Angels Official Podcast: Who Starts on Opening Day?

Click on the thumbnail to go to the latest episode of the Angels Official Podcast, where MLB reports Alyson Footer and Maria Guardado discuss the club’s opening day starter.

Luis Valbuena Out 4-6 Weeks

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The Angels will be without one of their newest additions until early May. Infielder Luis Valbuena suffered a grade one hamstring strain on Wednesday during Spring Training game against the Texas Rangers and will start the 2017 regular season on the disabled list.

The injury is the same one that took him out of last season, and eventually had his surgery on. As of right now, this is not as serious. Perhaps this is merely a road block in getting the hamstring back to full strength after the procedure.

This also opens the door for C.J. Cron and Jefry Marte to get more playing time at first base to start the season, as Valbuena was in line to share time at the position, in addition to other spots in the infield. This does hurt the bench depth for the Halos a bit. However, there are still plenty of options. The injury bug has not bitten the Angels much at all so far this spring.

The timetable for Valbuena’s return targets the first week of May.

Here’s MLB Tonight discussing Valbuena signing with the Angels, and where the team was at since he was pretty much their last key addition over the offseason…

Torii Hunter Jr. Made His Debut… In Front of Dad!

The Angels put in a pinch runner for Mike Trout during Sunday’s game. And his name was Torii Hunter. Not that Torii Hunter! No, his son. Asked to come in and take over for Trout in the sixth inning of a 7-0 deficit at the hands of the Chicago White Sox, Hunter Jr. made his debut with ‘that’ Torii Hunter watching from a suite above. Yes, dad was there, and was nervous…

 

Hunter Jr. went 0-for-2 in his first game with the Halos. But he was as excited as ever. And so was dad, as they both expressed in their interview with Jose Mota after the game…

 

What a moment for a father and son. And whether or not Junior makes it, this is special.

Carlos Perez Has a Leg Kick!

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Fighting for the majority of playing time behind the plate with the Angels this season, catcher Carlos Perez has a new addition to his swing at the plate: a leg kick. Hampered by a career batting average over his first two seasons that is a bit below league average, and an on-base percentage that is struggling to get over .300, the young backstop decided it was time to try something new.

Below we have Carlos’ old hitting style that got him to the Big Leagues, but opposing teams caught up to rather quickly. Notice him feeling for the ball. Kendrys Morales had this same problem in his limited time with the Halos before his breakout in 2009. Perez looks a bit apprehensive…

 

And now we have Perez’s new leg kick. He basically starts timing the pitch as soon as the pitcher separates his hands to begin his motion toward the plate…

 

This is something that really helped Josh Donaldson, although his kick is almost a Michael Jackson impression. Vladimir Guerrero used to start his timing mechanism early as well. And of course, it also helped Kendrys Morales. Perez’s is somewhere in between Vladdy and Donaldson, and probably closer to Morales. Now we’ll have to see how the leg kick works when games count.

Alex Meyer’s New Delivery

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Looking for a starting rotation spot with the Angels, young righty Alex Meyer has sped up his windup in an effort to ease the stress on his arm. Opening his shoulder too quickly has been a problem for Meyer, and has contributed to his injuries as a prospect.

You can even see in the featured image above that his throwing shoulder is dragging like he’s trying to throw a sand bag.

Below is a report on Meyer’s status in the Angels’ system. And as you watch, notice his delivery and how awkward and lanky it is. Seems like everything is going in different directions.

 

Now watch Meyer’s new delivery in his latest outing…

 

Much more compact, and he finishes in better fielding position. The changes are subtle, but overall it’s a much more well-balanced delivery. Hopefully this will really help Meyer land a rotation spot on either Opening Day or sometime during the 2017 season.

Albert Could Be Ready Opening Day

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Just a few months removed from another foot surgery, Albert Pujols may end up being ready for Opening Day 2017 for the Angels after all. He’s progressing faster than expected. He’s determined. The Machine still needs to get his legs more mobile, not that he’s all that fast anymore. And he’s already swinging the bat with power!

 

With CJ Cron on fire and Luis Valbuena coming back from a mild injury, the first base battle has just heated up! Only two-and-a-half weeks left to see how it plays out!

Angels Official Podcast: Who Will Close?

Click the thumbnail above and you will be taken to the Angels Official Podcast at MLB.com where reporters discuss the current state of players, coaches, executives, etc. In the latest episode, Alyson Footer talks with other writers about Huston Street and who will close in his absence.

April 25, 1993: Red Sox vs. Angels

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The young Angels were red hot going into the final game of a three game series at the Big A on ESPN Sunday Night Baseball against the Boston Red Sox on April 25, 1993. They had won five in a row, and were scoring over six runs per game. They were off to their best start in their history. Then, they ran into Roger Clemens.

But did they let that scare them?

This team may have lost 91 games that season, but they were definitely showing a preview of what the Halos were capable of later in the 1990’s. And it was also the beginning of a core of players that eventually won the World Series as decade later.

Funny thing is that J.T. Snow is a center piece going into this game, and was in that Fall Classic in ’02, just on the other side. But Tim Salmon took over in this contest, as he would for many years with the Angels…

Oh, and by the way. There’s a book out that explains the 1993 Angels as the one team with the highest win difference between the actual players on the roster and the original players that were traded away prior to that season.

You’ll know that that means when you click the link below…

Now enjoy a really good game!

Billy Eppler on the Baseball Tonight Podcast

30 Clubs in 30 Days: Angels Edition

For those who missed the episode, here are several video clips compiled from different outlets from 30 Clubs in 30 Days: Los Angeles Angels on MLB Network.

 

This was the live stream!

 

Sean Casey Talks With Mike Trout

 

Cameron Maybin on What He Brings to the Angels

Huston Street Plays Speed Chess?

 

The State of the Angels Farm System

 

Garrett Richards on His Choice for Stem-Cell Treatment

 

Mike Scioscia on the Angels Depth in 2017

Angels 2017 Preview at Effectively Wild Podcast

Angels Monitoring Skaggs’ Velocity

Over two and a half years removed from Tommy John Surgery, Tyler Skaggs took the mound on Saturday to begin his in-game Spring Training reps. He was unable to complete one inning. The lefty walked four hitters and recorded two outs before going out with diminished velocity. His fastball dipped from the 89-92 MPH range to 86-88 MPH by the time he left the game.

The Angels are watching Skaggs closely, as he’s not only continuing his return from his procedure but also from a mild flexor strain he suffered last September.

Fatigue has been a lingering issue for Skaggs ever since he first began facing live hitters early last season. The twenty-six year old still has a bright future if he can get over the hump, but he will have to be eased into action this spring.

Huston Street Injured… Again!

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In his first outing, Huston Street exited before he could complete one inning with what the Angels were calling triceps irritation. Turns out it was a lat strain.

The top closer candidate for the Halos bullpen has not seen action on a mound in any game since last August when he was battling knee and oblique injuries. With only 22 1/3 innings with a 6.45 ERA, and a $10 million club option with a $1 million dollar buyout at the end of the season, the club has been hoping for more in 2017.

But as of right now, the latter is the likely scenario. So unless Street gets back on track this season, the closer job is down to Andrew Bailey and Cam Bedrosian.

And then there’s next season.

Angels Not Likely to Acquire Derek Norris

The issue is salary.

Washington Nationals catcher Derek Norris is pretty much ousted by the club’s signing of Matt Wieters. And the Angels are on a short list of likely trade destinations. But with a $4.2 million dollar paycheck, and a decline in the scruffy catcher’s production (.186/.255/.328 in 2016), Billy Eppler and company are nervous about making a deal.

The Nats, however, could release Norris, which would turn him into a low risk/high reward acquisition at a much cheaper price. Much like the possible Wieters situation, this move would create a log jam behind the dish in Anaheim, and it would not be out of the realm of possibility of the Halos finally make a deal involving CJ Cron and Carlos Perez for starting pitching.

According to Norris’ career stats, the 2016 season was an off year, especially due to a .238 BABIP that signals major bad luck when the league average is .300. He also averaged a 2.4 WAR in the previous three seasons, which all by himself would be more than the FanGraphs projection of 1.6 WAR for the current catching duo.

And he’s still only 28 years old.

Angels Starting Lineup Taking Shape

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This is a photo from Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register showing that Mike Scioscia is pretty close to finishing his preferred batting order. All he needs is for Albert Pujols to return. The Martin Maldonado/Carlos Perez battle will have a winner soon. But one has to imagine they’ll end up splitting the time nearly down the middle. Batting Cameron Maybin sixth caught me by surprise, but the 1-2-3 combo the Angels had last season worked very well, so why not stick to it? Luis Valbuena hitting cleanup is probably just to break up the righties. I expected Danny Espinosa to hit seventh. This could turn out to be a lineup with a lot of hits, few strikeouts again, more lefties, more homeruns, and a lot of stolen bases. Should be fun to watch.

Andrew Bailey Didn’t Know He Was a Free Agent!

Eight years after making his Major League debut, reliever Andrew Bailey went into the offseason expecting another arbitration. The former World Champion with the 2013 Red Sox had signed a minor league deal with the Angels last August, and was ending his run of 43 2/3 strong innings in the club’s merry-go-round of a bullpen. And right at the end of September, the right-hander had finally fulfilled his six years of service time by three days.

So how does a player not know he’s a free agent? Well, turns out that missing all of the 2014 season due to reconstructive shoulder surgery, and a slow return back stretched out Bailey’s service time. And with that, he “never seriously considered leaving” the Halos in free agency this winter.

Now Bailey has a new one-year deal in Anaheim, and is in the hunt for the team’s closer role in 2017. I guess players really don’t pay attention to that stuff and just focus on the game after all.

Matt Wieters Will Not Be an Angel

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Oct 4, 2015; Baltimore, MD, USA; Baltimore Orioles catcher Matt Wieters (32) stands at home plate during the eighth inning against the New York Yankees at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. The Orioles won 9-4. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

UPDATE, February 21, 2017: Matt Wieters is not going to be an Angel. Sorry to those who wanted him here. But Scott Boras got what he wanted. The colorful agent got his switch-hitting catcher signed to a two-year, $21 million dollar deal with the Washington Nationals on Tuesday morning. That was way too much for Wieters, and would not have been a wise move for the Angels.

There is actually much debate among Nats fans because Wieters isn’t the greatest defensive backstop, and is overall just an above average hitter. It’s a defensive downgrade. It would’ve been for the Halos.

The overall projected WAR for Angels catchers at FanGraphs is 2.3. That would not have changed much (if at all) with Wieters in Anaheim. The original post at the bottom goes into more detail.

So there you have it. What’s done is done.

Why not bring in another cheap arm for depth instead?

 

UPDATE, February 10, 2017: Turns out that Wieters suffered a laceration that required stitches to his left (non-throwing) arm earlier this offseason. However, the catcher is fully healthy. This would explain much of the hesitancy by clubs to sign him, aside from the metrics.

So no one seems to have a clue about when or where he will sign!

 

Original Post

With the offseason nearing a close, Matt Wieters is still on the market. The Angels still have money left before the luxury tax. And the way things are looking, he’ll have to settle for a one-year contract somewhere for rather cheap.

That makes sense for all three clubs. The Nationals should also be included in the equation. It wouldn’t be surprising if it came down to the wire.

The Orioles already have Wellington Castillo at catcher now. They’d love to have Wieters back on a one-year contract, but he’d have to split time with Castillo behind the dish and fill out the rest of his playing time at DH.

The Angels could jump in on this at the last minute to squeeze Wieters in, and he would definitely get more starting time with a very strong defensive backup catcher in Martin Maldonado behind him.

In fact, FanGraphs has the current Angels catching depth chart projected to produce a 2.8 WAR, which would have Maldonado and Perez combining for just above typical starter level. However, adding Wieters would create a clog behind the dish, so it is conceivable that his presence would push a trade package likely involving Carlos Perez for a young mid-to-backend innings eating starting pitcher.

Plus, with Wieters’ 1.7 WAR last season (and a 1.5 WAR over 101 games combined between 2014 and 2015), that move would basically leave the club the same WAR value (if not slightly more) behind the plate, but more on the offensive side than with the glove. And with the possible trade thereafter, the Halos would be adding more value on the 25-man roster with the aforementioned starting pitcher.

General Manager Billy Eppler has stated all offseason that his approach involved making smaller moves to set up bigger moves.

We don’t know exactly when or where Wieters will sign. Beyond the typical speculation of a one-year deal, and the four clubs mentioned, things have been quiet about him of late.

However, we should still think about this as a possibility.

Hardball Retrospective and the “Original” 1993 Angels

There are a handful of Angels teams that were really good but came up short of the playoffs, and some that should have been way better than they were. When discussing the former I point immediately to the 1989 squad that went 91-71 but still finished third in a pre-Wildcard/seven team AL West. When it comes to the latter, the 1993 club is one that always comes to mind. There was a great mix of key veterans and young talent from what was becoming a minor league system on the rise. Major injuries and growing pains from the Halos youth took their toll, however. And the result was a 71-91 record.

But what about the players the Angels let go in the previous three years leading up to that? How much would just holding onto that youth have helped the Halos compete better? The franchise was finally starting from scratch and building through their farm system, an approach that helped lead the team to a championship a decade later. But could they have done even better than through the rest of the nineteen nineties if they just confused the rebuild without trying to contend?

After all, the Angels came very close to making the playoffs in 1995, 1997, and 1998. They could’ve used the young players they gave away earlier in that decade.

Derek Bain recently posted a very interesting article at FanGraphs about a section is book, Hardball Retrospective, on the 1993 Halos and what the team might have done if the club had kept the young players they gave away.

Here it is…

Garrett Richards Back In Action

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Garrett Richards – wearing #42 in honor of Jackie Robinson Day – delivers a pitch during the first inning of a game against the Minnesota Twins at Target Field on April 15, 2016 (Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)

After his first sessions in Tempe, Arizona, Garrett Richards said he is feeling normal and is ready for another spring. Once headed for Tommy John Surgery, the Angels ace has undergone several stem cell injections that have helped his UCL in his throwing arm to heal in place of the procedure that would’ve kept the righty out until 2018. But now, he most likely will be ready for Opening Day 2017!

Here’s some footage of Garrett at spring camp.

Angels Acquire Austin Adams

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In a move that puzzled Angels fans last week, the club went out and got reliever Austin Adams from the Cleveland Indians in exchange for a player to be named later or cash. The part that confused many was where right-hander Deolis Guerra was designated for assignment, went unclaimed despite a 3.21 ERA in 53 1/3 innings for the Halos in 2015, and then accepted his outright assignment.

Adams, 31, has a 6.29 ERA in 58 2/3 innings in the Majors, but with a 3.33 career ERA in the minors. He’s a right-handed who can post a high strikeout rate but has issues walking hitters.

Guerra didn’t have a great K rate, but held opposing hitters to a 1.106 WHIP, and his ERA was accurate because of a 3.76 FIP.

Adams has high rates across the board.

There’s not much else to share other than the possibility that there must be something going on with Guerra that isn’t being disclosed at this time.

We’ll see.

Most of the Angels’ bullpen isn’t up for grabs any way, so Adams isn’t guaranteed anything, and Guerra can easily win his spot back.

Angels Sign Yusmeiro Petit

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The bullpen situation has been the one thing on everyone’s minds despite the insane offseason the Angels have had. The club signed Yusmeiro Petit to a minor league contract with an invitation to Spring Training. Should he make the squad, the deal comes with a $2.25 million dollar base salary with an additional $1.25 million in incentives.

Petit was once a big part of the success of the Giants, working both out of the bullpen and the rotation at times. In 2014, he set a record, retiring 46 consecutive batters out of the pen.

In 2016, Petit worked out of the Nationals’ bullpen, posting a 4.50 ERA with a 7.1 K/9, 1.7 BB/9, and a 41.5 percent ground-ball rate in 62 innings. He also made one start and was stellar until August, when something gave way and allowed half his runs for the season in the final two months. It was probably a fluke, and the Halos may have stolen this one.

Angels Sign Dustin Ackley

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UPDATE, February 7: Terms are $2.25 million, and $1.4MM in incentives if he makes the club.

So it’s that time of the offseason again, where teams start stocking up on minor league deals with the hope of getting a valuable performance for cheap and perhaps being a key piece or trade bait during the season. Well, the Angels signing Dustin Ackley may not quite be that, but as a depth move the former number 2 pick by the Seattle Mariners will serve as an emergency option at first base, second base and the outfield corners, as he’s invited to Spring Training with a chance to make the Opening Day roster.

That’s highly unlikely with a career batting line of .241/.304/.367, a 91 OPS+, and only hitting .148/.243/.148 in 2016. But stranger things have happened. Ackley does have a pretty good glove.

However, the part that really stands out with the Halos… He’s a Boras client!

Wieters anyone?

Angels Sign Bud Norris

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Baltimore Orioles pitcher Bud Norris delivers against the Colorado Rockies in the first inning of a baseball game on Saturday, Aug. 17, 2013, in Baltimore. (AP Photo/Gail Burton)

 

After making a boat load of moves this offseason to fill obvious holes on the position player end, plus one pitcher, the Angels switched back to the pitching side with this:

Norris seems like he’s been around for a long time, but is still only 31. Last season with the Dodgers and Braves, he posted a 5.10 ERA with a 8.1 K/9, 3.9 BB/9 in 113 innings, and lost his rotation spot after a horrible April. Moving to the bullpen saved his season by logging a 2.08 ERA in 47 2/3 innings that included five more starts as well.

Unfortunately after being traded to Chavez Ravine, Bud finished up with a 6.54 ERA. This brought his market down to where he will have to fight for a rotation spot with the Halos in 2017.

There was a time from 2011 through 2014 when Norris was a decent mid-to-back-end starting pitcher. However, the last two season have not been nice to him. Should he continue to struggle as a starter in 2017, there’s a good chance the Angels will have another solid right-handed bullpen piece.

That would provide flexibility considering Jessie Chavez is basically serving the same role as a swing man.

Norris still has to make the big club. As far as the details of the contract, here’s Jon Heyman:

Pujols’ Status Fueling Offseason Activity

The Angels have gone nuts this offseason and many have wondered exactly why. Some say it’s because they’re trying to contend again when they should be rebuilding. Others think it’s simply because a lot of money fell off the books, and there was simply room to fill holes. Both are valid points to a degree. The latter tends to be the closer to the truth as far as what the front office feels they should be doing. However, none of these answers are closer than the fact that Albert Pujols may not be ready for Opening Day 2017.

Granted, the Halos needed to plug second base. They did. Catcher was a position in need of another veteran presence. That was taken care of, for now. Left field was the club’s longest existing hole. It looks like that has been solved with a much better combination of players than last season. Then, the bench was deepened with what would look more like a bit of a clog in the infield, but also shows (on paper) the kind of bench depth the team had ten years ago.

And it’s all because of the foot surgery Albert had earlier this offseason on the plantar tendon in his right foot. Pujols has been dealing with plantar fasciitis for much of his career and it finally caught up to him in 2013 and caused him to miss the final two months of that season.

Albert played through pain in most of the 2016 season, and having surgery on his foot in November 2015 as well contributed to a slow start. The tendon really flared up in August at a game in Toronto. Then it was time to call it a season when the slugger went shockwave therapy on September 29. Insisting he didn’t need surgery, Albert tried to have a normal offseason. But it didn’t work out that way.

So when the Angels signed Luis Valbuena, an insurance policy was the motive. But knowing Albert, he’ll tough it out and try to get back in time for the start of the season. He’s a fighter, and is always finding ways to shut up the naysayers. So it’s conceivable to see him in the Opening Day starting lineup for the Angels.

If not, Valbuena will play first base every day until the return of The Machine. After that, Luis will likely occupy a hybrid Chone Figgins/Maicer Izturis role. Mike Scioscia has a lot more diverse options on the bench than the last few years.

The Halos are also looking to next season as well since Valbuena is on a two-year contract, and will likely succeed Yunel Escobar at third base.

In any case, we’ll see how Albert’s recovery pans out this spring. And regardless of the outcome, fans will get to see Luis Valbuena in action.

Angels Sign Eric Young, Jr.

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Right on the heels of finalizing a two-year deal with Luis Valbuena, the Angels signed Eric Young, Jr. to a minor league deal on Tuesday with an invite to the Big Club’s Spring Training. The 31-year old outfielder hits lefty, has a .246/.314/.327 career slash line, and averages 42 stolen bases every 650 plate appearances.

Young, 31, has only been a starter once in his career in 2013 with the Rockies and Mets. However, his speed on the bases and in the outfield has given him a steady career as a bench option.

In the case of the Angels, the speedster will fight for a bench spot this spring as a backup outfielder, late game defensive replacement, and pinch runner.

With Mike Trout, Kole Calhoun, Cameron Maybin, Ben Revere, and Jefry Marte already making up the outfield depth chart, Young will likely start the season in AAA. But there’s a good chance Angels fans will see him get his playing time in 2017.

Angels Sign Luis Valbuena

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HOUSTON, TX – JULY 08: Luis Valbuena #18 of the Houston Astros hits a three run walkoff home run in the ninth inning to defeat the Oakland Athletics 10-9 at Minute Maid Park on July 8, 2016 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)

Update, January 24: The deal has been finalized. It’ll be for two years at $15 million. Valbuena will receive $6.5 million in 2017 and $8.5 million in 2018. A mutual option is attached for 2019 with a $200,000 dollar buyout. And in case fans are wondering, the Angels are now $12 million under the luxury tax. The corresponding move was the Blue Jays claiming catcher Juan Graterol, who has been claimed five times this offseason, twice by the Halos.

 

Original Post

As if the Angels didn’t have enough outfielders already, the club inked Luis Valbuena last Thursday. The deal is for two years, but the club has yet to announce the signing, and details are not being disclosed due to a scheduled physical as well as the reported anonymity of the source. All those tidbits are supposed to be hashed out by the end of this week.

In the meantime, however, it’s safe to say the Halos have found what they’re looking for in terms of filling holes in their starting lineup and bench. Bringing experience at first base, second base, and third base, the lefty bat who started with the Mariners, and then had three-year stops with the Indians, Cubs. and Astros, will likely complement Yunel Escobar at third base, and will fill in the gaps between CJ Cron, Danny Espinosa, and the games they miss.

And since Albert Pujols might miss the first month of the season, Luis would get everyday playing time through that time. The Machine’s status is what has actually been driving General Manager Billy Eppler’s activity over the last month or so.

Adding to the suspense, the moment this singing broke out speculation surrounding a possible trade of Cron for young starting pitching began to surface. The question would be whether he’d be dealt before or during the season. That remains to be seen.

Either way, with averages of .233 / .334 / .442 and a 114 OPS+ over the last three years, Valbuena brings much depth, patience, and pop to the Halos infield. Not only that, he brings yet another good glove. Pitching should still be addressed, but the offense is looking like it may be a lot of fun to watch in 2017.

LA Angels Insider will have the details of the signing upon the finalizing of the contract after the results of the physical.

Angels 2017 Projections at FanGraphs

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Angels fans, and baseball fans in general, have been skeptical of the club’s ability to compete in 2017. That’s mostly based on losing 88 games in 2015, and having a thin, however slightly improved farm system. Still, with more money than most organizations to fill holes with productive talent without going crazy on another huge contract, the Halos are looking better and better on paper.

FanGraphs actually has them projected for a tie with the Mariners for the first Wild Card spot. The record still doesn’t look great. But that’s what the Wild Card era has provided Major League Baseball. More parity, and a much better chance to sneak in like the 2006 Cardinals.

The Angels can do that just as much as any other ball club in the Wild Card hunt. If you’re still hanging onto 2016, full team projections for the Angels at FanGraphs can also be found here. They are updated daily, so if this sparks your interest, keep checking back on their site.

Especially since the Angels are still set to make more moves.

MLB Network: American League Teams to Watch In 2017

Harold Reynolds and Matt Vasgersian recently talked on Hot Stove on MLB Network about the most interesting American League teams to watch in 2017 that didn’t make the playoffs in 2016. Guess who Reynolds picked? Not only that, Ken Rosenthal added some insider news on the market for Jered Weaver. Keep in mind, this clip was broadcast before the Luis Valbuena signing, which has yet to be finalized. Enjoy!

Eppler’s Domain: Arbitration, Choi, Wieters

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Angels Make Quick Work Of Arbitration

With some guys being let go, a lot of young faces, and the handful of big contracts, Billy Eppler and his arbitration eligible cases wasted no time getting deals done. Here are the established salaries:

Garrett Richards — $6.85 million

Kole Calhoun — $6.35 million (Super Two)

Matt Shoemaker — $3.325 million

Danny Espinosa — $5.425 million

With this being such a fast endeavor, and a rather cheap group, Eppler can now jump right back into doing what he’s doing all offseason. More moves are likely to come as the Halos’ second year GM has been hogging the phone lines all winter.

 

The Choi Era Is Over

  • Choi was designated for assignment after the signing of Ben Revere in late December. He was signed by the Yankees on Monday.

 

Wieters Is On The Radar

Reports all over the place had the Angels linked to Matt Wieters. Everywhere from MLB Trade Rumors to Jon Heyman to MLB.com rushed to dish this out because they knew it would cause a stir considering the controversy over the club’s ability to contend, and the approach Eppler is taking. No matter the case, it’s worth a shot.

Here’s why.

While there are some who would balk at this, when looking deeper into the numbers, it turns out that the former Orioles backstop has slightly better average WAR value per 650 plate appearances (3.4) as both Carlos Perez (2.4) and Martin Maldonado (2.3).

Last season Wieters was at 1.7 WAR in 124 games, while Maldonado accumulated 0.8 WAR in 76 games, and Perez added 0.6 in 82 games. That’s 1.4 WAR over 158 games. So Wieters has the edge in terms of WAR value. And then you can then take your pick between Maldonado and Perez.

Although Wieters doesn’t feature Molinaesque defense behind the dish, he does possess something the Angels really lacked the last two seasons: power. They added decent pop in Cameron Maybin and a potential 20-25 homeruns in Espinosa. But the addition of Wieters would actually make the Angels’ lineup pretty dangerous all the way through the eighth spot, if you’re batting Andrelton Simmons ninth.

Wieters had a total of 52 Runs Created in 2017, which isn’t spectacular. However, Maldonado and Perez combined for 47 last season. So, again, Wieters has the slight edge in terms of adding runs to his club.

At this point, it’s probably safe to say that Wieters would bring just a bit more value than what the team already has at that spot.

So if the Angels go through with this, perhaps Maldonado or Perez are packaged in a trade as a result? Eppler did say he was making moves to pave the way for bigger transactions.

The ideal scenario would probably be to sign both Wieters and Jason Hammel. With the luxury tax going up to $195 million, Eppler has about $20 million left before the tax after the Revere signing.

Rod Carew Recovering Well After Surgery

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Hall of Famer Rod Carew had successful heart transplant surgery on Friday and is recovering nicely. The 18-time All-Star with the Minnesota Twins and California Angels was 15 months removed from a heart attack, which he suffered near his Southern California home. During that time Carew, 71, was on a surgically implanted left ventricular assist device that was removed before undergoing the 13 hour procedure at Cedar-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. He also received a new kidney to increase his chances of a full recovery. After the surgery, the seven-time batting champion received many well-wishes from the baseball community.

We at LA Angels Insider also wish Rod a full recovery as well!

Angels Swap Bandy for Maldonado and Prospect… And Why…

Angels fans are a little confused by this one. It doesn’t seem to matter on the surface whether the Halos have Jett Bandy or Martin Maldonado. Drew Gagnon is likely a depth stash. But the trade with the Milwaukee Brewers was made on Tuesday. And does require some digging since this is clearly a trade that was made from the analytics side of things.

Before this deal though, who would’ve thought that Bandy could land a veteran and a prospect? Strange. Well, just goes to show how useless top prospect ratings really are. But Angels fans shouldn’t fool themselves into thinking Jett Bandy is suddenly some kind of stud prospect. He’s not.

However, it also shows that the club was auditioning Bandy in 2016 to raise his value knowing the perception around Major League Baseball that their farm system is thin.

Well if that was the case then it worked. Jefry Marte may have also been a piece that General Manager Billy Eppler was using to gain future trade attention. After all, neither of them have a full season’s-worth of service time, yet both put up starter-worthy numbers in roughly half a season each. So this could be a creative strategy Eppler was going for to strengthen the 25-man roster for 2017.

When one looks at the trade closer, they will find that Bandy and Maldonado have pretty much the same peripherals when it comes to WAR, runs created, and even their pitch framing is comparable. Both have caught stealing percentages from 35-40%. Maldonado actually had 5 pickoffs in 2016.

And again, Gagnon is probably trade fodder. Although he is the second Long Beach State product to go to the Angels in the last four days, the other being Danny Espinosa.

Maldonado was also drafted by the Angels in 2004, so there’s mutual familiarity there.

But is there a real difference between Maldonado and Bandy? Well there are two things.

The first thing is that Maldonado doesn’t hit for a particularly sexy batting average. However, his on-base percentage still topped .332 this past season despite only hitting .202. That’s a walk machine. Should his batting average even reach .220, that would push his on-base up around .350! That’s speculation though. His percentages do fluctuate. Regardless, it shows way better on-base ability than Bandy, who managed a higher .234 average, but only a .281 on-base in his rookie season. So that alone gives Maldonado a great advantage at the bottom third of the batting order, as well as a leg-up on Carlos Perez (another free swinger) for the starting catcher job.

The second thing is that Maldonado is way more experienced than Bandy. Let’s be honest here. As mentioned before, Jett Bandy does not have a full season of service time. Maldonado has six years, and is far more proven at and behind the plate. Maldonado developed his plate discipline well. Jett Bandy hasn’t. Both actually have decent pop. Maldonado hits between 5-10 homers in around 70-80 games a season. His only glaring weakness is balls in play falling on the ground. But he offsets that with a ton of walks, which still helps the bottom third of the order. Bandy chases.

No matter the case, one should always go for the veteran catcher with better defense, but in addition can top .300 with his on-base percentage in the bottom third of any starting lineup.

Basically, Martin Maldonado is Chris Iannetta with good defense. Enough said.

And again, Drew Gagnon is minor league pitching depth with maybe a couple of outings in September.

Hope this helps.

Angels Acquire Danny Espinosa

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VIERA, FL – MARCH 01: Danny Espinosa #8 of the Washington Nationals poses for a portrait during photo day at Space Coast Stadium on March 1, 2015 in Viera, Florida. (Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images)

The Angels Are Dirty Dogs This Offseason!

Billy Eppler is turning into an opportunist. You could say that he has gotten away with paying less for the position players he’s acquired this offseason than he would normally have. Cameron Maybin was on the verge of being an outcast on a Detroit Tigers team that was looking to strip it down and go younger. So Billy swooped in and grabbed the outfielder for a hit-or-miss pitching prospect that may just be a typical journeyman reliever at best. Then, over the weekend this happened…

This is probably another underpay. Some could argue it isn’t. But when looking at the peripheral numbers of all pieces involved, this was almost a steal. But we must also factor in the clubhouse situation going on when new Angels second baseman Danny Espinosa complained about playing time and skipped the Washington Nationals Winterfest in protest of the team favoring Trea Turner at shortstop after the latter was pushed to the position from centerfield after the acquisition of Adam Eaton.

Danny has a gripe. But maybe it didn’t have to go that far. Because one year ago (to the day) the Halos grabbed another surplus infielder from the Nationals in Yunel Escobar. You could say Eppler underpaid on that one since Escobar was coming off his best offensive season, and repeated that in 2016. Escobar was without a starting spot because of infield depth, and Washington dealt him here.

That could’ve just been the situation with Espinosa without any other issues, which have also been downplayed by the Nationals’ front office. But it is what it is, and Danny is now an Angel.

The club has finally filled the gaping hole at second base. And with a player who possesses a stellar glove, although not spectacular like his up-the-middle counterpart Andrelton Simmons. Either way, the Halos now have one of the best defensive middle infields. Not only that, add Mike Trout in center, as well as the emerging Jett Bandy at catcher, combining his defense with Carlos Perez. The team is rock solid up-the-middle defensively, and on paper have better offense up-the-middle than most teams.

 

A Closer Look At The Numbers

In breaking down Espinosa’s offense, the low batting average does stand out. He’s one of those players that doesn’t seem to have a lot of batted balls ‘fall where they aint’. BABIP was not his friend in 2016. At .261 — the league average being .300 — luck was the main issue, as it always is when breaking down balls in play. This factored a lot into his .209 overall batting average.

His on-base percentage, however, was still .309. That’s low-end Erick Aybar territory. He can also steal some bases, like his fellow switch-hitter could. But what Aybar did not have was plenty of walking ability, and power! Espinosa hit 24 homeruns this past season, and drew a healthy 54 walks in 157 games, the most he’s played since 2012.

When looking into more advanced statistics, WAR had Espinosa at 1.7, which paints his value as a typical second baseman overall. That’s all the Angels really needed, as their offense was not the problem to begin with. But it’s always good to add on any way.

As for Runs Created, Espinosa posted 65, which is a little more than the 57 by Maybin. But Maybin played in only 94 games. Regardless, Espinosa, in addition to Maybin, solidifies a starting lineup to a that scored 717 runs and had 720 Runs Created — the stat is not 100% accurate and one has to give or take a few runs. Not saying they will have the best offense in the Majors as they did in 2014. But if all goes well, the Angels have a formidable lineup that can, as this past year’s lineup was returning to, the highly productive offense they had from 2012 through 2014.

As for the prospects given up by the Halos, nothing to see here! I’m not even going to get into their numbers because they could easily be replaced by minor league journeymen. That’s not to say one or both could figure something out and turn into a Brendan Donnelly or a Matt Shoemaker. But those are rare cases. The Angels got away with this one, as with the Maybin deal.

 

Angels’ projected starting lineup:

Yunel Escobar 3B

Kole Calhoun RF

Mike Trout CF

Albert Pujols 1B/DH

C.J. Cron 1B/DH

Danny Espinosa 2B

Andrelton Simmons SS

Cameron Maybin LF

Jett Bandy/Carlos Perez C

 

What’s Next This Offseason?

This trade is another example of how a team can jump on a player surplus at a position or an overall area of a team’s game and use leverage to grab said player without giving up a whole lot. Because on one hand, the Nationals aren’t desperate, and they have enough pitching depth already. This was a case of ‘take him’. And the Angels scored.

What’s interesting as well is the fact that the club hasen’t really begun to pluck away at the free agent market outside of Jessie Chavez. They’re still eyeing a fourth outfielder, and perhaps another starting pitcher, and a couple relievers. That will all likely come off that market between now and the end of January. And things are slowly looking better for an Angels club that is working towards bouncing back into contention in 2017.

 

And after this move, FanGraphs already has the Angels slated as the fourth best team in the American League with an 85-77 record and the first Wild Card spot! Still have to play the season out, but just goes to show how quickly things can turn around for a high market ball club.

Eppler’s Domain: Winter Meetings, Rule 5, Luxury Tax

 

The Angels went into this week’s Winter Meetings with a plan for adding depth at second base, a fourth outfielder, and pitching. Catcher was also a position that was up in the air. General Manager Billy Eppler dove into conversations with opposing GM’s, laying the groundwork for several moves.

No official deals were made, but that’s in part because he wasn’t going after the big blockbuster transactions. He was looking for depth, which is often acquired in January.

Eppler also stated that he’s looking into making moves that would not only add depth, but enough to have a possible overload at one position, thus leading to bigger moves. It’s a fun strategy where a team can upgrade using Major League pieces of they don’t have three or four prospects to make the big deal. Eppler appears to be getting very creative in his approach this offseason.

The only question now is when these moves will be made.

 

More From The GM’s Office

  • The Padres are deep at second base, and the Angels have been calling. There’s a couple of real intriguing options here, with a couple of meh players that would only help a Major League bench or AAA roster. It’s worth taking a closer look at and comparing what the club would be getting. So here they are…
  • Yangervis Solarte is the most established player of the three. He had a productive 2016 season, slashing .286/.341/.467 with 15 homers and a 116 OPS+. Although the youngster was a third baseman, he does have experience at second base. Some have been worried about his defense, but there’s nothing in his stat sheet to indicate that he’d be terrible on the field. Halos also need more power, and having that at both the number four position in the infield — as well as the bottom half of the batting order — would be a major boost. Especially because Solarte is a switch-hitter, and those numbers came from Petco, which is a less hitter-friendly park than even the Big A…
  • Ryan Schimpf is quite the mystery here. He batted just .217 this past season. But at the same time he slugged an enormous .533 against that average because of 20 homers in just 330 plate appearances, factoring into a 1.8 WAR in half a season. He also bats left and is steady with the glove.
  • Cory Spangenberg is another lefty second baseman with the most experience, but not a particularly flashy track record. 2015 was the only season with a large sample size, where he slashed .271/.333/.399 with no power or speed. Not real excited about this one.
  • Carlos Asuaje was at Triple-A El Paso most of the year, and batting .321/.378/.473 and made his debut with the Friars. Hit left as well, but pass.

 

  •  Wong isn’t a player the Angels should really go after. But it was good of Eppler to at least perform some due diligence in his search for a second baseman. The Cardinals do have the position filled pretty well already with Jedd Gyorko, but they could use the depth themselves.

 

  • This makes sense for the reasons listed, but not so much as an everyday, 150 game option the the position. What I can see Eppler doing is signing Chase, and still acquiring one of those young guys like Solarte from the Padres and turn Utley into an insurance policy. He’s going to run out of gas some time soon, and it would be wise to make that additional deal… IF this even happens.

 

  • The Twins were the team the Angels traded Justin Haley. Turns out that the original announcement had Haley going to the Padres, but the Friars also landed the first overall Rule 5 pick Miguel Diaz from the Twins, so it turned into sort of a three-team deal.
  • As for Angels players plucked away in the draft, the Angels lost some minor leaguers of their own. Said players were right-hander Anthony Bamboo (Rockies), right-hander Harrison Cooney (Red Sox), outfielder Cal Towey (Marlins), and second baseman Alex Yarbrough (Marlins).
  • So much for no one wanting Halos prospects. Seems they do. Just not for a Chris Sale. Although there have been Angels prospects recently with better numbers than high-rated prospects. Or vastly over-valued prospects, like in the recent Jose Quintana proposal from the Astros. But that’s another story for a later time.

  • Just to give an idea of what kind of fourth outfielder and pitching the Angels are looking for, it’s strictly depth options they want to stockpile. Eppler and his staff want to make sure they’ve got things covered should more injuries and aggravating previous injuries occur.
  • Coco Crisp was in the World Series with the Indians and hit .333 after an okay season where he hit .231/.302/.397 with 13 homeruns and 10 stolen bases. The club is looking at Cameron Maybin as their everyday left fielder but Crisp would provide a good insurance policy, and would definitely add some pop and the speed the team needs to continue returning to.
  • Bud Norris would serve as a back-end of the rotation and multi-innings relief option, along with Jessie Chavez. The point being that the Halos still have health questions atop their rotation, so some arms will be needed for mop-up duty if needed. It’s a good strategy to bridge the gap between rotation and closing. Just needs to happen.

 

One Last Thing…

  • That $195 at the beginning of the CBA starts in 2017. What that means is the Angels (in theory) have an additional $6 million dollars to play with this offseason. That could be a good reliever, or perhaps even just a cushion to offset raises in arbitration. And with it going up every year for five years, that gives the Halos more breathing room, especially with the amount of money coming off the books.

Angels Insiders: Pujols’ Surgery, Escobar, Simmons

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This is the fourth surgery Albert has undergone in his five years with the Angels. Yet only one has resulted in significant time missed during any of those seasons. That was in 2013, when his plantar fasciitis finally caught up to him, and the tendon in his left foot tore during a game in Oakland. This time, he’s had the procedure done on his right foot so he will be pain free when running again.

Pujols had shock wave therapy on his foot early in the offseason, thinking he wouldn’t need surgery. That turned out to be false. Some have even argued that he should’ve just had the surgery instead of waiting. But, as with Garrett Richards, if one can seek an alternative method, and make it a success, thus avoiding said surgery, then by all means. Many of us would do the same.

But had he completed the therapy, and still needed the procedure, Albert would’ve missed the entire first half of 2017. So as Pujols’ pain worsened despite the treatment, the decision was made to avoid that possibility.

Things being as they are, the recovery timetable is four months. Whether that includes Spring Training is up in the air. As of right now, he’d be back some time in April. But that was the story last season when he had a small surgery done on his toe. Knowing Albert, he’ll probably be ready to go. And he may be more mobile than he was when he was running the bases feeling needles were sticking up from the ground.

 

More From Around The Big A

  • Does that answer everyone’s question. This has been a topic of discussion and debate for over a year now. Infielders often are listed at multiple positions but that does not mean they can play every spot on the diamond. Yunel Escobar cannot and will not play second base. He’s tried it before and it just did not click with him. He’s a shortstop by trade, moving to third base because the Washington Nationals had a shortstop and needed a reliable third baseman. And that’s about the limit of his versatility. And he’s staying at the hot corner with the Angels as long as a guy named Andrelton is manning the area between second and third base. Moving on now…

  • If one is wondering why Simmons is representing the Netherlands, he grew up in Curacao, which is an island off the coast of Venezuela, and is right next to Aruba. This territory is actually part of the Dutch Antilles region of the Caribbean. Several areas within the Caribbean became European settlements hundreds of years ago. And in Curacao, the Netherlands still has a strong presence.

Eppler’s Domain: CBA, Luxury Tax, Winter Meetings, Moves

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That dreaded time has come where Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Union must hash out the details of their collective bargaining agreement before the deadline to avoid a lockout. And the reports have been back-and-forth over whether to not the two sides will reach an agreement.

One of the issues on the table is a possible International Draft, which has caused controversy over the possible threat of diluting opportunities created by the current amateur draft. Another that will likely take some time to figure out is one the Angels are monitoring: the luxury tax.

After just falling under the $189 million dollar threshold in 2016, the Halos are trying to spend wisely on smaller depth moves, something they’ve been doing for the fourth straight offseason. Yes, it’s been that long since the club signed or traded for a big name with a big contract.

However, Arte Moreno, Billy Eppler, and the Angels’ front office might get more to spend if the new CBA features a tax that could reach up to $210 million. But that may come in increments from season-to-season, starting next year. Still, it creates more breathing room.

Rosters are expected to expand to 26. The game schedule should remain at 162 games, with more off-days. September call-ups are sure to be more restricted.

Biggest of all, draft pick compensation might get a major adjustment by eliminating it from the qualifying offer and making it the penalty exceeding the luxury tax.

Then, there’s the possibility of a lock-out. And this means a work stoppage. Hopefully this won’t happen after revenue is expected to exceed $10 billion, and the greatest World Series ratings in 25 years. The first thing that will go is the Winter Meetings in Washington D.C.

This is where the Angels are planning on looking for a second baseman. There are plenty of affordable options on the trade market, such Brian Dozier, Cesar Hernandez, Derek Dietrich, and Josh Harrison. The Halos do have the pieces to get most of these guys. And the CBA is the only thing standing in the way of the Angels pursuing that second baseman next month.

 

More From The GM’s Office

  • Relavant to negotiations, this kid will likely see a higher salary than what he signed for, and will have a shot at being the fourth outfielder for the Angels. LaMarre, 28, spent 2015 with the Reds, and 2016 with the Red Sox, where the outfielder had his best season at Triple-A Pawtucket, batting .303/.369/.445 over 358 plate appearances. He hasn’t done much at the Major League level. His entire career slash line is below .100, but in only 32 plate appearances. More than likely, the outfielder will sit at Triple-A Salt Lake in case of an emergency. This is also likely another fixer-upper the Angels can develop as they try to add pieces to their farm system.
  • After helping the Angels in times of trouble, Gregorio Petit was designated for assignment to correspond with the LaMarre signing. It wasn’t a very good season, but his .245 / .299 / .353 line held the fort when the club was looking for bench depth. Keep in mind, he was hitting around .270-.280 for much of the season until slumping in September.

  • Graterol didn’t have much of a chance to contribute considering the Angels are going after a veteran catcher, with Carlos Perez as the sure backup. The young backstop only played 12 games and hit .286 / .286 / .429. But he has a .270 / .320 / .335 career slash in eleven seasons in the minors. He’s clearly a minor league journeyman serving as the emergency catcher option. The Angels are wise to move on from this. The next one will come and go as well.
  • Also, pitcher Blake Parker was claimed by the Brewers after being DFA’d as well.
  • By the way, Guerrer is Vlady’s nephew.

  • Sean Rodriguez was the guy Fletch was talking about. Before signing a multi-year contract with the Atlanta Braves, the Angels did have discussions about signing the utility infielder. But the need is more for a lefty bat, and Sean is a righty. That’s all we have on that one.

Hopefully the new CBA will arrive and the Angels will get their second baseman at the Winter Meetings. But until then, we wait like everyone else.

Mike Trout 2016 Video Clips

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mike_trout_amazing_catch_wallpaper_by_nathanhankinson-d5d03y3

 

Now that Mike Trout has won his second MVP, here are some videos for fans to enjoy!

 

 

 

 

More clips will be added as they become available.

 

Mike Trout Wins AL MVP

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mike-trout

The Angels have their first player ever to win multiple MVP’s. Mike Trout took home the award for the second time in three seasons after posting one of his best seasons despite his team not making the playoffs. And that was the big debate leading up to the final voting. It was put to rest, however, as Trout’s .315 / .441 / .550 slash line, to go with 29 home runs, 30 stolen bases, great base running and defense, a 171 wRC, 174 OPS+, and 10.6 WAR was the most productive turnout in all of baseball.

Mike is now the the second player in Major League history to finish top-two in the MVP voting in five consecutive seasons. The first was Barry Bonds. And Trout is the first player in history to reach runner-up or better in the first five years of his career. He’s also the youngest player in history to win two MVP’s by the age of 25.

Unlike 2014 (Trout’s first MVP) this was not a unanimous vote, as the young superstar got 19 of 30 first-place votes. Mookie Betts and David Ortiz of the Red Sox, and Adrian Beltre of the Rangers got their share of top votes as well. But it was clearly Trout’s award to win.

Especially considering the Angels were 74-88 on the season. It didn’t matter this time. Perhaps Mike Trout is the poster boy for a transition to a new level of thinking about the MVP award.

Either way, congratulations Mike!

Angels Sign Jesse Chavez

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Pitching is on the menu this winter, and the Angels need to stuff their faces with it. They began this week by re-signing Andrew Bailey to a one-year contract, and now they’ve inked former nemesis, right-hander Jessie Chavez.

With the A’s and Dodgers last season, Jessie logged a 4.43 ERA, a 4.49 FIP, and a 1.328 WHIP in 67 innings, all out of the bullpen.

For his career, the career swing man has a career 4.54 ERA, with a 4.25 FIP, and a 1.383 WHIP in nine seasons in the Bigs.

This is not a flashy move, just merely a way of bridging the gap between the starting rotation and the bullpen. Basically filling the Jhoulys Chacin role that every team should have. Chavez can start, and he can come out of the bullpen to clean the mess left by a struggling starter.

For $5.25 million, and $3 million in incentives, that’s not a bad move. It’s not great either. But the Angels need innings more than anything.

 

More From the GM’s Office

  • Looks like Ortega’s cup of coffee with the Angels may just be brief after all. Unless he accepts his assignment, the speedy utility outfielder will continue his career as a journeyman. His .232 / .283 / .292 slash line made it pretty easy to decide who was next to go off the 40-man roster. That and the need for veteran arms on the staff.

  • Your guess is as good as our’s. It wasn’t a high profile second baseman. It was just someone another team was pawning off on the Angels. Billy Eppler stresses run prevention, and the Halos also need better defense than in 2016. So the front office is prioritizing at least a league average hitter with a good glove in that spot.
  • Howie Kendrick was also dealt to the Phillies on Friday, so that could pave the way for the Angels to get serious about a trade for Cesar Hernandez. The question is whether or not there’s a match. Regardless, the club will continue their pursuit of a second baseman, likely through the trade market.

  • Just in case anyone was wondering. This means that under the current CBA, the Angels have $26 million left before the luxury tax. But as mentioned above, it could go up, and that would give the Halos more to spend. We’ll see what happens.

Eppler’s Domain: MLBTR Offseason Outlook, Baldoquin, Top Prospects

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The 2016 season was over for the Angels a long time ago. With a 74-88 campaign due to major pitching injuries that will linger into 2017, numerous additional questions loom for the Halos. Although Garrett Richards is returning, and Huston Street is expected to be ready, there is much concern over the club’s pitching depth, as well as holes at second base and left field. MLB Trade Rumors recently took a look at the team’s situation and gave a full detailed analysis of their needs, as well as what the front office can possibly do to bounce back next season. And the cornerstone of any return to contention of course is the young man in the thumbnail below…

 

More From The GM’s Office

  • In the wake of two disappointing seasons from prospect Roberto Baldoquin, the Angels are still hoping the 22-year-old infielder can get it together. After signing an $8 million dollar bonus that nearly doubled due to penalties, and restricted the organization’s international spending, the young Cuban has been plagued by injuries that have slowed his development to being being stuck at High-A ball with a .219 /.269 /.267 career slash line. Conditioning may also be a factor; however, the club’s endorsement of Baldoquin centers around the fact that he works hard on and off the field, which is buying him more time to get back not track.
  • The Angels have had their farm system ranked at or near the bottom for a few years now. That might change very soon, however, as some of their newer prospcts had good seasons to start their professional careers. The Halos recently named top prospects Matt Thaiss (No. 1) and Jaime Barria (No. 7) as their Top Prospects of the Year.
    • Thaiss was the farm system’s position player of the year, hitting .338 /.394/ .569 with 10 extra-base hits over 15 games with the Rookie Ball Orem Owlz, and slashing .276/.351/.427 with 19 extra-base hits in 52 games at Class A Burlington. The recently converted first baseman (from catcher) is already getting noticed, and could rise the ranks quickly.
    • Barria was the organization’s pitching prospect of the year. At Class A Burlington, the young hurler was 8-6 with a 3.85 ERA, and career high 117 innings in 25 starts.
  • The Halos sent a list of prospects to the Arizona Fall League, where a couple of them are putting up good numbers. One of them includes a 2015 first round catcher who was doubted by some. These are the following players are participating in the AFL:
    • David Fletcher, SS/2B: .174 / .269 / .435 w/ 1 HR in 6 G
    • Michael Hermosillo, OF: .267 / .353 / .400 in 8 G
    • Taylor Ward, C: .280 / .308 / .400 in 9 G
    • Victor Alcantara, RHP: 0-1 / 10.80 ERA / 5 IP
    • Adam Hofacket, RHP: 0-1 / 5.79 ERA / 4 2/3 IP
    • Grayson Long, RHP: 0-1 / 6.75 ERA / 9 1/3 IP
    • Eduardo Paredes, RHP: 0-1 / 5.40 ERA / 5 IP
  • Looking ahead to the 2017 MLB Draft, there are a couple of Orange County pitching prospects who were on the Ocean View Little League team that won the 2011 Little League World Series. They are Hagen Danner and Logan Pouelsen. I covered these two in 2010 and 2011 up to the Little League Western Regionals. Both are committed to UCLA, but may go into the draft, and early. Keep an eye on those two names going into next June.

What The Angels Can Do With The Free Agent Market

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The Angels announced that their new General Manager Billy Eppler. The announcement was made at a news conference at Angel Stadium. ///ADDITIONAL INFORMATION: angels.newgm.1006 Ð 10/5/15 Ð LEONARD ORTIZ, ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER - _LOR3836.NEF - New Angels GM Billy Eppler, the 12th GM in team history, will take part in a press conference from Angel Stadium at 1 p.m. PT on Monday, alongside Moreno, Scioscia and president John Carpino.

1006 Ð 10/5/15 Ð LEONARD ORTIZ, ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER – _LOR3836.NEF – New Angels GM Billy Eppler, the 12th GM in team history.

The big question is whether or not the Angels will contend in 2017. Some say no. Some say they can if the club regroups. The argument usually arrives at the weak free agent market this offseason. Both sides have a legitimate case. On one hand, with a thin farm system, the Halos should rebuild and punt 2017 down the field. On the other hand, money is falling off the books and that gives GM Billy Eppler a chance to stock up on affordable options to fill holes while continuing to develop the team’s young players. Eppler already announced that focusing on a full rebuild was ‘out of the cards’. But what is really out there this winter?

How about we start with the actual free agent list as seen at MLB Trade Rumors?

Players in bold are Angels players (current or traded) that will be free agents.

Catcher

Alex Avila (30)
Drew Butera (34)
Jason Castro (30)
A.J. Ellis (36)
Ryan Hanigan (36) — $3.75MM club option; $800K buyout
Nick Hundley (33)
Chris Iannetta (34) — $4.25MM club option
Jonathan Lucroy (31) — $5.25MM club option; $25K buyout
Jeff Mathis (34)
Dioner Navarro (33)
A.J. Pierzynski (40)
Wilson Ramos (29)
Carlos Ruiz (38) — $4.5MM club option; $500K buyout
Jarrod Saltalamacchia (32)
Geovany Soto (34)
Kurt Suzuki (33)
Matt Wieters (31)

First Base

Edwin Encarnacion (34)
Ryan Howard (37) — $23MM club option; $10MM buyout
Chris Johnson (32)
Adam Lind (33)
James Loney (33)
Mitch Moreland (31)
Logan Morrison (29)
Brandon Moss (33)
Mike Napoli (35)
Steve Pearce (34)
Sean Rodriguez (32)
Carlos Santana (31) — $12MM club option; $1.2MM buyout
Eric Thames (30)

Second Base

Gordon Beckham (30)
Chris Coghlan (32)
Daniel Descalso (30)
Stephen Drew (34)
Kelly Johnson (35)
Steve Pearce (34)
Chase Utley (38)
Neil Walker (31)

Third Base

Yunel Escobar (34) — $7MM club option; $1MM buyout
Aaron Hill (35)
Martin Prado (33)
Ruben Tejada (27)
Justin Turner (32)
Luis Valbuena (31)

Shortstop

Erick Aybar (33)
Alcides Escobar (30)  – $6.5MM club option; $500K buyout
Alexei Ramirez (35) — $4MM mutual option; $1MM buyout

Left Field

Gregor Blanco (33)
Yoenis Cespedes (31) — opt out of current contract pending
Chris Coghlan (32)
Coco Crisp (37) — $13MM vesting/club option; $750K buyout
Rajai Davis (35)
Alejandro De Aza (33)
Ian Desmond (31)
Matt Holliday (37) — $17MM club option; $1MM buyout
Craig Gentry (33)
Brandon Moss (33)
Daniel Nava (34)
Angel Pagan (35)
Ryan Raburn (36)
Colby Rasmus (30)
Michael Saunders (30)
Eric Thames (30)

Center Field

Michael Bourn (34)
Yoenis Cespedes (31) — opt out of current contract pending
Coco Crisp (37) — $13MM club option; $750K buyout
Rajai Davis (35)
Ian Desmond (31)
Dexter Fowler (31) — $9MM mutual option; $5MM buyout
Carlos Gomez (31)
Austin Jackson (30)
Jon Jay (32)
Cameron Maybin (30) — $9MM club option; $1MM buyout
Drew Stubbs (32)

Right Field

Gregor Blanco (33)
Peter Bourjos (30)
Jose Bautista (36)
Carlos Beltran (39)
Jay Bruce (30) — $13MM club option; $1MM buyout
Franklin Gutierrez (34)
Matt Joyce (32)
Daniel Nava (34)
Josh Reddick (30)
Seth Smith (34) — $7MM club option; $250K buyout
Ichiro Suzuki (43) – $2MM club option
Mark Trumbo (31)

Designated Hitter

Pedro Alvarez (30)
Carlos Beltran (39)
Edwin Encarnacion (34)
Ryan Howard (37) — $23MM club option; $10MM buyout
Adam Lind (33)
Kendrys Morales (34) — $11MM mutual option; $1.5MM buyout
Brandon Moss (33)
Carlos Santana (31) — $12MM club option; $1.2MM buyout
Mark Trumbo (31)

Starting Pitcher

Brett Anderson (29)
Clay Buchholz (32) — $13.5MM club option; $500K buyout
Andrew Cashner (30)
Jhoulys Chacin (29)
Bartolo Colon (43)
Jorge De La Rosa (36)
R.A. Dickey (42)
Doug Fister (33)
Jaime Garcia (30) — $12MM club option; $500K buyout
Gio Gonzalez (31) — $12MM club option; $500K buyout
Jason Hammel (34) — $10MM club option; $2MM buyout
Jeremy Hellickson (30)
Rich Hill (37)
Derek Holland (30) — $11MM club option; $1MM buyout
Scott Kazmir (33) — opt out of current contract pending
Mat Latos (29)
Colby Lewis (37)
Kris Medlen (31) — $10MM mutual option; $1MM buyout
Charlie Morton (33) — $9.5MM mutual option; $1MM buyout
Jon Niese (30) — $10MM club option; $500K buyout
Ivan Nova (30)
Jake Peavy (36)
CC Sabathia (36) — $25MM vesting option; $5MM buyout
James Shields (35) — opt out of current contract pending
Alfredo Simon (36)
Edinson Volquez (33) — $10MM mutual option; $3MM buyout
Jered Weaver (34)
C.J. Wilson (36)

Right-Handed Reliever (Italics denote active closers)

Matt Albers (34) — $3MM club option; $250K buyout
Matt Belisle (37)
Joaquin Benoit (39)
Joe Blanton (36)
Blaine Boyer (35)
Santiago Casilla (36)
Joba Chamberlain (31)
Jesse Chavez (33)
Josh Collmenter (31) — $2.25MM mutual option; $150K buyout
Wade Davis (31) — $10MM club option; $2.5MM buyout
Scott Feldman (34)
Neftali Feliz (29)
Jason Grilli (40) — $3MM club option; $250K buyout
David Hernandez (32)
Luke Hochevar (33) — $7MM mutual option; $500K buyout
Greg Holland (31)
Daniel Hudson (30)
Tommy Hunter (30)
Edwin Jackson (33)
Kenley Jansen (29)
Kevin Jepsen (32)
Mark Melancon (32)
Pat Neshek (36) — $6.5MM club option; $500K buyout
Ross Ohlendorf (34)
Jonathan Papelbon (36)
Yusmeiro Petit (32) — $3MM club option; $500K buyout
Fernando Rodney (40) — floating $2MM+ club option; $400K buyout
Sergio Romo (34)
Fernando Salas (32)
Joe Smith (33)
Drew Storen (29)
Junichi Tazawa (31)
Carlos Torres (34)
Koji Uehara (42)
Ryan Vogelsong (39)
Jordan Walden (29) — $5.25MM club option; $250K buyout
Ryan Webb (31)
Brad Ziegler (37)

Left-Handed Reliever (Italics denote active closers)

Brett Cecil (30)
Aroldis Chapman (29)
Mike Dunn (32)
Boone Logan (32)
Javier Lopez (39)
Eric O’Flaherty (32)
Marc Rzepczynski (31)
Matt Thornton (40)
Travis Wood (30)

What Can The Angels Do With This Market?

It’s not a great market by any stretch, but it is a market that can afford any club a great deal of depth. Especially those with money to spend but are not in the running for a star with a huge contract. That’s pretty much where the Angels will be, and for the fourth straight offseason. Arte Moreno has taken a step back and has allowed his GM’s to make depth moves after striking big in the 2012 and 2013 offseasons by signing Albert Pujols, CJ Wilson, and Josh Hamilton. Since then, the Halos have basically been plugging holes to deepen their roster. So what can Billy Eppler do with this market?

Let’s go by each position and see what might fit.

Catcher

This is an interesting one because of the fact that the Angels already have a formidable young duo in the making between Jett Bandy and Carlos Perez. Bandy is the better hitter, with power. And with Geovany Soto dealing with knee issues, Jett has come out of nowhere to give the club something to look forward to behind the dish.

Bandy and Perez are also very good defenders. Having a catching tandem where both catchers are good defensively has not happened since the Molina Brothers graced Angels fans with their presence.

So, for now, this one will have to be an up-in-the-air scenario. But just to throw it out there: Donnier Navarro. And if you don’t mind a little less defense but with a power bat: Matt Wieters.

Other than that, the club will probably stick with Bandy/Perez.

Second Base

Long term solutions here are scarce. But the Angels don’t really need that as much as they just need depth and a variety of options. Most middle infields end up as a committee any ways. Andrelton Simmons has shortstop locked down for a while, so the focus up the middle will be on second base.

As far as the long run, I say Neil Walker. He may be a bit expensive. But he’s a left-handed bat that can hit for pretty good percentages with pop that pushes his homerun totals into the mid teens. I love players like that. They balance out your offense, and Walker can certainly do that. Asdrubal Cabrera was a guy I really wanted the Angels to get last offseason. Walker is a comparable commodity.

For the short-term, I’d go with Steve Pearce or Kelly Johnson. These are also multi-position players that can build the club’s diversity. However, the Halos could also go in-house with Gregorio Petit. Although that would still require Cliff Pennington to round out the playing time, as Petit is probably not going to give the Angels 150 games of decent production at second base.

So I’d definitely look for the Walkers, the Pearce’s, and perhaps the Johnsons to plug this area. But there is still one other interesting option that’s been talked about for almost a year now…

Third Base

Yunel Escobar is giving the Angels ample production for the type of player he is, and for only $7 million. He has a similar club option that will likely be picked up. Then the question returns: Do the Angels get a new second baseman, or do they get another third baseman and move Escobar to second base?

This is not a bad idea. Even though Escobar has never played second base in the Big Leagues, he’s a good enough athlete to make the transition, and it would definitely shorten the range and throwing distance required of him that he’s botched at times during the season. There was a time when Escobar was actually a very valuable defender. But that has regressed, especially with him moving to third base.

So what options are there on the market? Well, a few, quite surprisingly. David Freese was there but he got extended by the Pirates. But then there’s under-the-radar options in the form of Aaron Hill and Martin Prado. Both players are having fine seasons for their respective ball clubs in 2016, especially Prado. Better yet, both these guys are listed as multi-position players at second base, third base, and outfield. They’re in the third base column because that’s where they’ve spent the majority of their playing time.

I say sign one, or both! Heck, you could even get one of them to play third base, and get Neil Walker to play second base, and then use Escobar in a trade for an affordable starting pitcher. That’s an idea.

Either way, Hill and Prado are guys that would provide the Angels with much diversity, and even a backup emergency option at our next position…

Left Field

Michael Saunders. That’s the way to go. The Angels could close the door on what would’ve been one of the better trades in recent club history, but fell through because of a health issue with a Red Sox prospect in that three team deal with the Blue Jays. This is the guy. He’ll be affordable, and he’s a lefty. Enough said. Moving on to…

Starting Pitcher

This is where it really gets dicey. Taking care of our ‘Around the Big A’ section of the article right here, Garrett Richards has been throwing off a mound and is progressing better than anyone would’ve thought. The likelihood of Tommy John Surgery is still floating in the air. But as of right now, Richards is on track to be ready for the 2017 season.

That being said, the rotation looks like Richards, Matt Shoemaker, Tyler Skaggs, Ricky Nolasco. The fifth spot has internal options, such as newcomer Alex Meyer, long reliever Jhoulys Chacin, and prospect Nate Smith. So there is still some depth there.

But is it enough to make make one feel secure?

Well it probably never will be in this game. But for good measure, I say go out and get Doug Fister. Get those innings. The four the Halos have slated for next season can give a lot of innings. And that’s all they need in a culture where bullpen is king. Eppler could even go out and get Jeremy Hellickson. Heck, if Richards doesn’t come back, those are probably your two guys. Gio Gonzalez is another. Go after them all. Who knows if Shoe will ever be the same after his scary incident?

Just get as many innings as possible, because Eppler will probably have to put the majority of his focus on the next area…

Bullpen

This is actually the strongest area of the free agent list, and just happens to be the most important area of need regardless of what comes out of (or doesn’t come out of) the Angels’ starting rotation. Even if Richards doesn’t return, and the Angels are still stuck with three pitchers with Tommy John Surgery, Eppler could still conduct a massive invasion of what is actually a rich reliever market.

Huston Street will return as the closer, and if healthy he will be just fine there. But what if he isn’t? I think the Halos should at least make an offer to Wade Davis if the Royals don’t exercise his option. They should definitely take a flyer on Mark Melancon as well. Then, there’s Kenley Jansen.

And the elephant in the room is the 100 MPH lefty that some are very hesitant to even consider as an option for the Angels. I’ll leave this one alone.

Any ways, Eppler could easily swoop in and make himself a scary bullpen. But will any of these guys be willing to be in a set-up role? Or a closer by committee? Or will the Angels trade Street? Interesting scenario.

The team could also use another lefty like Brett Cecil. It’s hard to expect guys like Cory Rasmus and Mike Morin to just be handed their jobs back after dealing with so many injuries and control problems on the mound. You also have an up-and-coming Cam Bedrosian who will be in the middle of all of this. In any case, this is a situation that should be handled with the most care this offseason.

Even if the Angels don’t get all they need to fill holes offensively, or even in their rotation, the bullpen will make or break the Angels’ 2017 season. Because even with all of the injuries to their rotation this season, the losses of Smith and Street are probably the biggest blow. Because there are a lot of contenders and would-be contenders out there with all kinds of starting pitching problems, more than I’ve ever seen actually. And most of the teams holding playoff spots, or close to that, are surviving on their bullpens.

The Angels are in last place mainly because their bullpen fell apart in addition to their starting rotation.

So Will It Be Enough?

If the Angels can get the pieces they need to fill holes on their roster, and add depth, then yes. Up to $50 million dollars in average annual value will be falling off the books this offseason. Arbitration will eat into that, so let’s say $35 to $40 million. That’s still a lot. And the club can easily plug holes. I think they should do it regardless of whether or not the team bounces back and contends next season. Because the Angels have one thing that about 20 to 25 other MLB teams don’t have: the ability to just go into the market and try to build a contender while rebuilding and developing their farm system at the same time. That’s the key. The Angels are a high market franchise. So they can do whatever they want. And they likely will this winter. Will they contend in 2017? We won’t know until it happens. Teams rise and fall every year in this game. Ball clubs contend sooner and even later than expected all the time. With the kinds of resources the Angels have, it’s objectively and truly a big “I don’t know”.