The Offseason Manifesto 2016

The Winter Meetings is the favorite time for a blogger: there’s tons of money flying around, lots of roster holes to be filled, and a seemingly limitless supply of ideas run through our nerdy little brains. We eat breakfast watching MLB Network (except Christopher Russo NEVER CHRISTOPHER RUSSO) and we fall asleep while scrolling down the Fangraphs leaderboard charts.  It’s a sad few days for our family members, our girlfriends/boyfriends, our phone’s data plans, and our head-to-toe hygiene.

It is typically a frivolous excitement, however, as the fast moving Christmas spirit of the Winter Meetings isn’t spread to every team.  Only one team’s bloggers get to write about how wonderful of an addition Jason Heyward will be, while 29 other team’s blogospheres will have to read cherry-picked statistics showing how we hope Mike Aviles will be not be as smelly of a turd as we know he will be.  He always is.

The overwhelming probability that is our favorite team landing that turd will not stop us from our yearly ego-boosting endeavor, though.  We will not be deterred from our efforts to develop a master plan that, hopefully, nobody in their right minds will follow.  We will consistently slap our names on these internet words on a yearly basis that will become irrelevant and look completely idiotic within minutes.  We know this, and we don’t care.  We’re a sick and  disgusting breed.

With all this being said, here is mine, dear reader.  Here is my overzealous plan for the Angels 2016 offseason from this point forward.  I hope you enjoy it.

I do not have any evidence that suggests otherwise, so I will be operating under the premise that the Angels do not exceed the 189 million dollar luxury tax threshold.  If you’re looking for me to write nice things about Johnny Cueto and Jason Heyward, please go back to your regularly scheduled Facebook refreshing.  I’m sure there’s one more Trump meme you haven’t seen yet. Furthermore, I have made it a point to not bring back any players from last years team.  It would be no fun for you to read or for me to write if I described David Freese and Johnny Giavotella.  I didn’t want to take the easy way out.

  1.  Trade LHP CJ Wilson to the San Francisco Giants for RHP Ray Black

Why the Angels do it: CJ Wilson is a good pitcher.  He would probably be a valuable part of a postseason run for the Angels in 2016.  Unfortunately, due to the Angels starting pitching depth (thank you JDP), having his 20 million dollar contract off the books for this next season would be even more valuable.  Thus far, Jeff Fletcher has mentioned teams entertaining the idea of trading for Wilson given the fact that the Angels are willing to eat some of his salary.  I loathe the idea of paying players to play for different teams (Hi, Josh), and therefore I’d be more inclined to push a deal that included a lesser return in exchange for the receiving team paying him. The Angels would receive an extra 20 million dollar salary relief they can redirect towards other areas of need while still recouping an asset, albeit a invaluable one.

Why the Giants do it: While I am not a prospect guru by any means, and I think you’ll be able to figure that out as this write-up continues, I do think flamethrowing reliever Ray Black offers an intriguing enough upside to peak the Angels’ interest while still having a high enough volatility for the Giants to let him go in order to solidify their rotation. While the 102 mph fastball and 18 strikeouts per nine innings might be hard to let go of, the 9 walks per nine innings won’t be.  At the very worst, the Giants give up a hard throwing one inning reliever for one year of CJ Wilson (who will obviously overperform anyway because he’ll be playing for the Giants in an even numbered year).

2.  Trade 3B Kaleb Cowart and OF Natanael Delgado to the Miami Marlins for 3B Martin Prado

Why the Angels do it:  Martin Prado would take the reins from David Freese before him and Alberto Callaspo before him and become the newest Angels stop-gap third baseman.  That is fair to Prado, as he’s much better than both of his previous predecessors.  Prado is a career 291/.339/.425 hitter across ten big league seasons.  He’s in the last year of a relatively inexpensive contract (11 million) as well, which means the Marlins will be looking to unload him.  Prado has rated high defensively at third base by Defensive Runs Saved (8.5 average last two years) and would provide an excellent left side counterpart to Andrelton Simmons.  A defensive emphasis resides with Billy Eppler’s regime, and Prado fits that bill while offering a bat that consistently rates above league average (107 career wRC+) to boot.

Why the Marlins do it:  Prado is entering the last year of his contract during his age 32 season which usually represents the final peak of a player’s trade value as he exits his prime.  The Marlins gave up Nathan Eovaldi just a year ago to acquire Prado, so the Angels would have to part with some decently interesting and cheap pieces.  Kaleb Cowart is an MLB ready prospect who can, at the very least, replace and probably surpass the defensive value Prado produced.  Delgado is a 20 year old toolsy outfielder who Kiley McDaniel has written fondly about not too long ago.  In addition to Prado, the Marlins received $3 million a year to offset his contract from the Yankees.  To help facilitate a deal, the Angels could simply swallow the entire $11 million salary with the Marlins pocketing the extra three million.

3.  Trade RHP Cam Bedrosian to the New York Yankees for 2B Dustin Ackley

Why the Angels do it: Keeping with the strong defensive theme, Ackley would fill the hole at the keystone nicely for the Angels.  Accruing over 20 Defensive Runs Saved during his four years playing second base in Seattle, Ackley and Simmons would potentially create one of the best double play combinations in the American League.  Versatility is another component Ackley brings, as he’s posted a net positive DRS over 1400 innings throughout two years in left field.  The Angels would more than likely have to play Ackley on the strong side of a platoon as his walk rate falls and strikeout rate rises when he faces lefties.  The Angels would have Pujols, Ackley, Simmons, and Prado scooping up ground balls around the diamond, which would be music to Garrett Richards’ ears (53% GB rate).

Why the Yankees do it:  The Yankees seem to be on a never-ending quest to build the best bullpen of all time and adding Bedrosian to the Miller, Betances, Wilson triumvirate would make things miserable for opposing teams after the fifth inning.  Given the presence of Refsnyder and Pirela, I don’t believe they’d think twice about getting a promising young reliever for one year of a platoon second baseman.  Yet, as Jeff Sullivan wrote here, they had been coveting Ackley for a long time before acquiring him.  It would be a steep price to pay, but the addition of Black to bullpen plus the emergence of Trevor Gott and Mike Morin makes Bedrosian a superfluous piece in the back end of a strong Angels bullpen.  Did I just say strong Angels bullpen?

4. Sign Denard Span to a 4 year 56 million dollar contract

The long awaited leadoff man is here.  I wrote a piece three years ago in a South Korean airport pining for the Angels to trade for Denard Span before the Nationals scooped him up.  Since then, he’s posted two well above average (117 and 120 wRC+) offensive seasons while playing nearly neutral defense in centerfield.  Entering his age 32 season, a move to left field would be in the cards for Span which would give the Angels an elite defensive outfield alongside  Calhoun and Trout.  Span’s career .392 slugging percentage isn’t sexy, but slotting a career .352 on base percentage in front of Trout, Pujols, and Calhoun is.  The back end of this contract may look a bit ugly, but at $14 million dollars in the year 2019, Span wouldn’t have to produce much more than a win and a half to justify his paycheck. Sure, Jason Heyward is the clear creme of the crop for this outfield class, but is Span is a similar, cheaper option.

5. Sign Casey McGehee to a 1 year 2 million dollar contract

Casey McGehee, generally speaking, is not a good baseball player.  His .198/.264/.274 line from 2015 speaks to this loud and clear. At this stage in his career, he’s little more than a pudgy singles hitter (.070 ISO).  As obvious as it is that he has his deficiencies, there are a few things Casey McGehee can still do.  He can play a passable corner infield position.  Over his last 1700 innings at third base, spanning parts of two seasons, McGehee has only cost his team one run defensively.  He can also, to an extent, still hit left handed pitching.  While not inspiring, and small sample caveats definitely apply, McGehee has hit well enough against left handed pitching to warrant a roster spot.  High praise, I know.  Mainly, the third base free agent crop is littered with guys who have flaws.  McGehee would be the cheapest, flawed player.  He would play third base when Martin Prado shifts to second base against left handed pitching.

 

This puts the Angels about ten million dollars short of the luxury tax to begin the season, which is enough money to be players in the trade market in July.

As we will see the Alex Gordon and Jason Heyward signings this offseason, buying on base percentage is expensive.  It is no longer a secret that teams that get on base win.  Up against the luxury tax and unable to go too far into it, if at all, the Angels could look for another way to try to improve their team, and mainly their offense.  Prado (11.1%), Span (11.4%), and Ackley (18%) all avoid strikeouts at an above average rate.  It is imperative, if a team can’t have a lineup full of high OBP guys, that they build around the high on base guys with players that can keep them moving around the bases–especially with runners in scoring position. In 2014, the Angels had an OPS 23 points below the league average with runners in scoring position.  This is no surprise to fans that watched the Angels last year.  While the Angels didn’t strike out a lot as a team last year, implementing more high-contact hitters could result in a few extra runs per season which could, in turn, lead to more wins.  They can attempt to exploit this different strategy while they are waiting for more contracts to come off the books.  

While definitely not flashy moves, signing these types of mid-tier guys could make up the difference in the AL West for the Angels.  I will now go on feeling smart for the next thirty five minutes.  See you next year.

LINEUP

  1.  Denard Span            LF
  2. Mike Trout                CF
  3. Albert Pujols             1B
  4. Kole Calhoun            RF
  5. Martin Prado             3B
  6. CJ Cron                      DH
  7. Dustin Ackley            2B
  8. Andrelton Simmons   SS
  9. Geovany Soto             C

STARTING ROTATION

  1.  Jered Weaver RHP
  2. Garrett Richards RHP
  3. Andrew Heaney LHP
  4. Hector Santiago LHP
  5. Matt Shoemaker RHP

BULLPEN

  1. Joe Smith  RHP
  2. Huston Street   RHP
  3. Mike Morin  RHP
  4. Ray Black  RHP
  5. Trevor Gott  RHP
  6. Fernando Salas  RHP
  7. Jose Alvarez  LHP

BENCH

  1. Cliff Pennington    2B/SS
  2. Rafael Ortega        OF
  3. Casey McGehee     3B/1B
  4. Carlos Perez          C

 

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