Now that we've all had some time to digest the Bourjos-Freese swap, it is time to take a look at the bigger picture. We can argue over whether or not the trade itself was a good move for the Angels, but that doesn't really matter. What's done is done. What we should be focusing on is what this means to the rest of the Angels' offseason plan as this move actually has a pretty wide-reaching impact.
All the Trumbo tail chasers can rejoice. Mark survived the clearing of the outfield logjam. I predicted all along that he would stay, but the trade of Bourjos seals it. There is nothing stopping them from trading Trumbo if they get an offer they can't refuse, but trading Trumbo would open up a lineup hole. The whole point of the Freese trade was closing a lineup hole, so it wouldn't make much sense to re-open another one.
Go ahead and book that moving truck, Howie. The Angels had an outfield logjam, but now they have an infield logjam as Grant Green now is a man without a starting position. Maybe he doesn't deserve one, but the Angels likely didn't trade for him in July just to provide bench depth. Besides, the more pressing issue here is that whole starting pitching thing. The Angels dealt a big trade chip in Bourjos and forget to get a starting pitcher. Oops! Now they have no choice but to use Kendrick to address that need. Howie was always more likely to return a better pitcher than Bourjos anyway, but now it is an imperative that he does. That is not only because he is their last big trade chip but also because the Angels now have to clear some salary.
Having one trade chip means that they can only trade for one quality starting pitcher, but the Angels need to acquire two. That means the second opening is going to have to be acquired the old fashioned way, with cold hard cash. Freese and Salas are going to add about $4 million to the Angels payroll and they were already in a bit of a budget crunch. If they do nothing, their payroll is going to be around $145 million and that is with two rotation spots and possibly a late inning reliever still to add. That just isn't going to work. However, if they swap Kendrick for one prospect starter, they fill one rotation spot and clear $9.7 million in payroll that they can slot the other rotation member into and still have a few million left over to sign a late inning reliever or beef up the bench.
Jerry put a lot of pressure on himself by triggering this deal before addressing pitching. This move definitely addressed a big need, but it wasn't the team's biggest need and by acting on this one first, he has taken away his flexibility to address the pitching problem. Two days ago, moving Trumbo for a hot young pitcher was a possibility, now it is not. His only option, as stated above, is to trade Kendrick. Now other teams know that too and can hold him over a barrel a bit.
Combine that with this coming on the heels of Vargas leaving for Kansas City and Dipoto could really end up looking bad because now he has to sign a free agent pitcher to fill out the rotation. Vargas was a very good fit and a known quantity, but he got away. Dipoto now has to replace him with someone who may not be as good. Maybe whoever he signs will be better than Vargas, but it still represents a risk and Dipoto is already in a situation where he has very little margin for error.
It seems Jerry knows that too, which is why the only other real starting pitcher free agent the Halos have been linked to is Bronson Arroyo. That is a seemingly safe signing with no real upside. At the same time, it has a little bit of Blanton-esque risk. Dipoto just can't afford to have another "risk averse" signing blow up in his face. As such, I imagine we will see the Angels kick the tires on guys like Chris Capuano, Bartolo Colon, Scott Feldman, Dan Haren and Paul Maholm. There is a chance he could be given the thumbs up to spend over the normal $150 million salary ceiling and pursue Matt Garza, but that seems unlikely given that it would start to make thing uncomfortable for the Angels in regards to the luxury tax. Masahiro Tanaka is out there too, but that is not a process Dipoto should be planning on in a significant way.
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Very insightful article. I agree that the Freese trade sets things up for Howie to be moved. I have to assume that Dipoto shopped his available guys hard the last couple of months and concluded that the only guy who will bring back the pitcher he wants (and clear the salary space he needs to sign a decent free agent SP) is Howie. So, as Garrett said, he moved Pete for Freese to pick up a replacement for Howie's production in the infield while filling a huge hole at 3B. I'm hoping that the fact Kinsler brought back a good return in Fielder bodes well for a solid return for Howie. The prices for free agent infielders (a rumored 4 years and $52 million for Peralta?!) also make me think that Howie will bring back someone good. OK, the Freese/Bourjos trade is done and I'm willing to live with it, but if Howie only brings back a Jeff Locke-type, then I will be really pissed...
@rjb1101 I think that might have accelerated the deal, but their interest in Freese was legit even before the Fielder-Kinsler swap.
That's the first thing I thought of, too.