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  1. 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
  2. By Robert Cunningham, AngelsWin.com Senior Writer So I almost didn't write the series this year. A lot of things happened, one of which the company I worked for, Vector-Launch, unfortunately shut down in mid-August due to the loss of our primary financial backer, Sequoia. This was a real loss to me because that was the best damn job I ever had and likely will ever have the remainder of my career. It is rare that you find a position where you enjoy the work so much that you don't even feel like it is work, you have a supervisor that respects and mentors you, and you have fantastic relationships with virtually all of your coworkers to the point that they become family and you even hang out with them outside of work. Vector was all of that and it is a damn shame that it had to go. There are parallels to that situation with the 2019 Angels. The Halos, at the start of the season seemed locked in. Our new manager, Brad Ausmus, was at the helm and seemed to have a good grasp of how to manage the team and appeared to have the respect of the players. Most importantly the team seemed to gel well and the clubhouse atmosphere seemed loose and fun. However, as we are all aware, injuries, ineffectiveness, and a lack of leadership at the top ravaged the 2019 Angels team. Players like Matt Harvey and Cody Allen, larger ticket players Eppler signed on one-year deals in the off-season, failed to produce and were eventually cut. The Angels tragically lost Tyler Skaggs mid-season to a deadly concoction of opioids and alcohol. Justin Upton, Mike Trout, Shohei Ohtani, Luis Rengifo, and Tommy La Stella all hit the Injury List (IL) at various points in the season creating a discontinuity in the field and lineup that was reflected in the Angels very poor win-loss record at the end of the year. These losses certainly added up to a recipe for disaster in Anaheim that seems, on the surface, difficult to overcome in 2020 and proved fatal to Brad Ausmus' tenure. Like Vector-Launch, they had to close it down. So, once again, it will be up to Billy Eppler in what could be his last year as General Manager, and the front office staff to set a path for success this off-season if the Angels will have a real chance at post-season play. One very bright point is the signing of future Hall of Fame candidate Mike Trout to a career-long extension at the beginning of the 2019 season. The Angels now have the premier player in baseball locked up and can rest easy knowing that he is the centerpiece to build the remainder of the team around as they look to contend in 2020 and beyond. Some of these pieces are already here. Despite Justin Upton's poor offensive performance in 2019, he is still signed for three more seasons making him a likely complimentary piece in left field for next year. Andrelton Simmons will be entering his final year of control and, barring a trade, will man shortstop again in 2020 with the possibility of an extension contract in his future. Kole Calhoun turned out to be a luxury the Angels couldn't afford in an off-season where they need a lot of starting pitching but fortunately, the Angels have Brian Goodwin to fill their right field need to start the season. Other complimentary players like Zack Cozart (if healthy), David Fletcher, Luis Rengifo, Matt Thaiss, Taylor Ward, Jared Walsh, and Tommy La Stella should help fill one or more holes in the infield not called shortstop. Catcher may turn out to be a patchwork again manned by some combination of Max Stassi (who probably won't be ready to start the season), Anthony Bemboom, Kevan Smith, and perhaps one or more other, yet-to-be-acquired, backstops. Shohei Ohtani should be ready to pitch again, along with Andrew Heaney, giving the Angels a decent base to create a rotation with the likes of Griffin Canning, Jaime Barria, Patrick Sandoval, Jose Suarez, Dillon Peters, and possibly others like Felix Pena filling up the back-end of the starting five. However, it should be clearly noted that the free agent starting pitching market has some very attractive players that the Angels will almost certainly target to create a strong rotation for 2020. Our relief corps will probably contain names like Ty Buttrey, Hansel Robles, Noe Ramirez, Cam Bedrosian, Luke Bard, Justin Anderson, Keynan Middleton, Jake Jewell, and Taylor Cole among potential others. In fact this group may be enough to rely upon for the 2020 season, making it one potential area that the Angels need not worry about this off-season in terms of expending resources. The rebuilding process in the Angels Minor League system has actually been underway for some time now. Eppler has been steadily building it up and there are some notable names that have joined or are on the verge of joining Trout in Anaheim. Potential stars like Jo Adell and Brandon Marsh, along with contributing pieces like Luis Madero are making strides to join the big league club in 2020 or after. Adell in particular appears to be the closest to the Majors and is likely, based on Calhoun's option being declined, a call-up in the May/June time frame. Other potential contributors like Luis Pena (bullpen), Jahmai Jones (2B/OF), and Chris Rodriguez could accelerate fast if they have a productive start in 2020. The unexpected replacement of Ausmus with Joe Maddon and Moreno's recent comments that there will be an increase in payroll this off-season clearly points to a sea change and acceleration to push the Angels into a window of contention that many fans have been awaiting for a long time. Based on the groundwork laid to date, owner comments, and a largely new, but experienced, coaching staff, it seems highly probable that there will be at least one or more significant free agent signings and/or complimentary trades to help position the Angels to fight for a playoff spot in 2020. The Astros and A's still pose a significant threat in the Division but an improved Angels squad will make for a much more interesting race in the A.L. West. In terms of team needs, clearly the Angels need to add at least one top-of-the-rotation starter and likely an additional mid-tier type to create solid depth. Adding a high-quality defensive catcher, to compliment one of Stassi (likely), Smith (maybe), or Bemboom (unlikely), would be a nice add to receive all of those pitches from the revamped rotation. The infield will need to be reinforced, likely at the corners with third base a long-term strategic concern for Eppler. Right field will be open to competition with Jo Adell in the mix (and the future of the position) but likely only after the Angels retain the extra year of team control on him (thus the projected May/June call-up). Adding another reliever or two to the mix, even if they are waiver claims or Rule 5 picks, will add depth. The question will ultimately be how high will Moreno let Eppler spend? Is it a modest increase or something much more significant that would take us into Luxury Tax territory for the next two years? Will a poor free agent market in the 2020-2021 off-season drive spending now? What moves can be made in free agency and trade to strengthen the team? Can the team supplement from the Minors in key areas throughout the season to create the missing depth that recent Angels squads have lacked? All that and more in what is sure to be an active Angels off-season in the subsequent installments of the 2020 Angelswin.com Primer Series!
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