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  1. By Robert Cunningham, Angelswin.com Senior Writer Now that we have identified probable purchases, it is time to flip the script and discuss what happens if the Angels become sellers, rather than buyers. For the purposes of this article we will only discuss those assets that actually have some level of reasonable trade value as it will not be the best use of time trying to find someone with minimal or even zero value, like Tony Watson or Kurt Suzuki, a hypothetical home on another team. Also we will only consider teams that are actual buyers or are on the bubble of contention (i.e. teams that are clearly sellers will not be considered in this discussion). It should also be noted that some teams may be more aggressive than others, because a specific, targeted player might push them up the win curve significantly or they may want to keep their opponents from acquiring the player so that player cannot be used against them. Finally, the Angels, in any negotiation, will more likely target MLB-ready or near-ready assets, more so than prospects overall, simply because we need to make our Major League squad better now, rather than later. Raisel Iglesias 2021: 3.66 ERA, 34.9% K%-BB%, .194 AVG, 0.89 WHIP, 3.70 FIP, 1.89 SIERA Perhaps the Angels greatest asset at the Trade Deadline, Iglesias is having a heck of a season (Ranked 5th in K%-BB% among relievers with 30+ innings pitched) and, most importantly, he is getting outs equally well on both sides of the plate. Of course he is a pure rental, but there will be massive interest by virtually every team in contention, whether they really need him or not. Other than Craig Kimbrel, Iglesias should be the top reliever on the market, if the Angels make him available. Teams that may have the greatest interest in Raisel include the Blue Jays, Astros, Athletics, Brewers, Dodgers, Padres, Giants, Braves, Reds, and Phillies, probably. Again, other teams like the Red Sox and Yankees will likely inquire, despite their lack of urgent need, because a guy like Iglesias will improve any bullpen in baseball. So what would Raisel bring back in return? Probably 1-3 good, but not great, prospects, depending on the names involved. Some sample trade scenarios are below: Angels send RP Raisel Iglesias to the Blue Jays in exchange for C Reese McGuire and SP/RP Julian Merryweather. Here the Angels could pick up a potentially good 3rd wheel from the Blue Jays in McGuire who was designated for assignment earlier in the season but has raked well lately and has an above average glove behind the dish. Merryweather is capable of starting, so the Angels could continue to stretch him out or, alternatively, turn him into a multi-inning reliever. In lieu of McGuire, the Angels could ask for Jensen or Kirk, instead, but the latter is probably not available. Angels send RP Raisel Iglesias and SS/2B Luis Rengifo to the Dodgers in exchange for C Keibert Ruiz (#2), and SP Bobby Miller (#8). The acquisition of Ruiz would give the Angels a nice switch-hitting bat (better from the left side) to pair with Max Stassi and a starter with strikeout capability in Miller. The Dodgers get Iglesias for the stretch run and they almost acquired Rengifo previously in the nixed Pederson-Stripling deal, so the interest probably still exists. Ruiz may or may not be available, but with Will Smith locked in, the Dodgers are probably willing to move Keibert in the right deal. Alex Cobb 2021: 4.60 ERA, 20.2% K%-BB%, .241 AVG, 1.22 WHIP, 2.58 FIP, 3.21 SIERA A solid season has put Cobb back on the map and if the Halos become sellers or take a hybrid posture, other teams will almost certainly come calling. Just like Iglesias (and a lot of other guys on this list) he is a pure rental. Although his actual ERA is a touch above League average, his peripherals tell a different, better, story (FIP is 2.58 and K%-BB% of 20.2%, as of July 7th, 2021). He has been doing this equally well against both sides of the plate, to boot. Teams that may have the most interest in Cobb, include the Blue Jays, Indians, Braves, Reds, Rays, and Mets. Certainly other teams will inquire, but those just listed are more probable suitors. So what will Cobb bring back in return? Likely something similar, but slightly less, than Iglesias, again, 1-3 good, but not great prospects. Some sample trade suggestions are below: Angels send SP Alex Cobb to the Rays in exchange for C Blake Hunt and SP Seth Johnson. Here the Angels pick up an athletic catcher with some pop in his bat and Johnson, a right-hander who throws in the low-to-mid 90’s with a quality 4-pitch mix. Angels send SP Alex Cobb to the Braves in exchange for C Shea Langeliers and SP Jared Shuster. Langeliers is a noted, excellent defender with no flaws behind the dish, but the offense is the question mark, particularly his swing, which the Angels would try to fix. Shuster is an advanced arm that just needs to be stretched out over the next couple of seasons in the Minors, that could be an above average strikeout guy from the left-side of the mound, potentially. Andrew Heaney 2021: 5.38 ERA, 20.6% K%-BB%, .257 AVG, 1.35 WHIP, 4.15 FIP, 3.72 SIERA Despite an excellent K%-BB%, Andrew has, unfortunately, not had correspondingly actual results. Part of his issues has been one part bad luck (.328 BABIP), one part letting to many runners score (67.9% LOB%), another part walking hitters (3.04 BB/9), one more part giving up a little to many long balls (1.64 HR/9), and an uncharacteristically bad time against left-handed hitters, which traditionally has been a strong suit. Teams that may have the most interest in Heaney, include the Athletics, Braves, Indians, Reds, Blue Jays, Red Sox, and Yankees. Certainly other teams will inquire, but those just listed are more probable suitors. All of those parts listed above lead to the depression of Andrew’s value, so, unlike Iglesias or Cobb, he is more likely to bring back 1-2 good, but not great prospects if the Angels choose to move him at the Trade Deadline. Some sample trade scenarios are listed below: Angels send SP Andrew Heaney to the Athletics in exchange for SP Brady Feigl and C Drew Millas. This move would give the Angels an interesting arm in Feigl and a possible replacement for Stassi in Millas, who is strong defensively. Angels send SP Andrew Heaney to the Red Sox in exchange for SP Noah Song and SP/RP Aldo Ramirez. Song is an interesting flyer who throws hard, but has been serving in the military and could start as a high-octane reliever and then stretched out over time and Ramirez is a multi-innings type that has the potential to stick in the rotation if things break right. SS Jose Iglesias 2021: .275/.306/.394, .306 BABIP, 94 wRC+ Iglesias, known for his high quality defense, has certainly disappointed a bit on the field. However, he has exceeded his run production by about 6% over his career average, so there is some give and take here, based on expectations. There are two scenarios where Iglesias might get traded: 1) the Angels decide to sell off expendable assets, including Jose and 2) the Angels decide to upgrade at SS, before the Trade Deadline, and move him, then. Other than that, it makes more sense to keep Jose and then target one of the many shortstops that will be available in free agency this upcoming offseason. Teams that may have some interest in Iglesias, include the Reds, Athletics, and, more remotely, the Rays, if they feel their young prospects they called up are not getting it done. Other teams like the Yankees and Indians are struggling at SS, too, but the former has Gleyber Torres, who is scuffling, but has immense talent, and the latter seem to be falling out of contention, so they may forgo a Trade Deadline deal to bolster their middle infield. This leaves Iglesias’ trade market somewhat bare. When you consider that Jose’s defense should rebound, he makes for a low-level pickup by a contending team, but he will not bring back much, probably one reasonable prospect if the Angels move him at the Trade Deadline. An example trade scenario is listed below: Angels send SS Jose Iglesias to the Reds in exchange for SP Noah Davis. This would give the Halos a near-ready pitching prospect that features a fastball/slider/changeup combination with low-to-mid 90’s velocity. Could serve well in a multi-inning relief or starter role, depending on how his development continues. RP Steve Cishek 2021: 2.88 ERA, 7.1% K%-BB%, .219 AVG, 1.43 WHIP, 3.34 FIP, 4.70 SIERA Cishek has had a strong, results-oriented season to-date, living and dying by putting the ball on the ground and letting the defense do its job, in addition to making hitters miss enough to generate poor contact. Some teams might be afraid of the walks (rightfully so), but he is getting it done against both sides of the plate. Teams that may have some level of interest in Cishek, include clubs like the Phillies, Reds, Athletics, Giants, Blue Jays, Astros, Braves, Mets, and Padres. Other teams may have interest, too, but the teams listed are outside of the Top 10 in bullpen WAR, making them more probable suitors. Now certainly, Cishek is no Iglesias, but he has been running well and that should translate into 1-2 mid-tier prospects, potentially. Some example trade scenarios are listed below: Angels send RP Steve Cishek to the Brewers in exchange for SS David Hamilton. Here the Halos would pick up a good contact, great defensive shortstop. Not dissimilar to David Fletcher, but he strikes out more. Could turn into a utility guy if the power doesn’t improve, but not a bad guy to have, particularly if his development breaks right. Angels send RP Steve Cishek to the Brewers in exchange for SP Bowden Francis. Another alternate deal with the Brewers might bring back near-read starter Bowden Francis, who is a good command type of pitcher with a solid 4-pitch mix. Angels send RP Steve Cishek to the Astros in exchange for SP Hunter Brown and RP Brett Conine. Since the Astros play in the same Division, the Halos would probably try to extract a little more from Houston, snagging the high-potential Brown and solid Conine. Both have upside, at the minimum in the bullpen, but both, particularly Hunter, could enter the rotation at some point. SP/RP Dylan Bundy 2021: 6.78 ERA, 14.0% K%-BB%, .275 AVG, 1.42 WHIP, 5.44 FIP, 4.36 SIERA Unfortunately for Dylan, his 2021 season did not come even close to replicating his 2020 campaign. Despite a slightly above average K%-BB%, he simply has given up too many hits and the defense behind him did not help matters in the least. As evidenced by his recent move to the bullpen, the Angels are still trying to extract some value from him in the final weeks leading up to the Trade Deadline, but no matter what this will be a more difficult sell on the trade market for Perry Minasian. Teams that may have some level of interest in Bundy, include clubs like the Athletics, Braves, Indians, Reds, Blue Jays, and Red Sox. Other teams might make inquiries, but those just listed are the most in need of help against right-handed hitters, which Dylan does a better job against, overall. For all of the numbers listed above, Bundy represents low value on the trade market, but there will be modest interest. He will only bring back 1-2 mid-to-lower level tier prospects at best and the Angels may have to retain some salary based on the return in question. Some sample trade scenarios are listed below: Angels send SP/RP Dylan Bundy to the Indians in exchange for SP/RP Hunter Gaddis. As indicated Bundy will not pull much in, but Gaddis projects as a multi-inning reliever with above average strikeout capability, so the Halos may make this their ask in a hypothetical Indians trade. Angels send SP/RP Dylan Bundy to the Reds in exchange for SP Graham Ashcraft. This one might be a stretch, but Ashcraft could move fast through the Angels system to turn into a likely multi-inning or short-stint reliever. SP/RP Jose Quintana 2021 Starter: 7.22 ERA, 14.5% K%-BB%, .279 AVG, 1.93 WHIP, 4.44 FIP, 4.50 SIERA 2021 Reliever: 7.94 ERA, 22.2% K%-BB%, .320 AVG, 1.76 WHIP, 5.99 FIP, 3.00 SIERA So, looking at his numbers, as both a starter and reliever, you can see that Quintana has suffered at the hands of the baseball gods. A 14.5% K%-BB% should not equate to a 7.22 ERA (and his peripheral FIP and SIERA numbers suggest that), nor should a 22.2% K%-BB%, as a reliever, equate to a 7.94 ERA. In both cases, Jose is running a .400 BABIP, which is clearly saying he has suffered bad luck on top of it all. The peripherals highly suggest Quintana should have better actual results, but unfortunately for the Halos that has not materialized, yet. Teams that may have some level of interest in a reclamation project like Quintana, could include the Blue Jays, Reds, Phillies, Braves, and Red Sox, among others. More than likely they would consider him in a relief role, more so than in the rotation. Clearly, Quintana will not pull down more than a low-level type of prospect, so we should expect very little here (almost didn’t list him, but the peripherals will pique the interest of other teams). An example trade scenario is listed below: Angels send SP/RP Jose Quintana to the Braves in exchange for SP Jared Johnson. Even Johnson might be too big of a price to pay, but, currently, he is a projected 35+ grade prospect, per FanGraphs, that the Halos would probably feel happy acquiring back in return for Jose. Conclusion One notable takeaway from this mental exercise, is that a lot of the potential teams the Angels seem to partner up with, do not have a lot of notable pieces that are near- or MLB-ready types of players. This may prove a bit problematic, but should not be a roadblock for the Angels to get a deal or two accomplished. It seems quite plausible that the Angels will make at least one or two deals, because they do have assets down on the farm that they could bring up to replace the pieces they sell. For example, could the Halos trade Jose Iglesias and simply bring up Luis Rengifo to replace him at SS? Could Minasian designate Kurt Suzuki for assignment and promote Matt Thaiss behind the dish? Would the Angels consider jettisoning Adam Eaton after Trout and Upton return from the Injured List in order to promote Jo Adell? Could they move Juan Lagares and bring up Brandon Marsh before September call ups to get his first carafe of coffee? Maybe they move Cishek and promote Quijada? Part ways with Dylan Bundy and let Dillon Peters take his place? Move Quintana and promote Chris Rodriguez into the rotation? The point is that the Angels have assets on the farm that could replace some of our poor performers and, performance-wise, you probably will not know the difference and, in fact, they may improve the overall team. This is why you should expect to see at least 1-2 guys go out the door in trade, in addition to the potential acquisitions mentioned in the previous article. If you were the Angels GM, which players would you sell at the Trade Deadline? Up next - 2021 Angelswin.com Trade Deadline Series: Conclusion
  2. 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
  3. 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.
  4. 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).
  5. 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.
  6. By Robert Cunningham, Angelswin.com Senior Writer Note from Angelswin.com: Again, I am making a plea for support, to our family here at Angelswin.com, to provide any donation, even $1, to the AW.com sponsored charity-of-the-month, Hope for Education. If I have to go further, I am willing to take unnatural pictures by tdawg's bunk bed to encourage donations or, alternatively, not show them, at the whim of each individual member of the Angelswin.com family. I know times may be tough for many of you, but even a small donation helps toward a larger goal, so I am humbly requesting any kindness you can afford. Thank you for your time and attention! As we alluded to, in the Introduction article, Major League Baseball (MLB) has taken a financial hit due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Clearly the abbreviated season combined with a complete lack of in-person attendance at ballgames put a big financial hit on the game. Arte Moreno, himself, indicated revenues came in well short of projections. This financial impact is not insignificant and the likelihood that 2021 will take a similar hit is high. Why? Well, let us just talk it out here. Assuming President-elect Biden takes office on January 20th and, in a likely scenario, puts the country on a 30-60-day lockdown (or some hybrid mask requirement), that would immediately place us in early-to-late March. From there, a probable phased opening of non-critical businesses would take place, not dissimilar to what happened in 2020. Basically, a larger subset of businesses would open and the country would test the COVID-19 stress level on the population. If cases return at a rate higher than expected that would have a very negative impact on any proposed baseball season. However, if the reemergence is successful, stadium play, likely in a limited form, could potentially take place later in the year. Think, absolutely no more than 50% stadium capacity (probably less) in what would likely be another abbreviated regular season. Note this is probably the most optimistic scenario. There is a high likelihood that even if the country successfully reopens that pandemic experts and scientists will almost certainly recommend that large gatherings do not occur within a several month period, even after a clean societal reemergence. The bottom line is that 2022 will be financially rocky for the country and MLB, which will almost certainly result in low to medium attendance, at best, and possibly another shortened baseball season, based on what MLB decides, and is even allowed to do, in a continuing COVID-19 pandemic environment. It could be a 162-game, televised-only, season or some mashup of televised-only and in-person attendance games, ranging anywhere above 60 games. Basically more significant financial impacts to baseball, which brings us to the Los Angeles Angels financial situation. Here is a rough snapshot of the projected Angels 2021 payroll situation as of December 7th, 2020: Table 1 - 2021 Los Angeles Angels Projected Payroll The Angels current Average Annual Value (AAV) payroll sits at about $181M, which is $29M below the Competitive Balance Tax (CBT) threshold of $210M for 2021. This is in-line with what FanGraphs RosterResource.com and Spotrac.com show, as well. The arbitration salaries, in Table 1, were pulled, as usual, from MLBTradeRumors.com yearly Projected Arbitration Salaries for 2021 series, this year utilizing Method #3 numbers. Does this mean the Angels can spend $29M? Based on the current economic environment in baseball and the likelihood of another COVID-19-impacted season, the answer may be no. First of all most teams keep some sort of reserve cushion of payroll space to start off each season in order to maintain flexibility heading into the Trade Deadline. For the Halos that will likely be about $10M or so, automatically lowering their available payroll space down to $19M. Moreno’s history shows a trend of modest payroll increases year-to-year, keeping pace with a rising CBT threshold but nothing more or less. During new GM Perry Minasian’s live interview at Angels stadium, Arte did clearly state payroll would not go down, but offered little more. Based on this we will presume the Angels have $19M to spend this off-season for the purposes of the Primer Series, possibly more if the Angels target one or more of Moreno’s aforementioned “impact” players. Also you can clearly interpret the Angels recent non-tender of several Angels relievers as a sign the Angels will probably be fiscally conservative in 2021, based on the notable impacts to the U.S. economy and MLB. The trade for Jose Iglesias, as an addition by subtraction scenario, in conjunction with the Halos moves to kick Hansel Robles, Matt Andriese, Justin Anderson, Keynan Middleton, and Hoby Milner to the curb, will keep the payroll effectively neutral. As a lone counterpoint, the Angels, just today, executed a trade for RP Raisel Iglesias, who is slated to receive $9.125M in 2020, adding a substantial amount to the payroll, reducing the total projected available payroll space by about 25%. It is not just the Angels, either, as evidenced by the Indians placing Brad Hand on waivers (and subsequently releasing him), the Reds trading Raisel Iglesias to the Halos, and the apparent financially-strapped Phillies rumored to be shopping Zack Wheeler. Even perfectly viable free agents that you would expect to pursue multi-year deals, such as Robbie Ray, Drew Smyly, Marcus Stroman, and Kevin Gausman, have selected one-year deals and/or accepted the Qualifying Offer, rather than test a clearly weak free agent market for players. This simply means that the Halos are likely to stay within a tight range of $19M. Certainly, Arte can choose to go up or down but, again, history does not support the notion of a spending spree and internal and external economic factors make it much less likely to happen. As much as this off-season might be a prime opportunity for Moreno to exercise the teams financial muscle for a short 1-2 year period, this year is proving to be the most unlikely year in recent history for him to do it. Only time will tell the tale. One final note regarding MLB and financial expenditures. Despite the clear hits teams are taking due to the pandemic shutdown, there appears to be a collective move by MLB and the owners to take advantage of the situation, making deep cuts to Minor League Baseball (MiLB) team franchises, effectively depressing 2021 arbitration and free agent salaries via these declarations of being in a financial crunch, and cutting out wide swaths of front office personnel and MiLB players. As an outsider looking in, this seems, to me, to be a self-destructive attitude in a business that makes so much money according to Forbes and other publications. Clearly local revenues, which are a main contributor to individual team revenues, have taken a hit due to non-existent ticket sales in a shortened season but the extensive cuts feel deeper than needed. When you look at the numbers it is clear that not playing a full regular season with no ticket sales does result in large losses. However, a full regular season with, perhaps, at least 40% of a typical season’s in-person attendance would bring MLB, as a whole, to a break-even level, give or take. The point is that the latter (40% in-person attendance) is probably a less likely scenario based on our earlier discussion, thus MLB will probably struggle again in 2021 and the owners, even in the face of a fight with the Player’s Union, will probably look to make additional cuts when and where they want and can. The near-future of MLB is not particularly bright, so let’s hope cooler heads prevail and a compromise can be reached, not only in entertaining, at least, a full or partial, televised-only regular season, but also with a new Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) and continued baseball for the next several seasons. MLB’s image is teetering on a tightrope with little room for error so they need to get this right.
  7. By Robert Cunningham, Angelswin.com Senior Writer Excellence. This is the word that best describes Andrelton Simmons approach to baseball. It is best exhibited in his defensive glove-work which Simba is renowned for across MLB and, very likely, long after his career has come to an end. Although Simmons struggled a bit at the plate this year, he once again led all of baseball in defense based on FanGraphs 'Def' stat on a games played (Def/G) rate basis, in 2019, as seen below: 2019 Shortstops Sorted by FanGraphs 'Def' Statistic on a Per Game Rate Basis Minimum 50 G's Played Really it is not even close. Adalberto Mondesi, another clearly superior defender to other shortstops in baseball, is a tier below Simba. It is Tier 1, Andrelton, Tier 2, Adalberto, and then Tier 3, DeJong and Baez, and then the rest. Simmons, in an off-year, was 8% better than Adalberto and nearly 20% better than Baez, below Mondesi, on a Def/G rate basis. In fact if you look at recent history, it becomes even more apparent that Simmons is a true defensive beast in a class of his own. Below, is the same chart for the last three years with a minimum of 50 Games (G's) played: 2017-2019 Top 35 Shortstops Sorted by FanGraphs 'Def' Statistic on a Per Game Rate Basis Minimum 50 G's Played Here the difference is even more stark. There is God-level defense and the rest of the wannabes trying not to embarrass themselves. Simmons is a full 47% better than his nearest neighbor, Mondesi. Based on this alone, you have to suspect that Eppler, who is a big believer in superior defense particularly at the up-the-middle (CF, SS, 2B, and C) positions, has to be considering a possible extension for Simmons in the upcoming off-season. Andrelton is simply on a different planet defensively and even if he begins a decline in his age 30 season he is just heading back down to be with the rest of the mortals on earth. When you combine Simba's superlative defense, his roughly League-average weighted runs created plus (wRC+), his excellent in-game instincts, and leadership, on and off the field, they are great traits to consider when determining the value of keeping Andrelton in the fold. Really this decision boils down to a value play and what Eppler wants for the future of the franchise. Does he sign Simba to a 4-6 year deal, likely around $13M-$17M per season, for a rough average of 5 years, $75M (much lower than my original estimate last season) or does he look to trade Andrelton and find a replacement to bridge the gap to a prospect like Jerimiah Jackson, Kyren Paris, or even a different, long-term signing or acquisition of a high-caliber shortstop of the future? If you believe that Eppler really values defense then you have to look at the chart above and think that it is a choice, among the Major League candidates, between Simmons, Mondesi, Iglesias, DeJong, and Lindor. Adalberto has four years of control and could be a reboot of Andrelton minus the really low strikeout rate but with enhanced base stealing, making him a lesser choice overall out of the group. Iglesias is available but he too would pull the offense down even further, making him a bit of a non-starter as well. DeJong is signed to a long-term deal making him the Cardinals shortstop for years to come and an improbable trade candidate barring a wild redirection by the St. Louis front office. That leaves Francisco Lindor who has two years of relatively expensive arbitration control left. Salary estimations probably place him at $17M and $26M in 2020 and 2021, respectively, making him an expensive but quality acquisition if the Indians are indeed interested in moving him as reported by Jeff Passan. Lindor would bring youth, lesser defense but greater offense to the position and might be an extension candidate before or after the 2020 season. He would likely be a good lead-off hitter for a team that hasn't had one for quite a while. This will ultimately be a tough call for Eppler and staff. It will really come down to what projected value they can get at the position once they have addressed the rotation questions that are of more immediate and urgent concern. Likely Outcome: Angels extend Andrelton Simmons at approximately 5 years, $70M-$80M or perhaps 4 years, $64M. This extension can save money in 2020, by resetting Simba's year-to-year salary and freeing up a bit of payroll for rotation needs. Andrelton can man shortstop through the length of that contract or he can slide over to 2B or utility at the tail-end of it to make room for another as needed. The next alternative is to put someone like David Fletcher or Luis Rengifo at shortstop and even though both are fine defenders, they are not Simba at the most critical defensive position in baseball. This is a more cost-effective solution if Eppler finds himself needing to shed additional payroll, based on a known salary cap handed down from Moreno, to accommodate expenditures in other areas (starting pitching basically). Author's Choice: Personally I have always liked Simmons and I hope they extend him on a 4-5 year deal. Certainly, it would be tremendous if Eppler could pull off a trade for Francisco Lindor but with our miss on Cole and Strasburg in free agency, the Angels now have to trade for one (or even two) more starters, which will likely deplete their available players and prospects in trade. Conclusion: Eppler will have to manage payroll carefully and the probable best way to do that is to extend Simmons and restructure his contract so that his 2020 salary goes from $15M down to something like $11M give or take. David Fletcher is the cost-effective solution, but that means the Angels need to find a solution at the keystone where Fletcher would probably fit best. Rengifo could be that solution at second base now that the Angels have signed Anthony Rendon. This, however, puts a lot of the weight on the younger, less experienced members of the roster, creating a lot of potential performance risk that Eppler probably does not want to take in a critical season for his own employment. Lindor will likely make $17M or so, which is problematic money-wise but also adds more to the Angels lineup. His ability to lead-off and steal in front of Trout (actually now Rendon, then Mike, probably) would be very valuable and would bolster an already strong lineup. To be clear there will be a LOT of interest in Lindor from a majority of teams around the league, if the Indians put him on the block, so the Angels will have to pay a hefty price and it may be completely out of our reach (say if the Indians ask for Jo Adell instead of MLB-ready players). Of course, Billy could do nothing and simply pay Simba his final contractual year's salary and punt this decision down the road but that seems ill-planned and ill-advised and the Angels GM is anything but that, particularly at such a critical position.
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