benefits including affordable housing, parkland in addition to what’s already required of new developments, and a local hire agreement for construction; the housing and parks would be given a dollar value that would be subtracted from the land’s selling price. As the stadium’s owner, Moreno’s partnership would be required to provide parking at the current level of 12,500 spaces, which will likely require building a costly parking garage as development moves forward; the team also would be solely responsible for either making millions in stadium repairs or building a new venue. Other impacts to the city’s bottom line, such as canceling its annual stadium maintenance fund payment of about $700,000; Anaheim would still be on the hook to pay about $523,000 in debt left over from an ill-fated addition of exhibit space in the late 1980s. The news of a deal puts to rest the suggestion the team might move to Long Beach, where city leaders months ago had sought to woo the Angels to a proposed waterfront stadium. It also eases some pressure both sides faced from a Dec. 31 deadline, by which the Angels would have to give the city a year’s notice if they planned to quit the current lease early. City leaders have touted the ancillary revenue, such as spending at restaurants and shops, that come from having a resident Major League Baseball team that reportedly sells more than 3 million tickets a season. But with debt payments and maintenance obligations eating into any direct revenue, Anaheim has made little from the stadium, netting only about $626,000 in total over the last two decades. City leaders have yet to discuss how the millions from selling the stadium would be spent, but an ongoing effort led by a nonprofit connected to the Anaheim Chamber of Commerce has been surveying residents on the needs in their neighborhoods. Related links Angel Stadium talks: What constitutes a ‘fair’ lease deal for Anaheim? Stadium maintenance, debt eat into Anaheim’s revenue from hosting Angels baseball After second meeting with Angels over stadium lease, mayor says ‘it’s clear’ they share same goals Anaheim councilman raises questions, sets out priorities for potential Angels lease View the full article
  11. By Robert Cunningham, Angelswin.com Senior Writer For the Angels starting rotation, 2019 was not a kind year. Unfortunately, the Halos starters were last out of all 30 MLB teams in total Wins Above Replacement (WAR) with a measly 3.3 WAR. Other peripheral indicators support the poor performance. For reference, the Nationals led all of baseball with a total 21.4 WAR. So what do the Angels do to fix this situation? For reference, the table below shows a leader board of qualified starters, sorted by Wins Above Replacement on a per G (WAR/G) basis, over the last three seasons: If Moreno is serious about increasing payroll and making this team more competitive, as the hiring of Joe Maddon suggests and by his very own words, the Angels will need to invest a majority of their off-season payroll into starting pitching. It is the general consensus of the baseball community that the Angels will be in, heavily, on free agent ace Gerrit Cole or possibly Stephen Strasburg. Not only is Gerrit the agreed-upon available top starter, he throws 95+ mph heat, has an arsenal of wicked off-speed pitches, and took his team deep into the post-season this year. Strasburg helped carry his Nationals to a World Championship over Cole's Astros. Both are high-caliber options. Cole will cost a lot of money, likely something on the order of 30M+ average annual value (AAV) and $230M+ in total salary commitment over, probably, a 7-8 year deal. Strasburg will probably require a 5-6 year, $150M-$180M ($30M AAV) deal to secure his services. Either of these outlays will result in the Angels exceeding last years starting payroll number, thus the clear need for Arte to open the wallet if the team truly wants to contend in 2020. In the Finances article of the Primer Series we argued for a payroll increase to make significant improvements. The current starting point is approximately $162M for 2020 Club Payroll and $151M in Actual Club Payroll (AAV) and, in order to make big moves with Simmons and Cozart still on the books, Moreno will be forced to approach or, more remotely, exceed the Competitive Balance Tax (CBT) threshold barring an unexpected trade of Andrelton or Zack. Thus, if the club can acquire one or more game-changing stars (and it should be stressed that Arte would only exceed the CBT threshold for a high-end player), the author believes Moreno could possibly approach or exceed the CBT threshold of $208M and potentially go as high as the 1st Surcharge threshold of $228M, where the penalty is minimal (20% tax on the difference between AAV and the threshold of $208M, so no more than a $4M surcharge tax fee for 2020). Again, to reemphasize, this would only happen if Arte allows it and the player or players in question are first-rate acquisitions, so this is a low probability outcome that should be discussed but not expected. As a large market team the Angels have not significantly played in the payroll clouds (Luxury Tax) before, so this would be a complete break from previous seasons despite the fact that doing so now, in the new era of Mike Trout, could pay dividends across the board, particularly with the available slate of quality free agents this year and a complete dearth of them in next years market. In the end, though, Moreno has consistently authorized high payrolls but, rather than believing in the dream scenario, Angels fans should temper their expectations that the Opening Day payroll will exceed $208M and in all probability will be no more than $190M-$195M, give or take. It is the latter we will focus more on in this article and the remainder of the Primer Series. So, as MLBTradeRumors.com discussed, the Angels are likely to acquire a free agent front-of-the-rotation starter such as the aforementioned Gerrit Cole or Stephen Strasburg. For the purposes of this article, the author is going to assume that the Angels acquire one of them at $35M or $30M Average Annual Value (AAV) for Cole and Strasburg, respectively. Assuming a back-loaded contract ($20M-$25M in 2020), this puts the Angels 2020 Club Payroll and Actual Club Payroll (AAV) at $182M-$187M and $181M-$186M AAV respectively, without any other transactions taking place to start 2020. Grabbing a top-shelf starter to compliment Ohtani and lead this rotation is a must-have in the author's opinion. A 1-2 punch at the top will help win more games and increase overall team confidence that, on any given start, the Top 2 starters will get the job done. Based on previous seasons, the Angels would be really smart to create solid depth here. Bringing in 2-3 starters from free agency and/or trade will allow Eppler and Maddon to build not only a strong rotation but also a very deep pitching bench. Depth has been a crippling issue over the last handful of years and it is high time the Angels address it directly with the application of a payroll increase and/or creative trades to add more at the top and in the middle of the rotation and supplement and perhaps even trade (no more than 1-2 starters) off of the back-end supply they currently have. Andrew Heaney, coming off a sterling peripherals season (28.9% K% rate, which is approaching elite-level), will make a fine #3 type behind a Top 2 set-up. Adding another free agent or trade acquisition such as Zack Wheeler, Madison Bumgarner, Cole Hamels, Hyun-Jin Ryu, Jon Gray, Dylan Bundy, or Robbie Ray, would create a very competitive Top 4 and the Angels could easily round out that starting five with an in-house candidate such as Griffin Canning, Jaime Barria, Jose Suarez, or Patrick Sandoval for example. Rumors have placed Wheeler's projected salary at 5 years, $100M ($20M AAV). This seems high because when you look at a recent comparable, Nathan Eovaldi, Zack is a year older and enters his free agent year with a 3.96 ERA versus Nathan's walk-year where he had a more pristine 3.33 ERA and signed a 4-year, $68M ($17M AAV) contract. ERA certainly isn't an insightful tool but results matter and Wheeler's fatigue near the end of the season may add a touch of doubt to his market. However, in terms of velocity, Wheeler throws about as hard as Cole and Nathan and is only about one year older, albeit with his Tommy John Surgery (2015) in the rear-view mirror. Gerrit is likely to pull in a 7-year deal, so would teams be willing to throw in a 6th year for Zack to bring the offer to nine figures? Seems really unlikely but there is a broad market for his services. All that being said, Eovaldi may have taken a slight discount to go to the Red Sox, and this market appears to be highly competitive, but it appears that Wheeler will get that fifth, or maybe even sixth, year and climb to $100M or more. The author expects Zack to pull in a 5-year deal worth anywhere from $90M-$100M ($18M-$20M AAV) which may, if Arte spends above the tax threshold, be a plausible acquisition behind Cole/Strasburg. If a sixth year is attached, it could possibly inch over $100M (think 6 years, $102M, $17M AAV for example). Realistically, the other mid-tier free agent starters like Bumgarner, Ryu, and Hamels will probably command contracts with an AAV range of $15M-$18M per year, give or take. Including Wheeler, all four of them may be priced out of the Angels budget simply because a Cole or Strasburg acquisition automatically puts the Angels, as mentioned above, in the $181M-$187M range. Adding one of the above, would vault next year's payroll into the $195M-$210M realm and Moreno may not be willing to stomach the ticket price. It may be more practical for the Angels to snag one of Cole or Strasburg and then trade for a lower-salaried front or mid-tier starter and then shop in the lower-end of free agency or trade for a third back-end piece. If the Angels go this route, available trade targets might include names like Jon Gray, Jake Odorizzi (in trade, now that he accepted the Qualifying Offer, although this is unlikely), Dylan Bundy, Jose Quintana, Danny Duffy, Jose Urena, Matthew Boyd, Daniel Norris, Jakob Junis, Robbie Ray, Jeff Samardzija, Chris Archer, and Joe Musgrove, among many others. On the free agency side, names like Homer Bailey (93 mph FB), Andrew Cashner (94 mph FB), Rich Hill (Approximate 21% K%-BB% rate over last three years on limited innings pitched each of those seasons), Dallas Keuchel (Career 58.9% GB% rate), Matt Moore (touched 94 mph in 10 IP before knee surgery cut his 2019 season short), Martin Perez (50% GB% rate and 94 mph FB), Michael Pineda (18.7% K%-BB% rate but serving Performance-Enhancing Drug Suspension to start the 2020 season), Tanner Roark (14.8% K%-BB% rate), Michael Wacha (93 mph FB), Alex Wood (Career 49% GB% rate), Gabriel Ynoa (93.5 mph FB), and/or Brett Anderson (56.8% GB% rate) might have some level of appeal, particularly in terms of salary fit. So, as an example, say the Angels sign one of Gerrit Cole or Stephen Strasburg and then trade for a lower-salaried, controllable starter like Jon Gray or Dylan Bundy (each will make approximately $5.5M-$6M in arbitration for 2020) and then sign someone like Homer Bailey, Matt Moore, Rich Hill, or Alex Wood in the $5M-$10M range on a one to three year deal. This would push 2020 Club Payroll and Actual Club Payroll up toward the $200M mark which is high but still below the CBT threshold of $208M. The Angels would still have room for one or two low-level moves (such as an inexpensive catcher for example) but this would allow the team to spend significantly (as Moreno indicated was possible) while still sliding under the Luxury Tax at least up until the Trade Deadline where more information will be available to determine if the Angels should go further in improving the 2020 squad for a playoff push (which may then result in an overage over the CBT threshold). Rebuilding the rotation this off-season, by acquiring an ace, will set the stage for a more stable starting five, along with corresponding quality depth, for a long time to come. Strategically it will allow the Halos to enter a new window of contention immediately. Prioritizing starting pitcher additions for 2020 and beyond is the greatest need Eppler must address and, in fact, may be the only area he seriously deals with based on how far Moreno extends the payroll leash. Likely Outcome: Angels will sign one of Cole or Strasburg and then trade for a mid-tier type such as Gray, Bundy, Ray, or Boyd. From there they may sign a third starter such as Moore, Pineda, or Bailey but that will be dependent on payroll space. If three starters are acquired, this will allow the Angels to trade off one, or maybe two, of their back-end starters in trade with the likely candidates being Barria, Sandoval, or Suarez. The remainder of those candidates, not traded, would line up with the rest (Canning, Madero, Peters, et. al.) as quality rotation depth in the Minors and that depth does not even consider high Minor League players not on the 40-man roster like Chris Rodriguez, for instance. Hypothetically, if the Angels miss out on one of the Big 2, they can go to the backup plan of signing two of the remaining Tier 2 starters such as Wheeler, Bumgarner, Hamels, or Ryu and still trade for a mid-tier type as mentioned above. That won't be quite as strong but it will still improve the rotation considerably. Author's Choice: Gerrit Cole is a must have signing from my perspective. Nothing is promised in the off-season but Cole strikes me as a similar comparable to Scherzer and speculatively it feels like Gerrit will provide a lot of value over his next contract. Additionally, if Moreno extends the payroll leash, signing Zack Wheeler would be a huge plus, too. Beyond that, trading for one of Jon Gray, Matt Boyd and Robbie Ray would be a solid acquisition. Signing Matt Moore has some dangers but his velocity was great before his injury so that is a gamble I would like to see the Angels take but Pineda, Hill, or Bailey (in that order) would be perfectly fine outcomes as a third pickup, if wanted and/or needed. Assuming the Angels acquire three starters as speculated at, above, I would like to see a trade executed involving one (or possibly two) of Jaime Barria, Jose Suarez, or Patrick Sandoval (in that order, probably) as shown in the two independent examples below: Angels send MIF Zack Cozart, SP Jaime Barria, 3B/1B Matt Thaiss, 2B/OF Jahmai Jones, OF Orlando Martinez, and OF D'Shawn Knowles to the Orioles in exchange for 1B/COF Trey Mancini and LHR Tanner Scott Why? The Orioles are in a full rebuild and need to hoard prospects and players with multiple years of team control. By taking on all of Cozart's 2020 salary they get not only the veteran shortstop they are looking for, they also obtain a young starting pitcher in Barria, to add to their rotation with 5 years of team control. In addition they get Thaiss who can play the infield corners, a high quality prospect in Jones, and two upside OF prospects in Knowles and Martinez. Buying prospects through a salary dump is rare, but not unprecedented, as seen here and here. For the Angels, in this particular season with the situation our payroll is in, the ability to shave Zack's salary, based on his negative surplus value, would be a huge help in navigating this off-season, if Eppler can manage it. Additionally, a move like this, would give the Halos a tested, and possible breakout, bat in Mancini (his 2019 peripherals point to significant improvement) who can play first base and the corner outfield positions in a pinch for at least 2020 and possibly the succeeding two seasons based on how high his arbitration cost rises. Acquiring Trey lowers total team production risk, by allowing Walsh to develop further (and act as quality depth at 1B) in the Minors, while adding another power option to the lineup behind Trout. Finally it would also give the Angels five controllable seasons of a powerful lefty bullpen arm in Scott who would improve the bullpen's potential to close out games in the later innings of a game. Angels trade LHP Jose Suarez, OF Trent Deveaux, and RHP Cooper Criswell in exchange for LF/1B Kyle Schwarber Why? The Cubs reportedly need to trim payroll and Schwarber represents a potential $8M savings that can be replaced internally by Bryant or Happ for example. Certainly Chicago would miss his bat in the lineup but by all accounts cutting dollars is important for them this off-season. It allows the Cubs to bring in one Major League ready young, controllable left-handed starter, a prospect outfielder with upside and another right-handed pitching prospect, all while shaving the aforementioned salary and giving up the final two years of arbitration control over Kyle. For the Angels it would bring in a left-handed power bat (more so versus RHP) they can place at 1B and serve as a depth option for Upton in LF. Assuming Schwarber does well they could retain him for one more season in 2021 or potentially extend him if that is Eppler's desire. Conclusion: The Angels have no choice but to take two routes here in the author's opinion - Sign or trade for two starters, one of which is an ace-level pitcher like Cole and Strasburg, with the other a mid-tier type like Gray, Ray, or Boyd, or Sign or trade for three starters, two of which are upper (like Cole or Strasburg) or mid-tier (like Wheeler, Archer, Bumgarner, Gray, Ray, or Ryu) types and one additional mid-tier or lower-tier guy. In the first scenario the Halos can get by with a rotation of, for example, Strasburg, Ohtani, Heaney, Boyd, and Canning. The second scenario might be a rotation of Ohtani, Wheeler, Heaney, Ray, and Pineda, which isn't as strong at the former but is still a greatly improved starting five. Both options would improve bench depth. As fans we work with really imperfect information regarding the free agent and trade markets. If Eppler receives real interest in some of his back-end starters (Barria, Sandoval, Suarez, et. al.) the Angels would probably best be served by acquiring three starters and then trading one off for other areas of need, otherwise two rotation pieces, one an ace, is the most likely path. The former, spending more for three starters, will allow the Angels to more effectively open additional doors to address other concerns and will build natural depth all around the diamond (through the aforementioned trades). Again everything will rest on how much of the proverbial yacht fuel Moreno is willing to sacrifice in pursuit of these targets. If he does not commit to significant spending, Arte may find himself setting sail on the 2020 season rather than pulling into the playoffs port for the first time in a long while. If the rumors of Texas' interest in Anthony Rendon are true, the A.L. West is about to get really competitive across the board, so the Angels need to position themselves as a contender in the Division by taking an aggressive posture now. This off-season all eyes are on the moves Eppler makes for the starting rotation, as it is the crux of our success in 2020. View the full article
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  14. The Angels non-tendered catcher Kevan Smith, leaving them likely in the market for another catcher this winter. The only two catchers left on the 40-man roster are Max Stassi, who might not be ready for Opening Day after hip surgery, and Anthony Bemboom. The Angels tendered their remaining eight arbitration-eligible players: pitchers Andrew Heaney, Hansel Robles, Cam Bedrosian and Noé Ramírez, infielder Tommy La Stella, outfielder Brian Goodwin. Smith was projected to make about $1.3 million in 2020. The 31-year-old hit .251 with five homers and a .710 OPS in 191 at-bats last year. He missed time with a concussion and a hand injury. The list of available free agent catchers includes Robinson Chirinos, Jason Castro and Martín Maldonado. Maldonado, a former Angel, could be an attractive target as part of the Angels’ plan to lure free agent Gerrit Cole. Maldonado was Cole’s personal catcher during their two months together with the Houston Astros. Related Articles MLB’s era of ‘load management’ is just getting started Angels’ Shohei Ohtani cleared to begin throwing off a mound After second meeting with Angels over stadium lease, mayor says ‘it’s clear’ they share same goals Angels add Jahmai Jones, Hector Yan to 40-man roster Alexander: Mike Trout, Cody Bellinger help SoCal corner the market on MVPs View the full article
  15. By Robert Cunningham, Angelswin.com Senior Writer To classify this off-season as the most important one in Eppler's career, to-date, is not an understatement. Moreno has not yet publicly extended Billy's contract, which means 2020 is the last year under his current deal and he could be looking for a new position in the coming months if the off-season does not go as planned and/or the Angels get off to a terrible start in the upcoming season. On top of that Arte has expressed a clear need for this team to push itself into a new window of contention after years of languishing in mediocrity in the A.L. West standings. Moreno wants to see action (fans in the seats too) and is helping Eppler's situation by promising to increase team payroll for 2020 and the acquisition of an experienced skipper in Joe Maddon (Billy might dispute the latter but the author's gut feeling is that Arte made the right move here). So in order to understand the areas that need improvement (if they are not clear already) let us take a look at how the starting rotation, bullpen, defense, and position players (against both left and right handed pitching) fared in 2019: 2019 Team Starting Rotation Wins Above Replacement (WAR) So right off the bat (pardon the pun), it is clear that the starting rotation needs significant improvement, as the Angels ranked dead last in total WAR production as a group. Certainly the tragic passing of Tyler Skaggs contributed to the issue but overall the team failed to pitch meaningful innings and it showed in the end-of-year results. Fixing this issue will be Eppler's #1 priority this off-season without a doubt. 2019 Team Bullpen WAR Here the Angels were more middle-of-the-pack in overall performance. In spite of the fact that relief pitching is so volatile by nature, Eppler has consistently done well in establishing competent bullpens during his tenure as General Manager of the Angels. Fortunately the Angels will be retaining some of their key pieces from 2019 and Keynan Middleton should return full-time in 2020 which should help bolster the unit as a whole. The Angels front office has also consistently performed well in identifying inexpensive bullpen acquisitions via waiver and other means so it is likely that Eppler's team will continue to comb the wire, Rule 5 Draft opportunities, and even add-on's via trade that can help build a strong relief unit next season without expending significant resources to do so. 2019 Team Defense Using FanGraphs 'Def' Here the Angels did well above average, ranking 7th out of all 30 Major League clubs according to FanGraphs 'Def' rating. Ultimate Zone Rating per 150 innings (UZR/150) also supports the notion that the Halos were a strong defensive unit. Billy has clearly stated in the past that team defense, particularly up-the-middle positions (C, SS, 2B, and CF), is the foundation of success for any team he builds and the above numbers reflect that philosophy. Of course there is always room for improvement so it would not be surprising to see Eppler continue to tweak the roster and put good defensive players in a position to provide maximum on-field value, including any potential new acquisitions. 2019 Team Batting vs. Left-Handed Pitching (LHP) Against LHP, the Angels struggled a bit throughout the season, ranking 19th overall out of all 30 Major League teams with a Weighted Runs Created Plus (wRC+) of 98. Of course Trout led the charge, followed by names like Smith, Simmons, Goodwin, Pujols, and Ohtani who all performed well. This will almost certainly be an area that Eppler will try to improve upon but it is unlikely to be an area that he expends significant team resources on, because only about 30% of the teams at-bat's are against lefties during most seasons. The addition of another bat or two that can pummel lefties would be nice, but not a must have, so there will probably be some marginal refinement during the off-season to address this need and could simply involve the addition of one or two farm assets (e.g. Ward, Adell, et. al.). 2019 Team Batting vs. Right-Handed Pitching (RHP) Here the Halos were slightly above average, ranked 12th out of all 30 Major League teams with a wRC+ of 99. Of course, once again, Trout dominated against RHP (188 wRC+) and was distantly followed by La Stella, Ohtani, Upton, Calhoun, Goodwin, and Fletcher. Improvement here will be more important than against LHP so the expectation would be that the Angels will try to replace the loss of Calhoun's bat either directly at his position in RF or by filling another spot around the diamond with a player that can handle RHP. Eppler will probably not expend a large amount of resources doing this unless he pursues a big bat at a position of need in free agency such as a 1B/LF/RF type like Castellanos, one of the Big 2 at the hot corner (Rendon or Donaldson), or even a trade opportunity like Schwarber, Bell, or Turner, for example. So expect Billy, barring the mystical Moreno unicorn payroll increase, to use 40-man roster players, farm resources, or lower-level signings to improve in this area. Observations So it is crystal clear that the starting rotation is where Eppler needs to focus most of his off-season attention and resources (this is not new news to most). Building a strong starting five plus bench depth is sorely needed and it will not be a successful off-season if the Angels do not significantly improve in this area through the acquisition of at least 2-3 quality starters with at least one being a top-of-the-rotation type ace. Beyond the rotation our offense will need to improve, too, but likely in a less resource intensive manner. By declining Kole's option year, the Halos have set the stage for Brian Goodwin to man right field until the May/June time frame when the Angels gain the extra year of control over young Jo Adell and he gets called up to take over the position (likely full-time). That alone should provide some needed firepower, although fans should temper their expectations as Jo has some swing and miss in his game right now that will be tested by opposing teams in his first year in Anaheim. All that being said, Adell is a really exciting five-tool prospect, full of potential, that can make a long-term impact in Anaheim. So, based on where the Angels put David Fletcher, 2B or 3B may see a platoon set-up via a free agent signing or low-level trade for a proper partner to one of our internal candidates. For example if David mans the keystone, third base might wind up being a platoon of Tommy La Stella (who hits well against RHP) and Zack Cozart (good defense) or even a free agent or trade acquisition that can crush LHP. Alternatively if Fletcher mans the hot corner, a platoon of Luis Rengifo (good against righties) and Cozart or another outside candidate that can manage lefties might be the best choice. Of course, if Eppler has more payroll space than currently advertised, the hot corner could be improved even more than described above, particularly because the market lacks a quantity of good free agency and trade choices over the next few years. Catcher may be a position where Eppler and the front office value defense so much that they purposely punt on offensive needs to get the best defensive catching tandem they can muster. Stassi grades out very well on defense so he seems a likely piece for next season but finding the right partner may be a challenge if the team does not apply the resources for a top-tier target in free agency (Grandal and Zunino were good examples before they signed with the White Sox and Rays, respectively) or trade (the latter seems more plausible with the activity in the catching market this off-season). Also, the Angels could pick up a left-handed bat for first base if they do not feel that Jared Walsh or Matt Thaiss can provide the needed, immediate, production. Free agency has some interesting names that could be had on the cheap or, if the Angels want to expend more resources, the trade market has options too. Both of our internal candidates have potential but this may be too much risk for the front office to take in such a critical off-season so keep an eye out for what happens at that spot. The bullpen could use a touch of reinforcement (perhaps a good lefty?) but the current cast the front office has assembled has a lot of potential to repeat and even improve upon the 2019 results. Robles, Buttrey, Ramirez (Noe), Bedrosian, Cole, Pena, Anderson, Middleton, et. al., form the basis of a strong core unit that may only need some polish added through the addition of 1-2 more relievers prior to the end of Spring Training. Probably an area where Eppler, as is his tradition, will expend only minimal resources, if any. Finally, the only other position that we should probably discuss is shortstop. Simmons is entering his final year of control and it seems likely that Eppler will use this off-season to make a material decision about the future of the position. Extending Andrelton is certainly a possibility and would not be a shocker at all but there are a couple of options out on the trade market that could entice Billy to trade Simba rather than retain him for this year or even longer term through the aforementioned extension. Ultimately this is not a decision that Eppler can afford to wait on from a strategic point of view so it will be interesting to see what Billy does here for the future of the franchise. Ultimately Eppler will roster-build based on his available resources (payroll, MLB players, prospects, and International Bonus Pool money) but it is Moreno's budget guidance that will really factor into how dynamic our off-season will or will not be. This will likely fall into four general categories: Under $190M (2020 Club Payroll with Actual Club Payroll not to exceed $208M, most probable) Under $208M (Both 2020 Club Payroll and Actual Club Payroll, less probable) Under $228M (1st Surcharge Threshold, unlikely) Under $248M (2nd Surcharge Threshold, very unlikely) The first two options represent the more likely scenarios and do allow sufficient room to improve the team enough to make an impact in 2020. The latter two are much less likely unless Arte has decided to go all-in for the next two seasons (2020-2021), knowing that the team can sneak back under the Competitive Balance Tax (CBT) threshold in the 2021-2022 off-season once Pujols contract comes off of the books (not an impossibility). When you consider that Moreno has only exceeded the CBT threshold once, nearly 15 years ago, the odds of it happening seem remote. As much as this would be a great time to do it, particularly when you see such a barren free agent market next off-season, history shows that Arte has been very reluctant to cross that line, even by a smidge (to be fair though he has consistently supported high payrolls unlike some other owners). Realistically, he might do it now or consider it closer to the trade deadline if exceeding the CBT threshold, for the right player, would improve the teams odds of making the playoffs but that is the author's speculation and shouldn't be relied upon as part of our discussion. In the final article of the series we will do some payroll scheme examples for the four scenarios above to give you an idea of the limits and possibilities. So, now that we have gotten some of the pleasantries out of the way, lets dive into a position by position examination and discussion to see what plausible options the Angels have to consider when building next seasons squad as we continue to plunge into the 2020 Angelswin.com Primer Series! View the full article