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  1. By Robert Cunningham, Angelswin.com Senior Writer Now that we have identified probable purchases, it is time to flip the script and discuss what happens if the Angels become sellers, rather than buyers. For the purposes of this article we will only discuss those assets that actually have some level of reasonable trade value as it will not be the best use of time trying to find someone with minimal or even zero value, like Tony Watson or Kurt Suzuki, a hypothetical home on another team. Also we will only consider teams that are actual buyers or are on the bubble of contention (i.e. teams that are clearly sellers will not be considered in this discussion). It should also be noted that some teams may be more aggressive than others, because a specific, targeted player might push them up the win curve significantly or they may want to keep their opponents from acquiring the player so that player cannot be used against them. Finally, the Angels, in any negotiation, will more likely target MLB-ready or near-ready assets, more so than prospects overall, simply because we need to make our Major League squad better now, rather than later. Raisel Iglesias 2021: 3.66 ERA, 34.9% K%-BB%, .194 AVG, 0.89 WHIP, 3.70 FIP, 1.89 SIERA Perhaps the Angels greatest asset at the Trade Deadline, Iglesias is having a heck of a season (Ranked 5th in K%-BB% among relievers with 30+ innings pitched) and, most importantly, he is getting outs equally well on both sides of the plate. Of course he is a pure rental, but there will be massive interest by virtually every team in contention, whether they really need him or not. Other than Craig Kimbrel, Iglesias should be the top reliever on the market, if the Angels make him available. Teams that may have the greatest interest in Raisel include the Blue Jays, Astros, Athletics, Brewers, Dodgers, Padres, Giants, Braves, Reds, and Phillies, probably. Again, other teams like the Red Sox and Yankees will likely inquire, despite their lack of urgent need, because a guy like Iglesias will improve any bullpen in baseball. So what would Raisel bring back in return? Probably 1-3 good, but not great, prospects, depending on the names involved. Some sample trade scenarios are below: Angels send RP Raisel Iglesias to the Blue Jays in exchange for C Reese McGuire and SP/RP Julian Merryweather. Here the Angels could pick up a potentially good 3rd wheel from the Blue Jays in McGuire who was designated for assignment earlier in the season but has raked well lately and has an above average glove behind the dish. Merryweather is capable of starting, so the Angels could continue to stretch him out or, alternatively, turn him into a multi-inning reliever. In lieu of McGuire, the Angels could ask for Jensen or Kirk, instead, but the latter is probably not available. Angels send RP Raisel Iglesias and SS/2B Luis Rengifo to the Dodgers in exchange for C Keibert Ruiz (#2), and SP Bobby Miller (#8). The acquisition of Ruiz would give the Angels a nice switch-hitting bat (better from the left side) to pair with Max Stassi and a starter with strikeout capability in Miller. The Dodgers get Iglesias for the stretch run and they almost acquired Rengifo previously in the nixed Pederson-Stripling deal, so the interest probably still exists. Ruiz may or may not be available, but with Will Smith locked in, the Dodgers are probably willing to move Keibert in the right deal. Alex Cobb 2021: 4.60 ERA, 20.2% K%-BB%, .241 AVG, 1.22 WHIP, 2.58 FIP, 3.21 SIERA A solid season has put Cobb back on the map and if the Halos become sellers or take a hybrid posture, other teams will almost certainly come calling. Just like Iglesias (and a lot of other guys on this list) he is a pure rental. Although his actual ERA is a touch above League average, his peripherals tell a different, better, story (FIP is 2.58 and K%-BB% of 20.2%, as of July 7th, 2021). He has been doing this equally well against both sides of the plate, to boot. Teams that may have the most interest in Cobb, include the Blue Jays, Indians, Braves, Reds, Rays, and Mets. Certainly other teams will inquire, but those just listed are more probable suitors. So what will Cobb bring back in return? Likely something similar, but slightly less, than Iglesias, again, 1-3 good, but not great prospects. Some sample trade suggestions are below: Angels send SP Alex Cobb to the Rays in exchange for C Blake Hunt and SP Seth Johnson. Here the Angels pick up an athletic catcher with some pop in his bat and Johnson, a right-hander who throws in the low-to-mid 90’s with a quality 4-pitch mix. Angels send SP Alex Cobb to the Braves in exchange for C Shea Langeliers and SP Jared Shuster. Langeliers is a noted, excellent defender with no flaws behind the dish, but the offense is the question mark, particularly his swing, which the Angels would try to fix. Shuster is an advanced arm that just needs to be stretched out over the next couple of seasons in the Minors, that could be an above average strikeout guy from the left-side of the mound, potentially. Andrew Heaney 2021: 5.38 ERA, 20.6% K%-BB%, .257 AVG, 1.35 WHIP, 4.15 FIP, 3.72 SIERA Despite an excellent K%-BB%, Andrew has, unfortunately, not had correspondingly actual results. Part of his issues has been one part bad luck (.328 BABIP), one part letting to many runners score (67.9% LOB%), another part walking hitters (3.04 BB/9), one more part giving up a little to many long balls (1.64 HR/9), and an uncharacteristically bad time against left-handed hitters, which traditionally has been a strong suit. Teams that may have the most interest in Heaney, include the Athletics, Braves, Indians, Reds, Blue Jays, Red Sox, and Yankees. Certainly other teams will inquire, but those just listed are more probable suitors. All of those parts listed above lead to the depression of Andrew’s value, so, unlike Iglesias or Cobb, he is more likely to bring back 1-2 good, but not great prospects if the Angels choose to move him at the Trade Deadline. Some sample trade scenarios are listed below: Angels send SP Andrew Heaney to the Athletics in exchange for SP Brady Feigl and C Drew Millas. This move would give the Angels an interesting arm in Feigl and a possible replacement for Stassi in Millas, who is strong defensively. Angels send SP Andrew Heaney to the Red Sox in exchange for SP Noah Song and SP/RP Aldo Ramirez. Song is an interesting flyer who throws hard, but has been serving in the military and could start as a high-octane reliever and then stretched out over time and Ramirez is a multi-innings type that has the potential to stick in the rotation if things break right. SS Jose Iglesias 2021: .275/.306/.394, .306 BABIP, 94 wRC+ Iglesias, known for his high quality defense, has certainly disappointed a bit on the field. However, he has exceeded his run production by about 6% over his career average, so there is some give and take here, based on expectations. There are two scenarios where Iglesias might get traded: 1) the Angels decide to sell off expendable assets, including Jose and 2) the Angels decide to upgrade at SS, before the Trade Deadline, and move him, then. Other than that, it makes more sense to keep Jose and then target one of the many shortstops that will be available in free agency this upcoming offseason. Teams that may have some interest in Iglesias, include the Reds, Athletics, and, more remotely, the Rays, if they feel their young prospects they called up are not getting it done. Other teams like the Yankees and Indians are struggling at SS, too, but the former has Gleyber Torres, who is scuffling, but has immense talent, and the latter seem to be falling out of contention, so they may forgo a Trade Deadline deal to bolster their middle infield. This leaves Iglesias’ trade market somewhat bare. When you consider that Jose’s defense should rebound, he makes for a low-level pickup by a contending team, but he will not bring back much, probably one reasonable prospect if the Angels move him at the Trade Deadline. An example trade scenario is listed below: Angels send SS Jose Iglesias to the Reds in exchange for SP Noah Davis. This would give the Halos a near-ready pitching prospect that features a fastball/slider/changeup combination with low-to-mid 90’s velocity. Could serve well in a multi-inning relief or starter role, depending on how his development continues. RP Steve Cishek 2021: 2.88 ERA, 7.1% K%-BB%, .219 AVG, 1.43 WHIP, 3.34 FIP, 4.70 SIERA Cishek has had a strong, results-oriented season to-date, living and dying by putting the ball on the ground and letting the defense do its job, in addition to making hitters miss enough to generate poor contact. Some teams might be afraid of the walks (rightfully so), but he is getting it done against both sides of the plate. Teams that may have some level of interest in Cishek, include clubs like the Phillies, Reds, Athletics, Giants, Blue Jays, Astros, Braves, Mets, and Padres. Other teams may have interest, too, but the teams listed are outside of the Top 10 in bullpen WAR, making them more probable suitors. Now certainly, Cishek is no Iglesias, but he has been running well and that should translate into 1-2 mid-tier prospects, potentially. Some example trade scenarios are listed below: Angels send RP Steve Cishek to the Brewers in exchange for SS David Hamilton. Here the Halos would pick up a good contact, great defensive shortstop. Not dissimilar to David Fletcher, but he strikes out more. Could turn into a utility guy if the power doesn’t improve, but not a bad guy to have, particularly if his development breaks right. Angels send RP Steve Cishek to the Brewers in exchange for SP Bowden Francis. Another alternate deal with the Brewers might bring back near-read starter Bowden Francis, who is a good command type of pitcher with a solid 4-pitch mix. Angels send RP Steve Cishek to the Astros in exchange for SP Hunter Brown and RP Brett Conine. Since the Astros play in the same Division, the Halos would probably try to extract a little more from Houston, snagging the high-potential Brown and solid Conine. Both have upside, at the minimum in the bullpen, but both, particularly Hunter, could enter the rotation at some point. SP/RP Dylan Bundy 2021: 6.78 ERA, 14.0% K%-BB%, .275 AVG, 1.42 WHIP, 5.44 FIP, 4.36 SIERA Unfortunately for Dylan, his 2021 season did not come even close to replicating his 2020 campaign. Despite a slightly above average K%-BB%, he simply has given up too many hits and the defense behind him did not help matters in the least. As evidenced by his recent move to the bullpen, the Angels are still trying to extract some value from him in the final weeks leading up to the Trade Deadline, but no matter what this will be a more difficult sell on the trade market for Perry Minasian. Teams that may have some level of interest in Bundy, include clubs like the Athletics, Braves, Indians, Reds, Blue Jays, and Red Sox. Other teams might make inquiries, but those just listed are the most in need of help against right-handed hitters, which Dylan does a better job against, overall. For all of the numbers listed above, Bundy represents low value on the trade market, but there will be modest interest. He will only bring back 1-2 mid-to-lower level tier prospects at best and the Angels may have to retain some salary based on the return in question. Some sample trade scenarios are listed below: Angels send SP/RP Dylan Bundy to the Indians in exchange for SP/RP Hunter Gaddis. As indicated Bundy will not pull much in, but Gaddis projects as a multi-inning reliever with above average strikeout capability, so the Halos may make this their ask in a hypothetical Indians trade. Angels send SP/RP Dylan Bundy to the Reds in exchange for SP Graham Ashcraft. This one might be a stretch, but Ashcraft could move fast through the Angels system to turn into a likely multi-inning or short-stint reliever. SP/RP Jose Quintana 2021 Starter: 7.22 ERA, 14.5% K%-BB%, .279 AVG, 1.93 WHIP, 4.44 FIP, 4.50 SIERA 2021 Reliever: 7.94 ERA, 22.2% K%-BB%, .320 AVG, 1.76 WHIP, 5.99 FIP, 3.00 SIERA So, looking at his numbers, as both a starter and reliever, you can see that Quintana has suffered at the hands of the baseball gods. A 14.5% K%-BB% should not equate to a 7.22 ERA (and his peripheral FIP and SIERA numbers suggest that), nor should a 22.2% K%-BB%, as a reliever, equate to a 7.94 ERA. In both cases, Jose is running a .400 BABIP, which is clearly saying he has suffered bad luck on top of it all. The peripherals highly suggest Quintana should have better actual results, but unfortunately for the Halos that has not materialized, yet. Teams that may have some level of interest in a reclamation project like Quintana, could include the Blue Jays, Reds, Phillies, Braves, and Red Sox, among others. More than likely they would consider him in a relief role, more so than in the rotation. Clearly, Quintana will not pull down more than a low-level type of prospect, so we should expect very little here (almost didn’t list him, but the peripherals will pique the interest of other teams). An example trade scenario is listed below: Angels send SP/RP Jose Quintana to the Braves in exchange for SP Jared Johnson. Even Johnson might be too big of a price to pay, but, currently, he is a projected 35+ grade prospect, per FanGraphs, that the Halos would probably feel happy acquiring back in return for Jose. Conclusion One notable takeaway from this mental exercise, is that a lot of the potential teams the Angels seem to partner up with, do not have a lot of notable pieces that are near- or MLB-ready types of players. This may prove a bit problematic, but should not be a roadblock for the Angels to get a deal or two accomplished. It seems quite plausible that the Angels will make at least one or two deals, because they do have assets down on the farm that they could bring up to replace the pieces they sell. For example, could the Halos trade Jose Iglesias and simply bring up Luis Rengifo to replace him at SS? Could Minasian designate Kurt Suzuki for assignment and promote Matt Thaiss behind the dish? Would the Angels consider jettisoning Adam Eaton after Trout and Upton return from the Injured List in order to promote Jo Adell? Could they move Juan Lagares and bring up Brandon Marsh before September call ups to get his first carafe of coffee? Maybe they move Cishek and promote Quijada? Part ways with Dylan Bundy and let Dillon Peters take his place? Move Quintana and promote Chris Rodriguez into the rotation? The point is that the Angels have assets on the farm that could replace some of our poor performers and, performance-wise, you probably will not know the difference and, in fact, they may improve the overall team. This is why you should expect to see at least 1-2 guys go out the door in trade, in addition to the potential acquisitions mentioned in the previous article. If you were the Angels GM, which players would you sell at the Trade Deadline? Up next - 2021 Angelswin.com Trade Deadline Series: Conclusion
  2. The Era of Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani is Now In this Angelswin.com Trade Deadline Series, we examined the Angels standings in the League and how it impacts their Playoff Odds, made some practical assumptions about their potential posture heading into the Trade Deadline (July 30th), determined their areas of need, and probed prospective partners in any deal, whether the Halos decide to buy or sell (or both!). Here is a graphic of all of the teams with at least a 10% chance or more of making the playoffs in 2021, as of July 10th, 2021: 2021 MLB Playoff Odds for All Teams with >10% Chance as of July 10th, 2021 The top grouping represents the six Division leaders. Below that sit the Mets and the Rays. Further down, the Blue Jays, Rays, and Yankees are jockeying for position. Then, the grouping at the bottom, contains the Angels, Reds, Braves, and Phillies. It should be noted that as of July 15th, 2021 (5 days after this graphic), the Indians and Braves have slipped below 10% (6.7% and 7.4%, respectively, Angels sit at 15.4%). Based on this information, as of July 10th, 2021, the Angels have improved enough that GM Perry Minasian is likely recommending to owner Arte Moreno that they commit resources to make a more aggressive move to continue competing, even though the team will probably only be in the discussion for a Wild Card spot. This could include obtaining a front-of-the-rotation starter (if they can find an appropriate one in the market), a new backup catcher who can, preferably, hit right-handed pitching well, and one, possibly two, relievers, one of which should be competent against left-handed hitters. It seems ill-advised and unlikely, based on our research, that the Angels will consider a large acquisition in right field, at least at this moment in time. Author’s Note: And, in fact, the Halos signed Adam Eaton, prior to publication, likely as a platoon partner in a corner outfield spot, because he has excelled against right-handed pitching over his career. Again, the trade market may not support these needs and, certainly, there will be other teams the Angels have to compete with in the marketplace. In baseball, goals often go unrealized and many deals are never consummated. This will, however, in the author’s opinion, not deter the Angels from improving at this point, whether it is a blockbuster trade or one or more smaller transactions to help the Halos gain the extra inches they need to cross the playoff finish line. When you have a legitimate opportunity to get to the World Series, you should consider any reasonable moves to get there, particularly if it improves the team in the long-term as well. Now to be clear, Perry Minasian will be monitoring the teams performance for the next couple of weeks and if things shift dramatically in the loss column and the trade market looks inviting, for the assets the Angels are potentially selling, they could go the full sell route and add additional pieces for 2022 and beyond, likely making the team even more competitive in near-future seasons. This is what we talked about early on in this series about the information that is available to the Halos versus the information available to us, as fans. Do not think, for even a second, that the Angels front office has not contacted every team in baseball to check on player availability and also interest in our obtainable assets. Information is power! So whether it is promoting Matt Thaiss or Anthony Bemboom, behind the dish or acquiring Reese McGuire, trading for Max Scherzer, Luis Castillo, Shane Bieber, or even a guy like Jon Gray, sticking with the productive Taylor Ward, bringing up young Jo Adell, or picking up an established right fielder, or even snagging one or two affordable relievers like Chafin, Tepera, or Hudson, the Angels should have some trade space to upgrade the team. Also, with Mike Trout returning from the Injured List, this will only make the team leaps and bounds better and, if you tack on one or more trades, you can transform the Angels enough to make a real difference in 2021 and, possibly, beyond, if the new acquisitions have additional years of control. Trout returning, alone, could potentially bridge the current 4.5 game divide in the Wild Card race, not to mention a healthy Upton and Rendon returning near the end of July. The Angels seem poised, whether it is now or later, to make some noise in the A.L. West and Perry Minasian and the Angels front office know this and will do their best, based on the information available, to make it happen sooner, rather than later, for a 2021 Angels team that, to date, deserves the opportunity to improve and punch their own ticket to the playoffs. Author’s Speculative Opinion: The Angels will attempt to add a front-end starter with more than one season of control, but the trade market may not accommodate this need. It certainly is a missing piece of the puzzle that the Angels need to solve and one of our top outfield prospects will be the likely centerpiece of any deal for a controllable starter. If the Angels are targeting a pure rental, Moreno would probably kick in Luxury Tax money to pick up Scherzer and if the Halos want more years of control (more likely) someone like Luis Castillo or Shane Bieber may be possible. Additionally, the Halos will likely promote Matt Thaiss as the backup catcher to Stassi, he probably has enough chops to play a passable catcher and his bat can play at the Major League level, making him the cheapest “acquisition” at the Trade Deadline. The only roadblock will be if Thaiss cannot play at least marginal defense, thus necessitating a trade for a guy like Reese McGuire or another. Also, it would not be a surprise for the Angels to promote Adell at some point, but Taylor Ward’s bat has been solid and they have now taken a flyer on Eaton’s left-handed bat, so they could keep Jo down the rest of the season and start him in 2022 (Adell has 153 days of service time, not quite a full year, thus starting him in '22 would give the Angels a full six years of control). The Angels could also move Juan Lagares and promote Brandon Marsh to give him some Major League experience so that is a remote, but possible, transaction as a backup outfielder. Also, the Angels could move one or more of Bundy, Quintana, Heaney, and Cobb in order to promote one or more of Griffin Canning, Chris Rodriguez, Cooper Criswell, Jaime Barria, or top prospect Reid Detmers, for example. Finally, I could see Minasian picking up one or two of Richard Rodriguez, Andrew Chafin, Daniel Hudson, and/or Ryan Tepera in trade, probably out of the latter three or even promote internally, bringing Jose Quijada backup or perhaps one of Andrew Wantz, Hector Yan, Jake Reed, Boomer Biegalski, Jhonathan Diaz, and/or Jake Faria, to hold a more permanent spot the remainder of the season. If you were the Angels GM, what would you do? Post your thoughts in the thread and continue the conversation about the Halos future!
  3. By Robert Cunningham, Angelswin.com Senior Writer Now that we have spent some time getting the lay of the land, it is time to do a bit more speculative analysis, based on the Angels' needs, if they become buyers. Knowing the Halos most probable four areas of need and the list we created of likely sellers, we can use FanGraphs sortable statistics, looking at possible catchers, starters, right fielders, and relievers that might be targets of interest for the Angels and are also likely to be available in trade. The author, in addition to FanGraphs, will also utilize Baseball-Reference.com and Spotrac.com to examine player salaries and expiring contract information, as needed. Finally all charts presented were pulled as of July 8th, 2021. Looking at catchers first, here is a short list of probable targets for upgrade that have a reasonable combination of defense and the ability to hit against right-handed pitching: Probable Catcher Targets vs. RHP Sorted by WAR (As of July 8th, 2021) So the Angels have been playing Thaiss at catcher for over the last month (24 games as of July 8th, 2021), so if they think he can play a passable backstop, he would be a very inexpensive solution who, of course, hits from the left-side (and probably cannot do much worse than Suzuki, defensively... maybe). For the Blue Jays, top prospect Alejandro Kirk is on the verge of joining the Major League team, leaving one of McGuire or Jansen likely out on the side of the road. Gomes and Molina are in their walk years, with the latter more likely to retire than come to the team his good friend Albert Pujols just left. Contreras and Kelly are interesting, but will cost a lot. Stallings, Barnhart, and Alfaro will cost something, too. Here at Angelswin.com, beyond the semi-intriguing internal options of Thaiss or Bemboom, we would roll the dice with one of Barnhart, McGuire, Jansen, or Stallings, as the more likely picks, especially one of the Toronto guys, because Minasian knows them better than most and the Blue Jays are a little more likely to move one of them. Moving on to starting pitchers, here is another list of possible targets for upgrade: Probable Rotation Targets Sorted by K%-BB% (As of July 8th, 2021) From an Angelswin.com point of view, a majority of these starters are probably out of reach. Many of them have more than one year of control so, in that case, their price will be elevated, possibly beyond the Angels ability to acquire, currently. Based on this and the assumption that the Angels will likely only go after a top starter if and only if they improve markedly as we head toward the end of July, Angelswin.com would speculate that the Halos front office is slightly more likely to target a pure rental like Scherzer, Wainwright, or Gray to minimize the resource cost (i.e. money and players and prospects sent back in return), or, a bit less likely, they might go big and try to acquire one of Castillo, Berrios, Bieber, or Marquez (unlikely), all of which have additional control, but play for teams that run relatively low payrolls and thus may not be able to afford to retain them, in arbitration, moving forward. Notably, the Reds were shopping Luis in the offseason , the Twins may not be able to extend Jose, and Shane grew up an Angels fan, so if Cincinnati, Minnesota, or Cleveland decide it is time, you never know what could happen. Beyond catchers and starters, the Angels could consider the aforementioned temporary right field solution. Below is a list of possible targets: Joey Gallo Mitch Haniger Robbie Grossman And that is about it! The rest of the outfielders on the leaderboard either play for teams in contention, have long-term control or contracts, or are only slight upgrades (Tommy Edman for example) over Taylor Ward who is also on the leaderboard, albeit further down the list. This really is a situation where, unless the Angels are acquiring a top-tier outfielder with long-term control and then dealing off Jo Adell and/or Taylor Ward (for pitching as an example), this is basically a no-go and possible dead-end for Minasian to pursue. Probably best to stick with Taylor and then bring up Adell only when the Angels front office feels he is ready to face Major League pitching, again. It is the most affordable choice, with the highest promise, available to the Angels, from the outside looking in, on a near- and long-term basis. Finally we get to our fourth potential area of need, relief pitching. Here is a list of targets, based on our probable list of sellers at the Trade Deadline: Probable Reliever Targets Sorted by K%-BB% (As of July 8th, 2021) So, obviously, there are some names to choose from if Perry Minasian wants to upgrade the bullpen. Clearly some of these names (Kimbrel and Gallegos for example) will be more expensive than others. When examining the contractual status of this group, it may be better for the Halos to target one of the following names: Taylor Rogers, Richard Rodriguez, Andrew Chafin, Ryan Tepera, and Daniel Hudson. This group also happens to have strong numbers against left-handed hitters, so this would not only improve the bullpen as a whole, but would strengthen the Halos ability to put them to bed. If Angelswin.com was in the Halos shoes, one, possibly two, of Rodriguez, Chafin, Tepera, or Hudson, would make the most sense to bolster the relief staff, if the Angels choose to go this route. Again, this discussion represents a more probable set of areas the Angels could improve upon and the names suggested are more likely to be available in trade, but trade negotiations are very fluid and unpredictable. We, here at Angelswin.com, will continue to hammer the point home that we, the fans, do not have access to all of the information the Angels do and, thus, there may be many other avenues the Angels can take to improve the team, so anything is possible, including doing nothing, at the Trade Deadline. If you were the Angels GM, would you target any of the suggestions above and, if so, why? Up next - 2021 Angelswin.com Trade Deadline Series: Likely Targets to Sell
  4. By Robert Cunningham, Angelswin.com Senior Writer Now that we have a sense of the Angels playoff odds (16.2% as of July 10th, 2021), we need to identify their strengths and weaknesses heading into the Trade Deadline. Additionally, it is important to identify a likely list of buyers and sellers, which we will scrutinize at the end of this Trade Deadline Series installment. One of the best methods to identify weaknesses, from the author’s perspective, is to simply examine team offense, defense, and pitching production, to-date, for the 2021 season. Based on actual results, peripheral statistics, and Statcast information, any fan can glean how well a team and any individual player has performed over a specified time period. This information, combined with team finances and player contractual obligations, can point and hint to the areas that a GM like Perry Minasian will focus on when discussing potential trades, whether the team is buying or selling. So to start we will first look at the Angels offense, focusing first on a statistic called weighted runs created plus (wRC+), which is an excellent catch-all number that shows how a team and individual players perform below or above League-average offensive production. This statistic quantifies run creation and normalizes it, so we can compare players who play in different ballparks and even different eras. wRC+ vs. Left-Handed Pitching The graphic below shows all MLB teams wRC+ versus left-handed pitchers: As you can see, the Angels, to-date, have performed well against left-handed pitching to the tune of a 115 wRC+, good for 3rd overall in MLB. Players like Upton, Ohtani, Gosselin, Rojas, Stassi, Ward, Trout, and Fletcher have all had good success against lefties this year. This is clearly an area of strength for the Halos and a less likely area that Minasian would focus on to improve. wRC+ vs. Right-Handed Pitching The graphic below shows all MLB teams wRC+ versus right-handed pitchers: Against the other side of the mound, the Angels are still above average (106 wRC+), but not quite as consistently good as they are against LHP. The Halos big bats, Trout, Ohtani, and Walsh are destroying RHP on a regular basis with guys like Stassi, Rendon, Upton, and Ward contributing, too. Because the Halos are ranked 7th in MLB, this, too, is an area that Minasian might pay less attention to, but, if the front office does bring in another bat, it would probably be a player that can hit right-handed pitching. Now that we have covered offense, we can move on to the pitching side. Here we will focus on a statistic called strikeout percentage minus walk percentage (K%-BB%), which is also a solid, effective number that shows how a team or individual pitcher performs over a specified time period. This statistic is good because it quantifies a pitchers ability to strikeout and walk batters on an individual basis, rather than a rate statistic, giving a purer view of effectiveness regarding how often any particular pitcher puts opposing players on-base. So with that, let us examine how the Angels pitching staff is performing against both sides of the plate. K%-BB% vs. Left-Handed Hitters The graphic below shows all MLB teams K%-BB% versus left-handed hitters: Here we can see that the Halos have been a bit below average, ranked 18th, overall, with a K%-BB% of 12.9%. Guys like Iglesias, Quintana, Sandoval, Mayers, Watson, Cobb, and Claudio have all had varying measures of success, whereas the rest of the team has been roughly average (Ohtani) or worse (Bundy and Cishek, for instance). If Minasian plans to pick up more pitching, it may be prudent to target a guy who can punch out left-handed hitters. K%-BB% vs. Right-Handed Hitters The graphic below shows all MLB teams K%-BB% versus right-handed hitters: On the other side, the Angels have performed a touch better, ranked 16th, overall, with a K%-BB% of 15.3%. Names like Iglesias, Ohtani, Heaney, Mayers, Cobb, Canning, and Bundy have performed at a varying, but solid, clip. Again, if Minasian focuses on bringing in pitching, a guy who can get right-handed hitters out would probably be even more useful and, in fact, a starter or reliever that can punch out hitters on both sides of the plate would do wonders for the rotation and/or bullpen. Finally, this analysis would not be complete without taking a glance at team defense. Here we will use FanGraphs Defense (Def) statistic which provides an above or below average examination of how a team or an individual player at any specific singular position impacts runs saved or created. The Def statistic is simply fielding runs above average plus a positional adjustment. In the graphic below, team Def is shown, which is a conglomeration of all Angels players in comparison to other teams. Team Defense Utilizing FanGraphs ‘Def’ Statistic The graphic below shows all MLB teams composite defensive scores: As you can see, the Halos have been systemically bad on defense in 2021, which is a marked departure from previous seasons. The Halos are ranked 29th in MLB, overall, with a composite ‘Def’ score of -20.9! Even noted, stalwart defenders like Iglesias, Fletcher, and Lagares have not performed to their normal levels. Names like Upton (LF), Ward (RF), and Suzuki (C) (Pujols too) have been a drain on run prevention, but it is not just them, the whole team appears to be struggling in some form or fashion. If the Angels do become buyers, expect Perry to upgrade where he can, to improve this situation, and hope that the normally good defenders pick it up and execute better on the field. Initial Takeaway from the Basic Analysis So, the first major takeaway from this examination is that team defense has been a real problem. Being next to dead last in all of baseball will spell trouble in terms of run prevention and it does not help that it appears to be team-wide, making it difficult to find a tangible solution. Upton is still on contract and will be difficult to move, so finding a good defensive replacement is probably off the table, not to mention that any acquisition must have a productive bat like Justin. Ward is young and controllable and he has had a very productive offensive season, so far, making him a good, versatile plug-and-play option for Joe Maddon, so he could be moved, but again you will have to replace the offense, as well as the defense, making him a little bit, less likely trade piece. Kurt Suzuki, signed for his previous offensive prowess, has been a black hole on both sides of the ball, making him the most likely piece on the Angels roster to be upgraded in favor of both better offense and defense. The remainder of the position players are either too valuable (Trout and Walsh for instance), on long-term contracts (Rendon and Fletcher for example), or just seem to be underperforming defensively (Iglesias comes to mind). The most likely positions to upgrade here are at backup catcher or, possibly, a short-term solution or even a callup from our Minor League system, to bolster right field, if Minasian feels defense is a top priority. Beyond the Halos abysmal team defense, our pitching staff could use a shot in the arm, as well. Clearly some of our starting options have not panned out as Perry Minasian had hoped (Bundy and Quintana are obvious perpetrators) and certain pieces in the bullpen have struggled, as well (Claudio, Watson, and Slegers jump off the page, for instance). Finding a controllable ace starting pitcher is always the goal, but even a short-term front-end or solid middle-of-the-rotation starter would help the Angels if they do actively compete the rest of this season. Adding another back-end reliever would do a lot of good for the Angels bullpen, too, if they go for it and may be the least expensive route to improving the team, in trade, from a resource expenditure perspective. It would also be useful if any pitcher the Halos acquire can get both left- and right-handed hitters out, as well. Long-term control is even more desirable, but it will cost much more. Finally, team offense does not appear to be an issue overall. The Angels are well above average in run production, so this may not be the priority if the Halos front office looks to improve heading into the Trade Deadline. If they do upgrade a position player, it will more likely be a guy who can hit right-handed pitching well, as the team is a little less productive against righties than lefties. Again, offense is not the Angels biggest problem, but if you are going to upgrade defensively, for example, you might as well acquire a guy who is better, offensively, against the right side of the mound. Who are the Buyers and Sellers? This question is relatively easy to answer by simply examining the FanGraphs MLB Playoff Odds page, again. Basically any team sitting at approximately 10% or less is probably a likely seller, willing to move players on expiring contracts (i.e. players who are in their final season with their respective team) or, if they are rebuilding, players that are not in their long-term plans (i.e. players with less overall contractual or team control, for instance). Additionally, teams that are around 10%-15%, are probably sitting on the fence, waiting to see if they improve leading into the Trade Deadline, to determine which way they lean. Finally, any team that is above 15%-20% is a more probable buyer and, thus, looking for short-term rentals or players with more than one year of contractual or team control that might be available in the Trade Deadline market. To be clear each team will have unique circumstances, based on which Division they play in, how many teams in their Division are competing, team finances, owner will-to-win, Wild Card standings, and strength of schedule the remainder of the season, that will impact if they buy, sell, or do both. Based on the assumptions, above, the Red Sox, Rays, Yankees, Blue Jays, White Sox, Astros, Athletics, Mets, Brewers, Dodgers, Padres, and Giants are all likely buyers, currently. In the middle, the Indians, Angels, Braves, Phillies, Reds, and Cubs are in a bit of a gray area and may wait closer to the Trade Deadline to make any moves, assuming they sustain or improve their performance. It is possible they could make a modest improvement leading up to the Trade Deadline to see if that pushes them further up the win curve, as well, before committing further. The remaining teams, the Orioles, Twins, Royals, Tigers, Rangers, Nationals, Marlins, Cardinals, Pirates, Rockies, Diamondbacks, and, maybe, the Mariners are all probable sellers, barring large winning streaks that put them back into the playoff conversation. Knowing who is buying and selling will lend itself to our partially-informed, speculative guesses about who the Angels matchup with in potential deals, whether the Halos are buying and/or selling at the Trade Deadline. Do you think the Angels will Buy, Sell, or do Both? Comment and share your thoughts in the thread! Up next - 2021 Angelswin.com Trade Deadline Series: Keepers, Assets, and Targets
  5. A healthy Shohei Ohtani is a difference-maker on both sides of the ball By Robert Cunningham, Angelswin.com Senior Writer Note: What can I do here, everyone? Hope for Education is a small, targeted charity with a very specific fundraising goal and they are only a short way off from it. Again, I know some of you might be strapped for cash out there, I get it. But I am not asking for much, $5 is skipping a morning Starbucks run. Even $1, is one item less off the value deal menu at your favorite fast food joint. These kids deserve the opportunity to learn safely in this pandemic environment, so once again I am humbly requesting ANY donation you can afford to make. Thank you for your time and attention! - Robert Hitting leadoff for the 2021 Primer Series, the rotation is clearly the biggest concern facing the Halos front office heading into the off-season. The Angels, on paper, will pencil in Andrew Heaney and Dylan Bundy, both in their last year of arbitration control, along with Shohei Ohtani, who is, unfortunately, a bit of a wild card health-wise, making his reliability unpredictable, as the initial base of their rotation. We will call this trio “2 and a half men”, for now. Beyond those names, the Angels do have a selection of younger pitchers, on the 40-man roster, to choose from, including Griffin Canning, Patrick Sandoval, Jaime Barria, Jose Suarez, Hector Yan, and Chris Rodriguez. Behind them are additional swingmen, such as Dillon Peters and Felix Pena that can act as spot starters, as well. The Angels also have another upside starter, not on their 40-man roster yet, Reid Detmers, the teams #1 draft pick in 2020, but he is almost certainly not ready for the Majors yet, but could be sooner rather than later. If the Angels started the season with the current group of pitchers on the 40-man roster, the likely rotation depth would look something like this (number in parentheses represents the number of Minor League options remaining): Shohei Ohtani (3) Dylan Bundy (0) Andrew Heaney (0) Jaime Barria (0) Jose Suarez (1) Felix Pena (1) Griffin Canning (3) Patrick Sandoval (2) Dillon Peters (0) Chris Rodriguez (3) Hector Yan (2) As it stands, that depth is not too bad. Certainly it could be better, particularly at the top-of-the-rotation where Ohtani’s consistent and healthy ability to pitch is in doubt, but there is sufficient and, daresay, quality depth in the middle and back of the rotation for the Halos. Additionally, the team only has Bundy, Heaney, Barria, and Peters, from this list, that must be on the 25-man roster due to their lack of options remaining. Assuming one of the first three is not traded they will almost certainly fill our #3-#5 rotation slots, while Peters will grab a spot in the bullpen, probably as a long reliever and spot starter. If you add one high quality starter, like Trevor Bauer, Blake Snell, or another top arm, the fabric of our starting five strengthens: Top-of-the-rotation starter (Pick your poison) Shohei Ohtani Dylan Bundy Andrew Heaney Jaime Barria This is the reason the Angels are likely targeting a top-of-the-rotation starter this off-season. It adds that missing impact arm that cannot only anchor the Halos starting five but will provide that third missing element for a playoff roster, as well. In addition, it pushes young and capable, but less experienced, starters like Jose Suarez, Griffin Canning, and Patrick Sandoval into depth roles, where they really, probably, belong heading into next year, particularly when you consider the potential impacts of the pandemic to their development timeline. The addition of a top-tier starter also mitigates some of the risk Shohei brings to the equation by giving Joe Maddon two anchors for the rotation, rather than relying on just Ohtani and his unfortunate arm issues. If Dylan Bundy even comes close to repeating his 2020 performance and Ohtani returns to form, that would give the Angels a three-headed hydra, greatly improving the Halos chances of reaching the playoffs. However, in order to get that top-tier starter, the Angels front office will need to use significant resources, whether through payroll, their 40-man roster, and/or their farm system, to acquire that player, which may limit their ability to improve the roster in other areas. The reason we bring this up is that the Angels may best be served by not only acquiring a top-tier starter but also an additional mid-tier type to really build a truly deep, quality rotation (in this case, probably a six-man version) with exceptional depth, which will deplete even more resources, probably. This resource loss may not be as bad as it seems, potentially. If there was ever a time to move prospects, particularly with a new GM coming in trying to buttress a team on the verge of contention, it could be now. When you consider how many extra players are hitting the free agent market, too, including a plethora of Minor League prospects that were cut loose, Minasian may see this as an opportunity to not only acquire what the team needs but perhaps fill in some of the holes that will be leftover with fringe prospects that were cut loose from other organizations. So, if a top tier starter is in play, what are we looking at in a potential Trevor Bauer signing? Frankly a lot. Finding an ideal comparable player is not simple but Stephan Strasburg signed a 7-year deal for $245M (an extension to his original extension) to stay with the Nationals, prior to 2020, at 31 1/2 years old. Gerrit Cole, who is significantly better than Trevor, signed a 9-year, $324M (it could be an 8-year, $288M if the Yankees don’t void the player option year) deal. Patrick Corbin, a less comparable player, signed a 6-year, $140M contract, prior to his age 29 season. Muddying the waters, further, is the financial crisis around baseball right now, making this risk-opportunity analysis difficult on both sides, for any prospective, acquiring teams and Trevor’s agent. Bauer has made it clear in the past that he might prefer signing year-to-year deals to potentially increase his earning power. However, he walked that statement back a bit, not too long ago, so anything could be in the cards. I actually disagree with MLBTradeRumors.com’s recent assessment that he will find a 4-year deal, that seems odd as it would place Trevor back in free agency in his age 34 season, which does not seem ideal for him. Bauer will be 30 years old in 2021 and I see him either signing an expensive but short 1-2 year deal or going the distance on a 6-8 year pact, based on what the market offers. Perhaps a 1-2 year deal at $40M-45M per season or a 6-8 year deal for something in the $160M-240M ballpark. All of this may be a moot point for the Halos, however. In either scenario the Angels will basically use all of the margin in their payroll pushing them up to or over the CBT threshold, into Luxury Tax territory. Moreno has stated in the past he would consider that for the “right” player but that litmus test has never come to pass and, in this economic atmosphere, seems like a longshot. The bottom line is that Bauer may be a non-starter if Arte doesn’t tighten up the yacht fuel expenditures. It seems more likely, monetarily, that the Angels will move prospects to acquire another top-of-the-rotation option and then perhaps supplement the rotation further via free agency or additional trades. So with that thought in mind, it would not be surprising to see the Angels, in addition to acquiring an ace, pursue a mid-rotation starter to add to their shopping list as well. Heck, even two might be on the table if Minasian decides he wants to send one of Bundy or Heaney out the door to try and micromanage the payroll. For example, Perry may want to capitalize on Dylan Bundy’s very successful 2020 campaign and move him and his salary in exchange for one or more near-MLB ready prospects and then trade for another less expensive starter like Vince Velasquez or Jon Gray, on top of acquiring someone like Blake Snell. That Bundy for Velasquez or Gray exchange, would result in about a $1M-3.5M decrease to team payroll for 2021, hypothetically. If Minasian encounters a lot of difficulty acquiring an ace, the Angels could add the aforementioned mid-tier starter and see where they end up at the Trade Deadline and then try to acquire one at that time. This in fact might open up other avenues, as teams that were in fringe contention or on the verge of a rebuild, may throw in the towel and sell off a top-of-the-rotation starter, then. Only time and a series of vigorous phone calls and meetings will tell the tale for the Angels new GM. This was, in-part, what I was referring to in the Strategy article, regarding the additional unpredictability that this off-season might offer. Perry is not just buying, he is gauging the market across the board to understand how other teams see the value of our assets versus what the Angels believe they are worth. Those assets that have more value to others than they do to the Halos might be shipped out the door like Noe Ramirez and Leonardo Rivas, were, in exchange for Raisel Iglesias (good trade, in principle, by the way). Finding that top-of-the-rotation unicorn will not be easy but it will be essential for the Angels in 2021 and thus it needs to be the teams #1 priority, figuratively and literally. Expect: The Angels will do everything they can to acquire a frontline starter this off-season and we here at Angelswin.com feel they will be successful in doing so, albeit it may not be Trevor Bauer, considering Moreno’s history to-date. If we do sign Trevor it feels like a one or two-year deal is in the cards so that he can clear the COVID-19 pandemic on a clearer path to free agency and a subsequent long-term pact and Moreno can go over the CBT threshold for no more than two years, avoiding the really high tax rates that kick in on the third year over the Luxury Tax. If Bauer is a no-go, even on a long term deal, a trade for an ace will ultimately cost us one of Jo Adell or Brandon Marsh, likely, as we have sufficient outfield depth in the Minors to pad the loss of one of these fine young prospects or possibly one or more Major League assets. Additionally, the Angels may look to pick up another mid-tier starter, such as the aforementioned Velasquez or Gray or maybe a guy like Carlos Carrasco, Zach Davies or Eduardo Rodriguez, in trade, or conceivably one of our old friends Garrett Richards or Matt Shoemaker or possibly a guy like Jose Quintana, Jose Urena, Corey Kluber, Chris Archer, or Tomoyuki Sugano from free agency, for instance (much more likely if we do not acquire Bauer). In the case of the Halos picking up both a front line and mid rotation starter, they may have to move to a six-man rotation (because Heaney, Bundy, and Barria are out of options and Ohtani and any front line starter we pick up are locks for #1 and #2 spots).
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