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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
By Robert Cunningham, Angelswin.com Senior Writer Note: I am humbly requesting any donation (even one dollar!) you can make to the Angelswin.com Charity of the Month, Hope for Education! Every dollar can help, so please lend a hand if you are able! This part of the Primer Series will be difficult to write, at least this year. New GM Perry Minasian, despite his many years in baseball, is a wildcard in the main decision-making seat, which constrains our ability to construct an educated guess on team strategy. Bottom line is that we, at Angelswin.com, can only speculate based on what we do see and hear. So to start, Minasian, in his introduction as the new GM, was quoted stating, “Pitching is going to be a major priority...”. This was obvious to everyone, but it is good to hear him reemphasize the clear need again. Also, during the live telecast from Anaheim, Minasian clearly stated that they will improve the team in, “... any way that we can, whether it is offense, defense, or pitching”. He cited the decision, when he was with the Braves front office, to bring in Josh Donaldson on a one-year deal, to provide an impact player and build temporary depth, so it appears that all options to upgrade the team could be on the table. Additionally, we can look a bit at his past work in talent evaluation. As Director of Scouting with the Toronto Blue Jays, he is given credit for drafting SP’s Noah Syndergaard and Marcus Stroman and signing international free agent 3B Vladimir Guerrero, Jr.. Not a bad list to be associated with heading into a new position and it is indicative of his past and potential scouting ability. That is the extent of what we know. He is regarded as a good talent evaluator, excellent communicator, and has performed most of the jobs you can do, while working for a baseball club. It was also mentioned that he has an innate ability to construct rosters. That experience and those traits are a good base to operate from, not dissimilar to former GM Billy Eppler, so fans need to give him time to put his mark on the team and see where it takes our beloved Halos. The challenge in front of him is to create a winning environment and team. Mike Trout, Shohei Ohtani, Anthony Rendon, David Fletcher, and Jo Adell represent a solid set of position players to build around but Moreno likely didn’t fire Eppler just to bring in a new GM to continue the slow boil toward contention. Minasian likely has a mandate to get the team there sooner, not later, which means Perry could upset the applecart by zigging, to the former GM Billy Eppler’s zagging. In order to build this winner, Minasian will need to fill the clear holes in the rotation and bullpen, as well as finding a shortstop solution and creating additional catching depth. These needs represent the minimum to be done at the Major League level and, in fact, Minasian has already struck, trading for Jose Iglesias to man the shortstop position in the last year of a very reasonable contract, thereby opening the team to potentially sign one of many free agent shortstops next year when Pujols’ comes off of the books. On top of that move, the Halos acquired RP Raisel Iglesias for a modest return, bringing in, for at least 2021, a top-tier closer to add to the back-end of a largely rebuilt bullpen. These first two deals, on the surface, appear to be value acquisitions, considering the salaries and prospects involved, so more of these types of transactions can compliment and incrementally improve team production, over last year. In 2020, from that holistic production side, the Angels were ranked 11th in FanGraphs WAR for hitting. The rotation was ranked 21st and the bullpen, a bit surprisingly, a more respectable 13th place overall. Finally, and most shockingly, the Angels defense was ranked 29th according to FanGraphs ‘Def’ rating. Ultimate Zone Rating per 150 innings (UZR/150) was not much better, coming in 27th. So clearly there is more work to do, particularly in the rotation, and probably not as much time to do it in, for our new GM. It seems like both the rotation and team defensive performance can regress a bit in a more positive direction, particularly the latter because the Angels are not that bad on paper, despite swapping Simmons for Iglesias. Beyond that, though, the rotation does, still, need real work, the bullpen needs additional massaging, beyond Iglesias, and adding another bat at the catching position, that can play quality defense, would be nice. If, as we suspect, Minasian has a mandate to win soon, all options including a payroll increase and/or trading some of our best prospects could be on the table, potentially. So, could it be a run on SP Trevor Bauer in free agency, resulting in a payroll increase, possibly exceeding the CBT threshold, which Arte has only done once, ever, in the history of his ownership? Might it be pursuing someone like George Springer to play right field and trading prized prospect Jo Adell as the centerpiece of a trade for a high-quality, controllable starter such as German Marquez, Zac Gallen, Matt Manning, or Luis Patino, for example? Or could Minasian take a wildly different route with roster construction and throw Shohei Ohtani into right field, the position he played for the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters, and flip the aforementioned Adell in a similar deal for another top-of-the-rotation starter and then sign Kyle Schwarber for the strong side platoon at the DH spot? Perhaps the Indians come calling again on Brandon Marsh and the Halos flip him, along with Luis Rengifo and William Holmes, for a starter like Zach Plesac and a reliever like Nick Wittgren? Maybe something even more basic like a Luis Rengifo and Trent Deveaux for Carrasco-based deal? The point is that if Arte fully enables Minasian to improve the team, now, there are assets in-place to bring in difference makers whether by free agency or trade. Is it wise? Probably not if you are focusing on the long term health of the team like Eppler surely was. If you are Arte, however, the coronavirus pandemic may have made you think twice about the fragility of life; so pushing harder, now, may make more sense in the time you have left as the owner of the team. We can only wait and see what happens. There will be a lot of potential for Monday-morning quarterbacking this off-season. Expect: The current environment is highly unpredictable, but it does seem like Moreno is pressing, even in light of the financial situation. We believe there will be competitive moves made to improve the 2021 Angels odds of winning, including at least one high-profile deal, although it may not be a clear superstar. Be prepared to see one or more of our top prospects traded, as well. The 2021 Angels will likely be a better team, but it is really difficult to see all of the moving parts and through the fog of WAR, as we progress deeper into a rocky off-season. Odds are strong that Minasian stays somewhere between $5M-$10M under the Luxury Tax, in regard to off-season spending.
By Robert Cunningham, Angelswin.com Senior Writer Ever since the Angels missed out on Cole, Strasburg, and Wheeler (not to mention Keuchel, Ryu, and Bumgarner), some Angels fans have been in panic mode, worried about what feels, to them, like a half-season of accomplishment (Rendon, Bundy, and Teheran), since we have not acquired a front-line starter yet. In the 2020 Angelswin.com Primer Series: Rotation, I advocated for a Cole signing as I felt it was the best application of resources in the free agent market to acquire a bonafide ace starter to be the tip of the spear in the Angels rotation. Unfortunately, like many of the top pitchers available, Cole seemingly was always going to go to another team, in his case the Yankees. The same held true for Strasburg, Wheeler, and Bumgarner, who signed with the Nationals, Phillies, and Diamondbacks, respectively, specifically because they wanted to play and live in those cities. Really the Angels had no real chance to sign any of them without massively overspending. Letting them go and shifting momentary focus was the right thing to do for the health and competitiveness of the franchise. As disappointing as it was, losing out on many of the top free agent starting pitchers, there were always just as many starters available in trade, albeit they may not be as elite as Gerrit or Stephen were. Improvement can come from many different sources and since we have missed out on the best targets, available in free agency, it is now time to turn to the trade market instead. Over the next few weeks, until the Angels acquire at least one more starting pitcher, we, here at Angelswin.com, would like to present a series of articles on prospective rotation targets in the trade market. To be clear, once the Halos have brought in a front-line starter, this series will abruptly stop as there will be no further need to continue publishing the individual articles in all likelihood. Here is a list of starting pitchers that we will discuss in this series, in no particular order: Nathan Eovaldi Matt Boyd Tyler Mahle Carlos Martinez David Price Marcus Stroman Eduardo Rodriguez Chris Archer Jose Urena Domingo German Joe Musgrove Carlos Carrasco Seth Lugo Michael Fulmer Jon Gray Mike Clevinger Josh Hader Most of these pitchers throw in the mid-90's velocity range or they have strong pedigrees in terms of potential or actual performance. Some of them are currently throwing as relievers but were starters as recently as 2017-2018. All of them have interesting characteristics that can make them either front-line rotation candidates or at least give strong performances on a consistent basis, to help the Halos win ballgames. Some of them have a very steep price that the Angels are unlikely to pay, but could if they are willing to sacrifice good players and/or prospects. Additionally, some are much more likelier targets than others, based on injury risk and other value-added factors. Finally, this is not a complete list so the author will reserve the right to add a name or two if needed, if we even get that much further into the post-season without trading for another starter. One more note, the final date to exchange arbitration numbers is approaching on January 10th. Teams and arbitration-eligible players must exchange salary figures for what they believe the player in question should be paid for the 2020 season. If a salary cannot be agreed upon prior to that date, it will go to an arbitration hearing sometime over the next month or so. Teams and players can continue to negotiate after salary figures are exchanged. A lot of teams and players come to an agreement prior to the January 10th deadline. I bring this up because there will be a lot more clarity to the trade market soon, assuming a lot of players settle their arbitration salaries prior to the date above. Additionally the third base trade market is being held up by the Kris Bryant service time grievance and the SS trade market is being postponed by the Francisco Lindor decision resulting in many other trades being put on-hold until there is greater clarity with the elite players available in trade. This means that the trade market should, hypothetically, kick into high gear within the next couple of weeks once some players have agreed to arbitration salaries, Chicago knows whether or not they have one or two years of control over Kris, and the Indians decide whether or not they are moving Francisco to start the 2020 season.