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Author’s Note: Angelswin.com would like to welcome all of the new people who have joined the site! New blood and fresh faces, opinions, and commenters make this Angel fan community stronger, thank you for joining and please feel free to participate in the conversations, as well! Also, for the remainder of this Trade Deadline series we will utilize FanGraphs.com, a premier data-driven baseball website for all of our projected and factual information. Any additional, outlying information used will be credited appropriately to the correct source as needed. Every year, each team in baseball is faced with an important decision heading into the Trade Deadline: Should the team buy or sell? This decision is typically based on a variety of factors, of which the most important one is the team’s standing in their Division and in the Wild Card hunt. Each General Manager (GM) must balance the odds of winning the rest of the season, based on strength of schedule, team depth, finances, available players and prospects actually available in the marketplace, and a host of other considerations, based on the information available to them at any given moment. Not an easy job and for Angels GM Perry Minasian, in the era of Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani, it will be an even more difficult decision leading into the last week of July. So, in order to determine the Angels posture heading into the Trade Deadline (July 30th this year!), we first need to understand what their playoff odds are and, based on that number, what recommendation Perry will make to owner Arte Moreno and what tack they will take toward the remainder of the 2021 season. FanGraphs has a great tool called ‘MLB Playoff Odds’, located here, that takes the Angels current record and projects their winning percentage (W%) the remainder of the season, based on projected team production and strength of schedule (fancy term for describing how many good and bad teams they will face), and combines those numbers to forecast the Halos final end-of-season record and provide a prediction of their playoff odds to make the postseason. Below is a graphic showing the Division and Wild Card leaders, across MLB, plus the Angels, in relation to that group: 2021 FanGraphs MLB Playoff Odds for Division Leaders and Los Angeles Angels (as of July 10th, 2021) The graphic, above, visually shows the challenge (16.2% of reaching the playoffs) our beloved Halos face the remainder of the season and infers to the difficult decisions facing Minasian and the Angels front office about whether to buy, sell, or a combination of both. To be clear, the Angels have a much greater chance of landing a Wild Card spot (13.6%) at this point, than winning the Division (2.6%), but anything is possible in baseball when you play every game. Certainly any of those choices (buy, sell, or hybrid) could be on the table, here. Perry Minasian must weigh the odds of securing a playoff berth against the information available to him at this moment. Money, players and prospects that appear to be available in trade and interest and inquiries from other teams regarding the availability of Angels players, all must be weighed against the backdrop of improving now versus throwing in the towel on 2021, retooling for 2022 and beyond, or trying to compete the remainder of the season. It is complex to say the least. For example, the Angels might see a fertile Trade Deadline and know there is a bona fide, ace-level starting pitcher with multiple years of control available that they believe they can acquire to push harder, now, and over succeeding seasons. It may, also, be possible that there are some good, but not great, opportunities and Perry and his team make a modest investment to make the Halos better, now, without sacrificing much of their future. Or maybe the trade market is bare and their opportunities to improve are scarce, so they execute a full selloff, themselves, of their tradable assets to reset for 2022. Or, alternatively, they could sell one or more pieces to interested parties for players and prospects, while simultaneously acquiring one or more pieces to improve the team, and use their depth at certain positions to backfill and reinforce the current squad, continuing to compete in 2021, but hedging their bets, to still win now, while continuing to progress forward. Based on the Angels current playoff odds, owner Arte Moreno’s past history and expectations, and the fact that the Halos have a lot of one-year expiring contracts on their current roster, it appears that the Angels have the potential to be both buyers and sellers. Moreno has always had a competing attitude and penchant to spend reasonably, when needed, and despite the Angels being 9 games back in the Division, they are only 4.5 games back in the Wild Card. The current 16.2% playoff odds (both Division and Wild Card odds, combined) could embolden Minasian and Moreno to be more aggressive, now, assuming that number holds or improves over the next two weeks. If, however, their playoff odds fall below the 10% mark, they could lean all the way, fully, to the sell side, too. In the end the Angels front office has an infinitely better understanding of the Trade Deadline market and what is and is not possible. As fans, on the outside looking in, we simply do not have access to all of the information, including trade negotiations, a Major League team like the Halos do. However, we, here at Angelswin.com, will attempt to divine the likely trade pieces and even speculate at destinations and possible arrivals. We will make educated guesses, based on the factual information that is available to us, and attempt to point to the likely suspects the Angels might trade away and for, as they approach the 2021 Trade Deadline. Do you like the Angels chances of reaching the Playoffs? Comment and share your thoughts in the thread! Up next - 2021 Angelswin.com Trade Deadline Series: Methodology and Analysis
By Robert Cunningham, Angelswin.com Senior Writer NOTE: This article contains a detailed summary of each prospective bullpen candidate under the "Spoiler" bar. Some of you may just want to jump to the conclusion so the player contents are hidden from view. If you want to read that section, simply click on the bar and dive deeper into each of our reliever candidates, there are some interesting tidbits. In 2019, the Angels continued to develop a core group of relief options that produced to the tune of 2.5 Wins Above Replacement (WAR) across 761.2 innings pitched (IP). The latter number was the 2nd most IP, just behind the Rays bullpen at 772 IP. Assuredly, Eppler and staff would like to not only improve the bullpen's production, but also reduce the total number of IP, for the group as a whole, if possible. The good news is that most of that relief corps will remain this season and a key reliever, Keynan Middleton, should return to the fold, which could provide a real boost to a squad full of upside and potential, capable of closing out the later innings of any ballgame. It is the hope that the bullpen will potentially improve on their 2019 performances, giving reason to believe that the Angels relievers, as a collective, can build on last years 16th ranked production level and become a Top 10 relief staff. To start let us review 2019 results for the current, projected, 40-man relief staff as of December 16th, 2019: As you can see, the Halos bullpen was led by Hansel Robles (1.8 Wins Above Replacement (WAR)) and Ty Buttrey (1.4 WAR). Other contributors included Noe Ramirez, Cam Bedrosian, Taylor Cole, Felix Pena, and Justin Anderson. The belief is that the group can potentially take a nice step forward in 2020 and there is reason to feel this could be the case. Part of that solution will come directly from upgrades made in the rotation to, funny enough, relieve the relievers. If the starting rotation can eat up more quality innings, the bullpen will, ideally, be fresh on a more regular basis, which generally should equate to some modest level of improved performance. Additionally, some relievers may make some needed adjustments to improve their performance. Finally, there is a reasonable likelihood that Eppler and the front office staff will still add to this group prior to Opening Day, next year. To better understand what the Halos have let us take an in-depth look at each relief candidate and what they can bring to the table in 2020. Simply click on the Spoiler bar to unroll the comprehensive, individual player analysis. Note that data is pulled from FanGraphs.com, BrooksBaseball.net, and BaseballSavant.com: Likely Outcome: The Angels will continue to use the waiver wire to pick up relief targets of opportunity as the off-season continues and avoid expending resources as is typical for this front office. The next, most likely, alternative is to find a target of opportunity in free agency or trade, probably the latter. This is because the FA market lacks quality options whereas there are some interesting names that might be available in deals with other teams. Author's Choice: Personally, if the price is right, acquiring a name like Brad Hand (someone Eppler has inquired on previously) or Mychal Givens would be great. Since Eppler and his team love high spin rates so much, names like Drew Steckenrider, David McKay, Joe Jimenez, Buck Farmer, Jose Urena, Jeff Brigham, or Robert Gsellman might hold some level of interest. Ultimately this is not an area that I am to concerned about, as the Angels front office has done an outstanding job acquiring relievers that have the skills and tools to turn into effective relievers. All that the Angels need to do is start the season with an established group that can soak up innings and be effective to help the team reach the Trade Deadline in the right posture (wins) so that Eppler can reevaluate at that time whether the Halos need to acquire a rental bullpen option or two to help carry us over the Division finish line. Conclusion: Eppler probably understands that this unit, as a whole, might need some level of improvement, so it seems plausible that if he gets an opportunity to pick up a good reliever in trade (maybe names like Josh Hader, Jose LeClerc, Ken Giles, Mychal Givens, Scott Oberg, Keone Kela, Joe Jimenez, Jeurys Familia, Mark Melancon, Carlos Martinez, Richard Bleier, Ian Kennedy, Tim Hill, Paul Fry, Jared Hughes, Brad Hand, or Seth Lugo, among many others, might have some level of availability) or in free agency (maybe a guy like Arodys Vizcaino, Addison Reed, or, perhaps, Tyler Thornburg) he would do so, to help lift the squad a little further for the 2020 season and possibly beyond. Billy was recently quoted as saying, "There are a lot of ways to create a winning team." One of those ways is to build a really deep bullpen, not dissimilar to what the Yankees have done over the last couple of years, to help consistently build a bridge to success when transitioning from a starter to the later innings of a game. The good news is that the Angels have a good base of relievers to build upon, so the idea of a high quality relief corps is not a fantasy for the 2020 Angels. If Eppler was able to add a Hader, Giles, Givens, Hand, Martinez, or Jimenez type of player that would go a long way toward a consistent, sustainable run at the American League West Division championship. To be clear it does not have to be one of those names, either, there are plenty of other options out there to be had. Finally, the Angels could end up pulling one of their starters in and converting them to a relief role. Near the end of the season, the Halos used Jose Suarez in a long relief role four times, although they will likely start him in the Minors in the rotation. Jaime Barria and Dillon Peters made six and five long relief appearances, respectively, mostly early in the season. Jared Walsh is a two-way player, capable of relief work too, but he is most likely to do mop-up, low leverage work where the team is either ahead or behind by a significant amount of runs. Even Sandoval made a long relief appearance in early August. To be clear these guys are clear-cut starters (except Walsh) and will probably be used as such but they are available if the Halos switch course or have a need. Currently, it appears the Angels bullpen, barring an injury, trade or designation for assignment, will start the season with at least the following relievers in-tow: Hansel Robles Ty Buttrey Noe Ramirez Cam Bedrosian These four are the probable core base of the Angels 2020 bullpen. Behind them, the next group represents potential higher-probability adds and out-of-options players, in no particular order, that could be included on the 26-man active roster: Keynan Middleton Jake Jewell Taylor Cole Adalberto Mejia Mike Mayers Luke Bard Justin Anderson To be clear these seven will need to have good Spring Training outings to be included on the Opening Day roster, it will not be handed to any of them. Finally, the following names are very likely to start the year in the Minors no matter how well they perform in Spring Training (and in Pena's case he is on the IL for a while): Hector Yan Parker Markel Felix Pena So to wrap up this very long discussion, the author believes, based on the current 40-man roster, that the Opening Day starting eight (it is typical to start the season with eight relievers) will probably include these names: Hansel Robles Ty Buttrey Noe Ramirez Cam Bedrosian Keynan Middleton Adalberto Mejia Jake Jewell Mike Mayers If you do not feel we will carry eight out of the gate, then knock Mayers off the end of that list, probably. Also there is a real chance that if Eppler finds a reliever on the free agent or trade markets, that Mayers or Mejia (probably in that order) will be displaced off the 40-man and designated for assignment to make room for the new addition(s). This is what a good minimum resource bullpen looks like and this thriftiness allows the Halos to apply their monetary and trade resources elsewhere, for the betterment of the team as a whole. Longer term, once the Angels have an established rotation and position player group (which they are getting closer to this off-season), Eppler may be able to afford adding higher quality bullpen arms but, for now, he and the front office staff are doing this the right way. The Primer Series continues, next, with the Left Field article.