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Found 12 results

  1. 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!
  2. 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
  3. 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
  4. Photo Credit: Alex Gallardo/Associated Press By David Saltzer, AngelsWin.com Senior Writer —"Closing time, every new beginning comes from some other beginning's end.” Semisonic In life, we all will face the point where we will be replaced. It’s never easy. If we are lucky, it’s on our own terms and we can retire when we want to. At other times, life dictates the ending. Whether it’s a business closing, an illness affecting us, a life event happening to someone else, a global pandemic, it will happen. That’s an unfortunate certainty to life. If baseball is anything, it is brutally honest about when it’s time to go. Injuries and age take their toll. Whether one is a sure-fire Hall of Famer, a regular player, or just up for a cup of coffee, players with more ability and skill will eventually force the issue. It may be hard for the player to accept it, but the game doesn’t lie about it. There are a lot of ways to analyze the end of the Pujols era with the Angels. As a baseball decision, it is an easy decision. His performance on the field wasn’t good enough to justify the playing time. The emergence of Walsh and Ohtani playing everyday made the team better offensively. There wasn’t going to be much playing time for Albert going forward. Additionally, after a shortened season last year, the concern about pitching is very real. The Angels aren’t the only organization to be struck by injuries to pitchers. Teams are carrying more pitchers for a reason, and that meant that keeping Albert in a bench role didn’t make sense. The Angels needed someone with more defensive versatility and better offensive performance than he could provide. Baseball, though, isn’t just a game of numbers. While fans may care most about numbers, those inside the business know that the people are just as important as the numbers. If I learned one thing from all of Tim Mead’s dugout talks with AngelsWin, it’s that how people are treated is of great importance in life. Right now, there’s a ton of speculation online of what happened prior to the Angels designating him for assignment. We have the statements from the Angels Front Office that the meeting with Albert ended with Minasian giving him a hug. Hopefully, the meeting went well and Albert didn’t feel “disrespected” as Pedro Martinez tweeted. Many fans have a hard time understanding the importance of respect for players. They focus on the money the players earn and the lifestyle and conclude that that should be enough for them. To those fans, I would say, everyone deserves respect, whether they make millions or hundreds. And, at some point or another, we will all feel disrespected. It may be how a doctor delivers bad news to us in an unfriendly manner, or a judge rushing us through a traffic ticket violation, a boss giving an unfair performance review, etc. At some point, we will all be treated with disrespect and would not want others telling us to just accept it because they envy our position As fans, we will never know the whole story. I have every reason to believe that Albert will continue to be as classy as he can about the situation and won’t divulge all the details of the meeting. While I do expect him to talk about it at some point, I don’t expect him to reveal much more than what we already know. The Angels Front Office won’t issue more statements about it, so, as fans we have about as much information on the subject as we are likely to get, at least in the short term. We will have no way of knowing how this may affect the Angels in future negotiations with other players. If there is more to the story (not assuming that there is more to the story), those inside the industry may learn about it. How this affects future players signing with the Angels remains to be seen. If this changes the perception of the Angels as a franchise within the industry, it could have long-term consequences as players and agents may steer players away from the Angels if they perceive the team as disrespectful. This could be a case where those fans gloating over Albert’s release should be cautioned to be careful of what they wish for. What does this mean going forward for the Angels in 2021? Honestly, not too much. Releasing Albert won’t solve the pitching and injury problems that are hampering the team. It won’t help with many of the shifts from the analytics department that didn’t work. Until those issues are resolved, the team will struggle. There is one way, though, that releasing Albert will help the Angels in 2021. It will alleviate a potential issue for the future. As noted above, from a baseball standpoint, the move made the most sense. At some point this season, a Minor Leaguer such as Adell or Marsh would likely emerge and force the issue by performing so well that the Angels would need to promote him to play the outfield and move Walsh back to first base. At that point, the issue of Pujols’ playing time would become a distraction for the team. It would take a toll on players, the coaching staff, and the Front Office as Albert got less and less playing time and reporters asked about that issue more and more. In many ways, biting the inevitable bullet now prevents a future issue and team distraction from arising. How this affects the team in the future remains to be seen. There’s no doubt that the Pujols contract had wide ramifications on the baseball industry. Paying older players large sums for many years is not likely to happen often again. Teams now know that paying players more money in their prime years is less risky and less detrimental to the franchise than spreading the money out over more years. So, if the Angels are at the end of an era with Pujols, I hope this means that the Front Office is going to move ahead fully with the notion of paying players more money for prime years. There’s no need to repeat the mistake of jumping onto a new idea with one foot, like they did when they signed Roberto Baldoquin and no other major international free agents. There are signs that this may be the case under Perry Minasian with the recent contract for David Fletcher. Hopefully they will lock up their own players earlier in their careers and find ways to sign free agents for more of their prime years. But again, I will caution fans who want this approach to be careful of what they wish for from the Front Office. Not all those future contracts will work out, even for younger players in their prime. The Angels, like all teams, will get burned eventually on a deal with a player. Injuries and aging still happen, and at some point, the team may get hampered by a shorter-term deal with a higher salary. It is the nature of the industry. So fans wishing for this approach need to understand that there are risks to these deals just as there are risks to signing players for longer term contracts. Personally, I would like to think of the Pujols era for what it meant to the franchise. When we signed him, it was the third largest contract in MLB history. I remember the buzz online and at the stadium for the press conference announcing the signing. The national perception of the Angels dramatically changed as a result of signing him. Suddenly, the Angels were on the map as a destination for players—not just some players, almost all players, especially the best of that year’s free agent class. Signing Albert changed the way the Angels were seen nationally—much in a way that signing Vlad did not. The Angels went from being a scrappy team that won the World Series in 2002 to one of the larger payrolls in baseball. During every offseason for years, we were the rumored “mystery team” involved in negotiations, and that made being an Angels fan special. Our payroll has gone up quite a bit since we’ve signed Albert and doesn’t appear to be in jeopardy of shrinking. I get that many fans are upset because the Angels never got the performance from Albert that they paid for. That is truly regrettable as he was such a joy to watch in St. Louis. The fact that Albert didn’t perform so well wasn’t due to a lack of effort on his part. Age and injuries take their toll on everyone, and baseball is brutally honest about that. He is still, a no-doubt first round Hall of Famer, and he should go into the Hall of Fame with a unanimous vote. As for the contract that he signed—that was the result of the way baseball operated at the time. The Angels were freely negotiating with him, and was later revealed, the Marlins had a higher offer for his services. The fact that the Angels never won a postseason game with him was not entirely his fault. That had more to do with the lack of pitching and lack of depth in the organization throughout his time with the Angels. According to Matt Birch, the Angels had a 590-591 record in games in which he appeared. Albert was and is a class act on and off the field. He never whined to the press or complained about the team or its record. I saw him personally interact with fans in meaningful ways, often not in ways that the public could see. He gave us some great moments (my favorite being when he and Trout fired arrows back at Fernando Rodney on July 20, 2014). He hit many milestones with the Angels and ranks in the top-10 in many all-time records for Angels offensive categories. Now that it’s closing time on the Pujols era with the Angels the endless debates about his contract and performance will come to an end. We can and should appreciate him for what he was throughout the entirety of his career, and hope that as we move forward, that the end of his era leads to a better new beginning—one with Walsh at first base and Ohtani as the full-time DH. I wish Albert Pujols all the best in the remainder of his career and look forward to seeing him inducted into the Hall of Fame.
  5. By David Saltzer, AngelsWin.com Senior Writer To say that 2020 has been a strange year is clearly an understatement. Not only has it dramatically disrupted Major League baseball, but it has all but shutdown Minor League baseball. The long-term effect of that will not be known for years. As fans, we know that the Minor Leaguers are our future. Their development is critical to the success of the Angels organization. To find out more about how those players who are not part of the limited training program are doing, we recently met online and spoke with William Holmes, the Angels 5th round draft pick in 2018. For William, development is critical, as he is trying to become part of the wave of 2-way players, following in Shohei Ohtani's footsteps. Drafted out of high school, William has posted a .252/.357/.329 line with 18 walks and 1 HR in 168 PAs and a 5.18 ERA with 38 Ks in 24.1 IP. He's done that all while being one of the youngest players in the leagues in which he played. We spoke with William about his goals, how he's progressing, and what he's doing this offseason to continue his development. As a player, he shows plenty of promise with lots of athleticism that should lead to success on both sides of the game. At AngelsWin.com, we believe that as he matures, and improves, he will shoot up our prospect charts over the next couple of years, and is definitely one of our prospects worth getting to know. Please click below to watch our interview with William Holmes.
  6. By Robert Cunningham, Angelswin.com Senior Writer Special Request: Hope for Education is a small, targeted charity sponsored by Angelswin.com. I am humbly requesting a small donation as we enter the New Year and hope that you are in the giving mood as these kids need help to learn in a safe environment from this very deadly pandemic. Please lend a hand, even if it is only a couple of bucks, it does make a difference. Thank you for your time and attention! Important Note: First of all I would like to say Happy New Year! I hope all of you and your families are implementing best-practice safety guidelines as outlined by the Center for Disease Control, including wearing masks out in public, washing your hands often, and exercising physical distancing protocols. Not only is COVID-19 potentially life-threatening there are now reports of long-term physical and psychological damage to those that survive. Take care of yourselves out there both physically and mentally, the Angels family needs to stay strong so all of us can enjoy Mike Trout now and in the future! At this point in the off-season, it is easy to say that the Angels bullpen is already revamped and, in fact, may continue to evolve even further, prior to Opening Day, after a dizzying array of non-tendered contracts and Rule 5 and trade additions. The previous administration placed a lot of emphasis on acquiring relievers through the waiver wire, minor trades, and the rare free agent signing. By focusing resources in other areas, Eppler and company actually did a fair job of building a Major League bullpen, albeit it lacked a true, sustained closer type. Eppler’s front office focused a lot on high spin rates and acquiring arms that threw a good fastball and curveball; the latter is a good pitch that works against both sides of the plate, negating some of the need to find those lockdown lefties. Minasian’s reign has yet to give us a lot of information on how he will approach building a good relief corps but there are three data points to discuss here. First of all, the quick strike and addition of Raisel Iglesias is significant, as it adds a clear, proven back-end bullpen arm that is capable of closing out games on a regular basis for the Angels. Raisel is stronger from the right-side with his fastball, slider, and changeup combination which can shutdown a right-handed heavy team. Per FanGraphs, out of all qualified relievers in 2020, Iglesias was in the Top 5 of Wins Above Replacement (WAR). In fact, over the last two seasons, he ranks 8th with only lofty names like Nick Anderson, Taylor Rogers, Aroldis Chapman, and Brad Hand, ahead of him. Despite the fact that the Halos, currently, only have him for one season, there is a lot to like about bringing him into the fold for 2021, particularly due to the fact that the Angels are projected to have a fairly tight 5.12 Runs Scored per Game (RS/G) versus an 4.82 Runs Against per Game (RA/G), which means the team may find itself in more close games, where they will lead by a small amount of runs, creating a high leverage situation that Iglesias can help solve. Additionally, the Halos front office struck during the Rule 5 Draft, acquiring Jose Alberto Rivera, a young arm from the Astros organization. Rivera features a big fastball, averaging in the high-90’s, curveball, and splitter. Clearly the new Angels front office is gambling that the heater/curveball combination is mature enough to fit in middle relief and, just like the Eppler era, this feels like a worthy gamble, despite the fact that the Angels will need to keep him all season or send him back to Houston if they cannot keep him on the active roster. Also, the team recently signed left-hander Alex Claudio to a one-year deal, for $1.125M. Claudio is the pure definition of “soft-tossing lefty” and, as expected, gets left-handed hitters out at a pretty good clip, although he does okay versus right-handed hitters as well. This should give Joe Maddon a specialist option out of the bullpen on an as-needed basis. Finally, we can glean some information about the players Minasian non-tendered/traded versus the players he kept on the 40-man roster. Guys like Noe Ramirez, Hoby Milner, and Matt Andriese were lower velocity types, whereas arms like Gerardo Reyes, Luke Bard, Ty Buttrey, Mike Mayers, and Kyle Keller all throw in the mid-to-upper 90’s. High velocity appears to be a real draw for the new Angels GM. Notably most of these bullpen arms that were retained have fastball/slider combos in their repertoire lending to the idea that Minasian and company may be making a point to go with guys whose 2nd pitches are sliders, which is a notorious same-side strikeout weapon, i.e. pure strikeout potential seems to be preferred, over creating poor contact or pinpoint control by the new front office. Basically, it appears, on the surface, that the initial emphasis is on strong strikeout capability. High strikeout rates are an important element in Major League Baseball so it is a bit refreshing to see a little more importance placed on it, although it did appear that Eppler’s group was on to something regarding high spin rates (difficult for hitters to see) and targeting guys with good curveballs (ability to get batters out on both sides of the plate). We will see how this plays out moving forward with Minasian, but the route he is initially focusing on is also a good path to run prevention, i.e. less hitters on-base results in less runs scored. Moving beyond the philosophical discussion, the Angels currently have, as of Dec. 31st, 2020, the following pure, bullpen arms on the 40-man roster (number of Minor League options remaining are in parentheses after each name): Luke Bard (1) Ty Buttrey (2) Alex Claudio (0) Raisel Iglesias (0) Kyle Keller (1) Mike Mayers (0) Jose Quijada (1) Gerardo Reyes (1) Jose Alberto Rivera (R5, 3 after the 2021 season) In addition, as mentioned in the Rotation article, Dillon Peters (0), Jaime Barria (0), Felix Pena (1), and Hector Yan (2), may be viewed as starters but they could also, possibly, work out of the bullpen, too. In fact, Barria and Peters are out of options so they will need a home on the active roster if they are to play in 2021. So to start, it should be noted that the Angels may or may not retain all of these names. Player’s can always be designated for assignment, so none of this is set in stone yet. Trades, signings, and waiver wire acquisitions could still change the landscape, quickly, too. All that being said if you were to take what the Angels have now and line it up into a group of eight relievers to start the season, it may look like this: Raisel Iglesias (Closer) Mike Mayers (Setup) Ty Buttrey (Setup) Alex Claudio (Specialist) Gerardo Reyes (Middle Relief) Luke Bard (Middle Relief) Jose Alberto Rivera (Middle Relief) Felix Pena (Long Relief) Now, certainly, you could substitute Keller or Quijada in middle relief, if you like, but these two, as well as Reyes and Bard, have a Minor League option remaining and the Angels will need Minor League bullpen depth, so a couple of them will start the season down in AAA or AA. Additionally, Peters could easily be the long reliever with Pena starting the season in the Minors, as well. When you look at this projection, on paper, the back-end of the bullpen seems fairly strong, particularly with the addition of Iglesias. However, it is the middle of the bullpen that leaves some room for doubt. Reyes, Bard, and Rivera have some good stuff but they are mostly unproven in the Majors, particularly Rivera. It might be useful, then, for Minasian to acquire one more quality middle reliever with some experience in the Majors and a pedigree of success. Yes, that is not always easy to find in a relief arm, considering their year-to-year variance, but it is not impossible. Really if we can find one more back-end or good middle reliever, the bullpen will be in pretty good shape and could possibly absorb the loss of an Iglesias, Mayers, or Buttrey, if they were to go on the Injured List for an extended period of time. Additionally, it could allow the Halos front office to option down someone like Bard or Reyes to create more depth or even flat out replace a borderline relief candidate, with a preferred choice, on the 40-man roster. Considering how many relievers and Minor Leaguer’s were cut loose, due to financial impacts, finding another impact arm, at a reasonable price, should not be terribly difficult. Based on the Angels own payroll restraints, this will either be a trade, for an inexpensive, controllable, upside-type, or a simple less-costly Major League signing, not dissimilar to Alex Claudio. Certainly, Minasian could do more and perhaps he will when it is all said and done, particularly if we do not net a guy like Bauer or some other expensive starter, utilizing the old approach of spending on the bullpen if the market for starters is too overpriced to play in. In the end, the Angels bullpen was a bit above average in 2020 and, with the addition of Iglesias, it likely improved, despite the subtractions, so another addition now or later, at the Trade Deadline, could push the Halos bullpen into the Top 10 in baseball, potentially. Expect: It really feels like the Angels can make room for one more solid reliever by possibly trading one of their current relievers (maybe Bard or Peters) or even designating them for assignment, to create space on the 40-man roster. This addition could literally come from anywhere at this moment, through free agency (maybe Brad Hand or Archie Bradley, if the Angels lose out on Bauer, a mid-tier guy like Shane Greene, or perhaps a veteran like Darren O’Day or Mark Melancon) or trade (perhaps someone like Chris Stratton or Richard Rodriguez from the Pirates in a Joe Musgrove based trade or Rowan Wick, Hector Neris, or Scott Oberg, for example). Surely, Minasian and company could stand pat and add another arm closer to the Trade Deadline, but the opportunity to strike now, under a new regime that is remaking the team in their own image, may afford a more aggressive, fresh start to our relief corps, heading into 2021.
  7. By David Saltzer, AngelsWin.com Senior Writer With the MLB offseason moving at a glacially slow speed, a lot of time, columns, and commentary has been devoted to which players, if any, might be voted into the Hall of Fame. As of the time this article was written, there are 57 public ballots and 5 anonymous ballots. There’s even a Hall of Fame vote tracker, where fans can see which players are likely to gain admittance into the Hall of Fame. Again, as of the time of this article, it appears that 2021 may not produce a single Hall of Fame admittance for a player. With all the public ballots known, representing about 16.4% of the eligible voters, that presents a problem for the Hall of Fame and for Major League Baseball, as the induction ceremony is where baseball has a chance to celebrate and glorify its past and connect it to its present. Rather than debating the merits of which players deserve enshrinement, I’d like to debate the question of who gets to vote for the Hall of Fame. More specifically, should some baseball bloggers be allowed to vote for the Hall of Fame? The immediate answer would appear to be “no” to that question. However, with all due respect to those writers that I know who can vote for the Hall of Fame, I’d take issue with that response. I get it that “any idiot with a keyboard” is a “blogger”. I want to be clear that I’m not at all advocating that all bloggers be allowed to vote for the Hall of Fame. Not all baseball writers are eligible to vote, so I can certainly see some need to create criteria for bloggers who would be eligible to vote. Since 1936, the Baseball Writers’ Association of America (BBWAA) has had the exclusive privilege to vote for those players to gain admission into the Hall of Fame. At that time, that made a lot of sense. Most baseball fans did not “see” most of the games, and instead heard the games over the radio or read about the games in the newspaper. The beat reporters were the ones who saw the players on a daily basis and were in the best position to determine those players who played at a level far above their peers. However, times change. With cable TV, fans today can watch as many games as the beat reporters. In fact, there are plenty of fans who may watch more games than reporters. More importantly, by watching the games on TV, with multiple commentators, fans will be exposed to multiple opinions about the play of individual players as they hear different broadcasters call the game whereas a beat reporter may only hear the same opinions from reporters on the same beat. The days where the members of the BBWAA serve as the sole or main “eyes” of the game are no longer upon us. Therefore, it is fair to ask if they should be the sole “guardians” of the history, the lore, and the mystique of the game (I would also argue that radio and TV announcers should also be given a vote for the Hall of Fame along with some bloggers). More importantly, the Hall of Fame is exactly what the name implies, the Hall of Fame. It is not the Hall of Stats. It is not the Hall of Personality. It is the Hall of Fame. If it were the Hall of Stats, then there wouldn’t be a need for a vote on eligibility for players, as the stats would speak for themselves. And, if it were the Hall of Personality, then several players presently in the Hall of Fame would need to be removed for what we now know about them, whereas others may deserve admission but did not receive it because they were not well liked by the voting members, or held ideological/political views that differed from the voting members. With all due respect to the members of the BBWAA that I know, while they are all fans of baseball, many of them are not fans of the team that they cover. They may like the team that they cover, but, in many cases, their beat doesn’t encompass their truly favorite team. While this may help them with their coverage for the team(s) that they write about, their experience is not what fuels and funds the game of baseball. It is the fans who do that. It’s truly the fans who determine “fame”, not the writers. Enshrining a player in Cooperstown essentially asks a question that the voting members of the BBWAA cannot truly answer. Essentially, it asks, which players over a prolonged period of play, were with the price of a ticket. Since the voting members of the BBWAA generally do not pay to attend games, and instead are paid to be at the games, that’s not a question that they can answer. Only fans can truly answer which players were worth paying to see. And, today’s fans are best represented by bloggers, not the BBWAA. That creates a real problem for the Hall of Fame. Having been there several times, I can tell you with absolute certainty that the overwhelming majority of people who visit it are there to visit and see things about their favorite team and players. One of the most crowded and slowest moving sections of the Hall of Fame is at the beginning, where every team has its locker full of memorabilia specific to that team. Fans stop for long periods to study their favorite team(s)’ lockers before spreading out to see the exhibits on baseball in general. That’s because they want to see the fame and glory for their team. They will stop to look at all displays for their favorite players, most of whom played for their team. They will take pictures with the plaques for their favorite players because that is fame for them. The Hall of Fame doesn’t exist just for the BBWAA; it exists for the fans and is attended by the fans. If it is truly supposed to be a hall of “fame” then the fans deserve to have a voice in the process of selecting those players enshrined within it. While the members of the BBWAA will have the factual knowledge of the best players of an era, and may recall which players played the most prominent roles in their stories over the seasons, they don’t always share the same passion and feelings towards players like dedicated fans. While they will have written about the plays and wins, it doesn’t always carry the same sting to them as knowing that a certain player is coming in for a homestand did to a diehard fan. Bloggers do know those pains, and are in the best position to represent the interests and beliefs of the fans who fuel the game. More importantly, in some cases, the members of the BBWAA may at times become too close to the players to always be entirely objective about it. It is easy to see that when players like Ken Griffey Jr. (99.3%), Nolan Ryan (98.8%), Ted Williams (93.4%), Jackie Robinson (77.5%), etc. did not achieve 100 percent of the vote for their admission into the Hall of Fame. It seems quite plausible that in some members of the BBWAA may have been swayed by personality conflicts with players and did not vote for those players or other players simply for reasons other than those that were part of the game. Personality conflicts appears to be the reason why one candidate on this year's ballot may not be enshrined in Cooperstown even though his stats would argue otherwise. Several members of the BBWAA have openly discussed this problem and their difficulty detaching his play on the field from their ideological conflicts with the player. Similarly, the members of the BBWAA may be a bit too close to some scandals in baseball, such as the steroid scandal, to truly be the objective and sole voters for the hall of “fame”. To fill in the time for the lack of movement this offseason, many voting members of the BBWAA have appeared on shows such as MLB Now and MLB Tonight to discuss the schism between older voting members and younger voting members when it comes to the steroid scandal. In both cases, though, both the more senior and the more junior writers may not share the same feelings about the steroid scandal as the fans do. In both cases, those members of the BBWAA may not understand the impact that those scandals had on the passion for the game because it was their job to watch and report the game, rather than making the choice to dedicate time and money to following the sport like fans did. The last point I would make about why some bloggers should be allowed to vote for membership in the Hall of Fame is the recognition of the obviously changing economics of sports coverage. To say that the legacy media is on the ropes is an understatement. The number of baseball writing jobs and positions in newspapers is shrinking annually. Again, with all due respect to the current voting members of the BBWAA that I know, at some people, they may become extinct. There may not be that many writers left who meet the voting eligibility requirements for the Hall of Fame to truly make it or their vote relevant. That would be a serious blow to the sport, the coverage, and the Hall of Fame. It would be far wiser to develop new criteria to reflect the times and realities by letting some bloggers be eligible to vote for the Hall of Fame than to wait for a foreseeable crash to happen and have no plan for how to proceed. If Major League Baseball truly wanted to capture the younger, more diverse audience, then it needs to adapt with the times. Baseball coverage and thought is not the same as it was in 1936 when the BBWAA became the official voting body of the Hall of Fame. Not only do some bloggers represent a way forward for continued baseball coverage, but they also represent a diversity of opinions. Bloggers are more likely to challenge the orthodoxy on certain viewpoints, such as whether or not a pure DH should be in the Hall of Fame, how to recognize the most outstanding middle relievers, etc. (focusing just on issues concerning Hall of Fame voting). By allowing some bloggers to vote for admission into the Hall of Fame, Major League Baseball will ensure the diversity of opinions continue to matter and will continue to carry the history and legacy of the sport forward. Again, I want to be clear that I am not advocating for all bloggers to be given a vote. Just as there are eligibility requirements for baseball writers to be eligible to vote, so too should there be eligibility requirements for bloggers. What those eligibility rules should be, and how those rules would be balanced out can be discussed once the idea of allowing some bloggers to be able to vote becomes acceptable and official. Until then, the question needs to be continuously asked: should some bloggers be allowed to vote for the Hall of Fame?
  8. 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).
  9. If Hollywood hired a writer to write the perfect script for a baseball movie, it couldn’t have done better than what actually happened at Angel Stadium on Friday, July 12, 2019. To set the stage, the Angels were struggling all season long through July 1st, barely holding onto a .500 record. While on the road in Texas, the Angels awoke to the tragic news that their friend, their teammate, their pitcher, Tyler Skaggs had died of an accidental drug overdose in his hotel room. The Angels and Rangers cancelled their game that night, while the team dealt with its grief. The whole team was visibly shaken. Mike Trout tweeted out ““Words cannot express the deep sadness we feel right now. Our thoughts and prayers are with Carli and their families. Remembering him as a great teammate, friend, and person who will forever remain in our hearts… we love you, 45.” Overnight, a memorial, built by fans with flowers, hats, letters, pictures, and posters appeared on the pitching mound in front of Angels Stadium. Everyday, the memorial grew while the Angels finished up their road trip leading up to the All-Star Break. At the All-Star Game, both Mike Trout and Tommy La Stella wore #45 jerseys to honor their teammate. On Friday, July 12th, the Angels opened a homestand with the Mariners. They honored Tyler by having his mother, Debbie throw out the opening pitch. Standing beside her stood Carli, Tyler’s wife, his brother Garret, and stepfather Dan. A visibly emotional Andrew Heaney and Mike Trout carried out a framed Skaggs #45 jersey while every Angels player wore a #45 Skaggs jersey to honor their friend. With the ceremonial 1st pitch, Debbie threw a perfect strike to Andrew Heaney to open the game. Afterwards, she wrote Tyler’s initials on the mound. And then, it was if a guardian angel came down to make this a truly memorial game. Taylor Cole opened the game with a 1-2-3 inning. And then, in the bottom of the first, the Angels offense exploded. They scored 7 runs on 7 hits in the first. Mike Trout drove in 4; two on a homerun and 2 more on a double. The blast travelled 454 feet which was Skaggs’ number forwards and backwards. After Cole pitched two hitless innings, Felix Peña came on in the third and pitched the rest of the way. The combination of these two, was hardly the predictable duo to pitch what happened that night. Cole, had bounced up and down from AAA all season, and Peña rarely had the stamina or control to pitch deep into games. Throughout the emotional crowd, no one wanted to say anything about the magic that was happening before them. In the 6th inning, rookie Matt Thaiss made a spectacular play at 3B, a position he was learning at the Major League level, to record the out. In the 9th, with the crowd on its feet, the Angels made two more spectacular plays to save the no-hitter. The first, against Dee Gordon, was a little nubber that Gordon nearly beat out at first. The second was a smash hit to Luis Rengifo at 2B that for a moment seemed to get away from him, but he recovered to record the out. After the game, the emotions just poured out on the field. The team came together around the mound and one by one took their jerseys off laid them down on the mound, with Skaggs’ name and #45 pointed up to the sky. The symbolism was not lost on the Angels. They knew that they had a guardian angel looking out for them that night, and it showed in many ways. The Angels scored 7 runs in the first, and 13 runs total. Tyler Skaggs was born on 7/13. The combined no hitter was the first combined no hitter in California since 7/13/91—the day that Tyler was born. The Angels collected 13 hits that night. The next day, July 13th, Tyler would have turned 28. The no-hitter that night was the Angels’ 11th no-hitter in franchise history. In high school, Skaggs wore #11. The Angels sent jerseys and balls from the no-hitter to the Hall of Fame, in Cooperstown. Someday they will be on display, and fans can see and learn of the magic of this game. Dee Gordon, the Mariners player best summed up this game when he said “If you don’t believe in God, you might want to start.” If you were there that night, you know he was right. You can watch highlights of this game below. --Check out the full Top-50 Greatest Moments in Angels Baseball feature below--
  10. Interview Conducted by David Saltzer, AngelsWin.com Senior Writer Right about now, I'd do anything to hear baseball. Any baseball. While the coronavirus is nothing compared to what previous generations went through with wars, diseases, etc. I would just like some sense of normalcy during these trying times. I am sure I'm not alone in this feeling. While this situation is affecting us all, it is affecting us in different ways. For baseball, there are a lot of issues to work through. For the players, the teams, the stadium employees, etc. That includes the broadcasters. To help us all get our fix for baseball, and to get some insights into how the coronavirus is affecting people, I reached out to Victor Rojas to get an update from him and to get his perspective on how this disease is affecting him and the baseball season. What I love about Victor is that he's a straight shooter and calls it how he sees it. I find him to be one of the top announcers in the game who regularly reviews and refines his craft. This is a great interview. You may need to turn the volume up a bit (I found out afterwards that the cable and telephone companies were working on service issues in my area afterwards--I apologize for that). We were scheduled for about 5-10 minutes, and Victor and I talked for nearly 30 minutes. Frankly, I would love for it to go more. If, after reading this, you'd like to feel normal by wearing some BigFly gear, you can click here to get some. Right now they are running a 25% off special until MLB plays its first game. While we might not have new baseball games to watch, we can still feel connected to our team and our friends with our gear. And, if Victor does come up with something to do to keep baseball fans going, he will let me know, and I will pass along the message. Be safe and healthy everyone. Victor Rojas Interview March 20 2020.wav
  11. By Robert Cunningham, Angelswin.com Senior Writer This series will attempt to identify other potential front-line starters that the Angels can possibly trade for and we will continue the series looking at the New York Mets, SP/RP Seth Lugo. Facts Contract Status - Seth has entered his first year of arbitration control, in 2020, and settled with the Mets for a yearly salary of $2M for next season. After that he will have the additional, standard two years of arbitration control for a total of three years of team control. If he does return to a starting role, it would not be surprising to see his 2021 salary jump to somewhere in the $4.5M-$5.5M range and in his last year to something approaching the $8M-$9M realm. Repertoire (2019 as a Reliever) - Four-Seam Fastball (34.8%, 94.5 mph), Curve Ball (23.4%, 79.6 mph), Two-Seam Fastball (22.2%, 94.0 mph), Slider (13.3%, 87.9 mph), and Change Up (6.1%, 87.8 mph) Statcast Information - Seth has a nice five-pitch mix with his four-seam, two-seam (sinker), and curve ball being the best three of the group. In particular his curve ball has an incredible amount of spin, sitting at 3,285 rpm, which is pretty ridiculous. Those three primary weapons helped Lugo to have a very good season throwing 80 IP out of the bullpen and could serve him well if he moves back to the rotation as he, himself, has indicated he wants to do. Although Lugo's change up and slider have interesting characteristics, they have not developed into put away weapons yet. The other three, however, generate high strikeout rates and poor contact, against both sides of the plate, making Seth a good candidate to return to a starter role. Despite the fact that Seth threw in relief in 2019, take a look at this Statcast graphic below of all his four-seam fastballs in the zone last year: The results? A 43.2 K% with a corresponding .173 Batting Average Against, across 81 plate appearances. Pretty sick numbers even in a relief role! Outside of the zone? Results are, expectedly, even better, as Seth struck out 51.4% of the hitters and held them to a ridiculous 0.074 Batting Average Against, across a modest 37 plate appearances! To be clear, moving to a starting or long-man relief role would likely result in a lower average velocity and decreased effectiveness of his four-seam and other pitches but when you start at such an amazing level it may not be too noticeable. Injury History Risk - Medium-High (Spondylolisthesis, partial tear of ulnar collateral ligament (UCL), and right shoulder impingement) Three-Year History - As you can see, Seth's K-BB% has significantly increased year-to-year over the past three seasons. Certainly, over the last two years, his move to the bullpen can be directly attributable to that improvement but it is also partly due to the increased use of his exceptional curve ball and the upgraded performance of his four-seam fastball. Additionally, his pitch mix usage has fooled batters more, creating poor contact off the bat, particularly against LHH's. Also here is Lugo's batted ball data: Seth creates a fair amount of ground ball contact with a lot of balls getting pulled or hit up the middle. Additionally, his line drive contact has gone down year-to-year, again, in-part, due to the move to the bullpen but also attributable to his improved four-seam fastball and curve ball. Why? Already this off-season the Mets have added a lot of back-end and relief pitching through free agency. Behind the Mets starting four of deGrom, Syndergaard, Stroman, and Matz, they recently signed Michael Wacha and Rick Porcello on one-year deals to supplement the rotation. Additionally, the Mets signed reliever Dellin Betances to an already strong back-end four of Edwin Diaz, Jeurys Familia, Justin Wilson, and Brad Brach. This leaves little room in the rotation or the bullpen for both Lugo and Robert Gsellman, although if the Mets placed both of them into late inning roles they would have a very frightening relief corps. However, Seth has made it abundantly clear that he wants to be a starter, in his words an "ace" for the Mets or another team. Lugo had been a starter his entire career up until the 2016-2017 off-season where he played for Puerto Rico in the 2017 World Baseball Classic and ended up with a partial tear of his UCL. This forced him to miss the first two months of the 2017 season until June where he continued pitching out of the rotation for a total of 101.1 IP, across 18 starts and 19 games. Even in this abbreviated season with his lingering arm injury he still had solid peripherals. Certainly the move to the bullpen has only strengthened his numbers but it seems pretty clear that Lugo could still thrive in a starting role, particularly with his broad arsenal and above average four-seam, curve ball, and sinker. All of this lends itself to the idea that someone like Lugo might be available in a trade and his ability to work as a starter or reliever would probably spark interest from multiple teams. In particular, the Angels seem well-suited to placing him in a six-man rotation where they could ease him back into a starting role, allowing him to find his groove in Anaheim. Proposed Trade Because the Mets have utilized Seth as a reliever, his surplus value as a trade chip is slightly depressed versus what you could market his worth for as a starter. However, no matter how you parse it, Lugo does have desirability and New York knows this. In terms of surplus value, Seth probably has close to $35M due to his aforementioned three years of team control and the value he can bring out of the bullpen, even if he fails as a starter. That surplus value is probably two good prospects (think Top 10) or one good prospect plus two mid-tier prospects. Alternatively it could be a Major League-ready player like Luis Rengifo plus a lower-level prospect, for example. Realistically, looking at the Mets current projected roster they have pretty good position players around the diamond. However, it has been rumored that they might be shopping Jed Lowrie and Dominic Smith, which could create potential depth needs. If they are concerned about Rosario at SS they might like a player such as Luis Rengifo to platoon a bit with him since Amed hits LHP so well but RHP very poorly, which Luis is better at hitting. Alternatively, they might like to have someone like Taylor Ward who could play some 3B and 1B and in the outfield corners. Both Ward and Rengifo still have options so the Mets could move them up and down as needed throughout the season. Beyond those two players though, New York may prefer to restock their dwindling farm system instead. In that case they would be targeting two of our Top 10 prospects, probably and we would be offering something from the group of Jordyn Adams, Jose Soriano, Chris Rodriguez, Jerimiah Jackson, Matt Thaiss, Jahmai Jones, Jose Suarez, Jaime Barria, or Patrick Sandoval, in addition to the aforementioned Luis Rengifo and Taylor Ward. So a trade might look something like this: Angels send SS/2B Luis Rengifo and OF D'Shawn Knowles to the Mets in exchange for SP/RP Seth Lugo Alternatively, if they prefer pitching in return, more, they might prefer a grouping like this instead: Angels send SP Jose Suarez and OF Jordyn Adams to the Mets in exchange for SP/RP Seth Lugo Finally, if the Mets want to go prospect heavy, they could prefer the following: Angels send OF Jordyn Adams, SS Jeremiah Jackson, and OF Trent Deveaux in exchange for SP/RP Seth Lugo Conclusion Seth Lugo is similar to Carlos Martinez, insofar that their injury risk profiles are elevated. Certainly a partial UCL tear is nothing to trifle about but at the same time, Lugo has a tantalizing five-pitch mix with an absurdly high spin rate on his curve ball, able to successfully attack batters on both sides of the plate and the UCL tear is nearly four years in the rear view mirror. More importantly, based on the reports, he wants to not only be a starter but be an ace for any team and it appears that the Mets will not likely have that position available for him in 2020 because they are already six starters deep, unless they trade someone, which could very well include Seth. For the Angels, obtaining three years of a competent pitcher would be very useful and they could have Lugo start, be a long man, or pitch in high-leverage relief, the door really is wide open. As a starter, Seth would certainly not be throwing at a higher relievers velocity but the low-to-mid nineties should still allow him to operate in the 3.00-4.00 ERA range, particularly with his nasty curve ball and quality sinker to pair up with his good four-seam fastball. Seth will not come cheap but any good pitcher is going to cost the Angels in MLB-ready players or prospect capital and if the price is right, he represents a mid-rotation option with the potential for upside, based on his Statcast data and results to-date.
  12. 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.
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