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”.

 

Eppler’s Domain: 40-Man, Trade Chips, Signings

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The time in the offseason to establish preliminary 40-man rosters has come and gone, and the Angels set their roster last week by adding a handful of newer players while dropping some others who have struggled or just moving on. The following players were added:

Nate Smith (LHP) — the club’s top pitching prospect is one of the next in line to join the Angels’ rotation in 2017, and could be another sleeper just as Nick Tropeano was. But the kid still needs to make his debut and throw pitches off the Major League mound in order for that to happen.

Keynan Middleton (RHP) — Despite his 5.38 career ERA in the minors, his 3.41 ERA in 66 innings in relief could push his stock as emergency bullpen help. Especially since the improvement may have been attributed to his fastball skyrocketing from the low-90’s to 100 MPH!

Austin Adams (RHP) — With a 3.05 ERA in 44 innings in the minors last season, and a 3.27 the year before, Adams could serve as an under-the-radar mid-season bullpen option.

Eduardo Paredes (RHP) — Where did this kid come from? You know, the Angels do get a lot of flack for the state of their farm system, and yet we keep finding effective pitchers coming out of the woodwork who never get any attention. Maybe it’s because they’re often relievers. However, with a 2.53 career ERA in the minors, this could be one of them.

In order to make room for these four hurlers, the club designated pitchers Jose ValdezBlake Parker and Abel De Los Santos for assignment, and outrighted infielder Rey Navarro.

Valdez, held a 4.24 ERA with a 95 MPH heater in 23 1/3 innings with the Angels in 2016. He still has a future with the Halos, but at age 26 the team wants to take a look at some of their younger arms.

Parker split time between the Mariners and Yankees this season, posting a 4.67 ERA and 15 strikeouts in 17 1/3 innings. He was claimed in early October, but as with Valdez, being 31 years of age is probably working against him. But more-so in Parker’s case.

De Los Santos was claimed from the Reds organization early in the offseason after putting up a 3.54 ERA in 20 1/3 innings at Triple-A. As with the pitchers added to the roster, there is some value here and perhaps just a matter of available space and not falling out of favor. Look for Abel to possibly contribute sometime mid-season in 2017.

Corresponding Moves

The Angels announced last week that right-hander Cory Rasmus and outfielder Shane Robinson were DFA’d, and then rejected their assignments, thus both electing free agency.

Rasmus, 29, is the younger brother of outfielder Colby Rasmus, and was arbitration eligible as a Super Two player. Rasmus showed promise as an effective multi-innings reliever with filthy stuff when the Angels won 98 games and the AL Western Division Title in 2014, but has dealt with several injuries since, resulting in a 5.56 ERA in 45 1/3 innings across the past two years. The nail in the coffin was perhaps the core muscle surgery he had in mid-July, and his continuing struggles in his brief stint with the Big Club in September. This was an arm that could’ve have solved a number of bullpen problems for the Halos. But that’s what happens when injuries take over.

Robinson, 32, tallied 111 plate appearances with the Angels last in 2016, and had a miserable .173/.257/.235 slash line. Not much else to say here.

So that wraps up the 40-man for now. Things will change, however, as signings and trades are likely to happen before Spring Training. There’s also a chance one or two of the players left off the roster will be selected in next month’s Rule 5 Draft. And the Halos could also pick a player of their own, which would push someone off. Time will only tell.

 

More From The GM’s Office

  • Shoe has bee targeted for a while now. Going back to 2014, teams have been calling about him, but of course the Angels were in a pennant race back then, were fighting their way back into it in 2015, and needed innings from starters this past season. But that may have paid off as Matt re-established himself as a tough hurler with a devastating sinker and very low walk rate.
  • Controlling the homeruns was the key, and that meant working to keep his sinker down, which he succeeded in doing. Now the Yankees are calling. The Twins have talked second baseman Brian Dozier. So the club could get some good long-term value for Shoe.
  • But in doing so, the Angels would obviously turn back to the starting pitching market to replace him. Not a bad thing necessarily since The Bearded One is mainly considered a mid-rotation innings eater. And the market is ripe with those types. This could serve as a sell-to-buy scenario, similar to the Mark Trumbo trade. Billy Eppler is a smart guy, so he’d probably pull a smooth one with this. If it happens.
  • Tyler Skaggs has also been mentioned in trade talks. He could be a more realistic option to center a package around because of his age.

  • Arica, 26, doesn’t have much to brag about with a .243 / .319 / .340 slash line in the minors. But this is another Eppler baby, as Francisco was with the Yankees organization to start his career. He was last with the Marlins organization until this past season. Basically an emergency catching option, and to round out the position at Triple-A Salt Lake.
  • Hernandez, 24, is another reliever the Angels could call on mid-season to help if anything goes wrong. With the Orioles organization his whole career, he’s been up and down with a 4.39 career ERA in the minors. However, a 3.67 ERA in 61 innings in 2016 could be a sign of progression for another failed prospect, for which the Halos have a reputation for maximizing value.