As discussed on this blog yesterday, Jerry Dipoto's grand plan to fill out the final two spots in the rotation appears to be either on life support or straight up dead on arrival. With the Winter Meetings on the horizon, it is time to start thinking outside of the box to come up with alternative plans. At this point, just about anything outside of trading Mike Trout should be on the table for the Angels as their ability to add quality arms is looking pretty bleak. So what can they do?
Pay the damn luxury tax
The ultimate goal here has to be for the Angels to not just add two warm bodies to the rotation, but to add two impactful arms to the rotation. With the trade market for Kendrick dwindling, that means they are stuck in free agency purgatory because they only have $17 million to spend before hitting the luxury tax and $8 million to spend before they hit their nominal payroll cap. How do they overcome that? By removing those financial restrictions. Forget about the pride of not paying the luxury tax, just accept that it needs to be paid and blow right past it. Go out and sign Matt Garza and throw all the money you can at Masahiro Tanaka. This is a team that is in real danger of becoming a perpetual high-priced loser and the fans are going to start jumping ship. That's just the nature of the situation they've spent themselves into. If they don't win and win now, they are screwed for the next four years, so they might as well go out in a blaze of spending glory to try and save themselves. This is Jerry and Arte's Butch-and-Sundance moment.
Gut the farm system
This is really the same principle as the above plan, only it doesn't require all that money. One has to assume that at a point Arte wants to make a profit, right? So, instead of throwing money at the problem, throw prospects at it. The problem, of course, is that they don't have all that many quality prospects. Everyone knows that they have the worst farm system in baseball already, so they are dealing from a position of weakness, but they'd surely get at least one fairly decent starter if they made Taylor Lindsey, C.J. Cron, Kaleb Cowart, Nick Maronde, Hunter Green and Mark Sappington available. They won't net David Price, but some combination of those five seems likely to land a ? or ?. It would leave the farm system totally barren, but again, they are screwed for the next four years anyway, so they might as well burn the whole thing to the ground if it gives them a chance of winning this year or next.
Invest in the bullpen instead
If they really can't get impact starters, why not just get two cheap workhorses and double down on the bullpen instead. As risky as it is to spend on relievers, it might be riskier to ask two mediocre starters to throw 200 innings each. Instead, ask them to throw 150 each instead and give the left over innings to high end relievers. Grant Balfour is still out there, so is Joaquin Benoit, J.P. Howell and Scott Downs. Sign two or three of those guys and suddenly you have the flexibility to use them and Joe Smith, Sean Burnett and Ernesto Frieri any time in any given inning. Then all they need is their lesser starters to get through the lineup twice and they can then hand the game to the bullpen. This would be especially effective if Dane De La Rosa and Fernando Salas were stretched out to be able to go two or three inning on a semi-regular basis. I actually think this is what Dipoto kind of tried to do last season, but it blew up in his face when Madson and Burnett basically both missed the entire season. What I'm saying is, that out of these back-up plans, this one seems the most likely to be deployed by Dipoto.
Roll the dice on several pitchers
If you can't get two guys that will be good with a high degree of certainty, try instead to sign a group of guys that could be very good but have a high degree of risk. Give Roy Halladay an incentive-laden deal. Do the same for Johan Santana. See if they can't get some guys coming off of injury that may or may not be ready by Opening Day to sign a minor league contract. Felipe Paulino, Tsuyoshi Wada, Jeff Niemann and Nick Blackburn are all guys they could kick the tires on. This is basically the equivalent of throwing poop against the wall and hoping that some of it sticks. It is an act of desperation, but let's be honest, the Angels are quickly approaching that desperation point.
None of these options are good options, but unless Dipoto finds someone willing to give him what he wants for Howie Kendrick, then bad options are all he is going to be left with. At least with these alternatives, they get to keep Kendrick. That's something, right?
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The smart thing to do, considering how the team is currently structured, is to just pay the luxury tax. Just sign Garza or Feldman and go all out on Tanaka. But that would be an ownership decision, and the ownership of this team does not have a track record of making smart decisions. If we don't come away next week with at least one decent starter (Garza, Feldman, or Arroyo - I doubt any SP that would cost a draft pick is in play), then the best alternative would be to pick up a couple of solid relievers like Balfour or Benoit and Axford, Ryan Webb or Downs and take chances with cheap SPs like the A's did with Bartolo Colon and hope and pray they pan out. Pelfrey, Maholm, maybe even Daisuke (esp. if he's cheap) and Wada might be worth a shot.
What do you think the guaranteed salaries would look like for a Halladay or Santana? Imagine Johan Santana and Roy Halladay being our #3 and 4 starters haha.
@RyanAguirre That's a really tough question to answer because we obviously don't have the medical reports on either player. I'd venture that Halladay would get more than Santana, but both should at least get $5 million guaranteed, maybe as much as $10 million. That is purely a guess though.