L.A. Angels Insider 2015-2016 Offseason Tracker: Murphy, Freese, DeJesus, Molina

David Murphy of the Los Angeles Angels. Courtesy of the LA Times
David Murphy of the Los Angeles Angels. Courtesy of the LA Times.

Welcome to the LA Angels Insider Offseason Tracker! The five-day window to negotiate with Angels players will be eligible for free agency has begun! Wonder if they will work something out with David Freese. Do they need another starting pitcher? How much bullpen help do they need? Is Carlos Perez ready to be the new every day catcher? There are needs in left field, third base, and catcher that definitely need to be addressed. How much pitching they need is up in the air. But we’ll find out soon enough.

Friday, November 6
  • The Angels did not offer third baseman David Freese a qualifying offer on Friday. This was no surprise, given that Freese is mainly a solid average-to-above average player at the hot corner, although he deepened the bottom of the Halos’ batting order when healthy. There is every possibility Freese will re-sign, but he has enough value to test the free agent market and receive significant offers. The one problem the Halos are facing is that if Freese walks, there is a very, very thin third base market out there. As of right now, unless Billy Eppler pulls a rabbit out and acquires an Evan Longoria-type, the best option is to bring Freese back.
  • David DeJesus had his $5 million dollar option declined by the Angels. This is no surprise either. And I don’t think I really need to go into detail about this one.
  • Former Angels catcher Jose Molina was hired by the organization as catching coordinator. Jose was the Halos backup catcher to his brother Bengie from 2001-2007. Molina will instruct the Angels’ minor league catchers, aiding in the club’s quest to improve it’s system. The Angels have to had the same high-quality catching tandem since the Molina Brothers. But young backstop Carlos Perez is showing similar promise. Molina will be a source of elite instruction for Angels catchers.
Wednesday, November 4
  • David Murphy’s $7 million dollar option was declined, and will instead pay the left-handed hitting outfielder a $500k buyout. The Angels acquired Murphy on July 28 from the Cleveland Indians for minor-league infielder Eric Stamens. In 48 games for the Angels, Murphy slashed .265/.281/.400 with 5 home runs and 23 RBI over 162 plate appearances, playing almost exclusively against right-handed pitchers.
  • The Angels may try to bring Murphy back at a lower salary. The only thing standing in their way, besides other offers, would be that Murphy is 34, and that his career stats stats show he’s much better against righties. That would mean the Halos would still have to rely on yet another platoon bat in left field in 2016.
Tuesday, November 3
  • Former Major League starting pitcher Charles Nagy is now the Angels’ new pitching coach. The announcement was made on the evening of Monday, November 2. Nagy, a former All-Star with the Cleveland Indians in the mid-to-late-1990’s, recently helmed the Arizona Diamondbacks pitching staff. The former righty was also the Halos’ AAA pitching coach in 2006-2007. So there’s a past connection which probably helped both parties with this decision. He will be replacing Mike Butcher, who was recently dismissed as pitching coach.
  • Reports have been flying in about the likelihood of assistant hitting coach Dave Hansen being promoted to hitting coach. This seems to make a lot of sense, as Angels hitters are familiar with Hansen. The former Dodger lefty pinch-hitting specialist has worked hands on with the club’s offense the last two seasons, and reported to primary hitting coach Don Baylor, who was recently let go along with Butcher on the same day.

 

Here is the remaining offseason deadline schedule:
  • Nov. 7: Players are eligible to sign with any team they choose.
  • Nov. 13: Deadline for players to decide on qualifying offers. Deadline: 5pm ET.
  • Nov. 9-12: General Managers Meetings in Florida.
  • Dec. 2: Non-tender deadline.
  • Dec. 7-10: Winter Meetings in Nashville.
  • Dec. 10: Rule 5 Draft.

We will have updates as more stories develop!

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

 

Angels acquire SS Andrelton Simmons from Braves

image

New Angels general manager Billy Eppler makes a bold move to shore up the shortstop position long term by acquiring the two-time Gold Glove winner today.

Angels send SS Eric Aybar, SP Sean Newcomb, SP Chris Ellis and cash for the 26 year old Simmons and C Jose Briceno.

Andrelton Simmons Highlights: http://youtu.be/wtlakXaCDdU

Angels will miss Aybar in the clubhouse but the impending free agent was noticeably a step slower on defense and it was unlikely the Angels would want to give the 32 year old the 4 year deal he will seek.

Simmons is still a work in progress offensively but his last two seasons are virtually the same as Aybar.

Losing top pitching prospect Sean Newcomb could haunt the team but he was not expected to be in the Halos rotation in 2016. If Newcomb finds his command Atlanta will have themselves a fine starter.

Familiar Story from Dogertown

Questions surround future of Mattingly after Dodgers’ exit
http://www.thescore.com/mlb/news/855859
(via http://thesco.re/theScore_app )

Commentary

Is this the future of baseball? The game is now going to be run by three guys in a luxury suite running algorithms based upon nighttime ballpark effects during a half-moon with 27% precipitation in the air? I’m not against advanced statistics at all. They are helpful and interesting and need to be embraced. They should help inform a managers decision in certain situations but beyond that they’re still just suggestions and educated guesses. The Dodgers didn’t lose because Donny Baseball wasn’t taking orders properly. That’s like saying the Angels placed 3rd behind Texas and Houston because they didn’t shift enough. No, the answer is the 2015 roster was just not as good as 2014’s. That was obvious from the start. LA ran into a hot Mets team and shit hapens. GM’s need to worry about improving their ballclubs and less time trying to play real-life Strat-O-Matic with their coaching staffs.

Billy Eppler Is the Angels New GM

during a baseball spring training workout Wednesday, Feb. 16, 2011, at Steinbrenner Field in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
during a baseball spring training workout Wednesday, Feb. 16, 2011, at Steinbrenner Field in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

The wait is finally over! Former New York Yankees Assistant GM Billy Eppler will be hired as the Angels’ new GM.

Here’s a statement from Arte Moreno and Eppler!

The Angels may be in good hands.