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.


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)


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.


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…


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”.