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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--
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
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.
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.