We still don't know who the GM of the Angels will be this winter, but it is no matter to me. At least not right now. I've got plans of my own for what the Angels should do. Yes, it is time for me to play pretend and act out what I would do if Arte Moreno completely lost his mind and made me the GM of the Angels.
Though I am tempted to blow the thing up, I can't fathom willing wasting another year of Mike Trout's sublime excellence. I am, however, sick and tired of reckless spending, so there will be no nine-figure deals coming from me. No, sir, I'm going to make this roster younger and do it without significantly raising the payroll in 2014. Hopefully when it is all said and done, the lasting image of the 2014 Angels is a parade down Katella and not an ominous picture of an ill-fated press conference like the one above.
(As always, proposed trades are as fair as I can figure, but I fully realize that I don't know how much opposing teams value their players compared to how I value them.)
Cut the dead weight
First things first, the Angels need to clear some roster and salary flexibility. That means making a few tough decisions and some easy ones. The easy ones are non-tendering Tommy Hanson, J.C. Gutierrez, Chris Nelson and Kevin Jepsen. All four are coming off of terrible seasons and in no way worth the raise they will be due in arbitration.
Less easy is non-tendering Jerome Williams. You could do worse as a swing guy, but there is also no need to pay him $2 million or more. And, yes, that means keeping Blanton as the swing guy instead. I know how terrible he was, but as a long man and spot starter, he can't do that much damage. Besides, the Angels can't continue to pay guys several million bucks to not play for them.
The tough call though is letting Jason Vargas walk. He is a great fit for the team and shouldn't be prohibitively expensive, but if the Halos are going to spend that kind of money, they need to look for a bigger payoff. If that big payoff move falls through, Vargas is a nice fallback option, but nothing more.
Sign Masahiro Tanaka at all costs
This is that big payoff move. The Angel rotation is at great risk. Jered Weaver is great, but his arm has A LOT of mileage on it and it is starting to show. C.J. Wilson was excellent in 2013, but he is also 32 years old. This rotation needs to get young and talented in a hurry. Last time I checked, the farm system isn't going to help with that. That means it is time to get creative and a little bit desperate.
Tanaka is the best young arm on the market. He probably isn't on par with Yu Darvish, but reports indicate that he should be pretty good and ready to go right away. What also helps is that the Angels do have cash to spend but not luxury tax room. They can thus pony up the $30+ million in posting fee (that might be less based on if the posting system changes) and then shell out a six-year deal in the $45-55 million range to land Tanaka. From a luxury tax perspective, they are essentially swapping out Vargas' number for Tanaka and getting the benefit of all that upside.
There is bound to be intense interest in Tanaka though, so if I were GM, I would be fully prepared to spend on him like he is Yu Darvish, even if the talent isn't totally there. Sometimes you have to pay a premium for your own desperation. Seriously, if this doesn't happen, it blows up my whole plan.
Trade Howie Kendrick
Yes, the Angels just got good young pitching in Tanaka, but I'm greedy. I want more. The best way to make that happen is to trade Howie Kendrick. He has the most value out of anyone on the roster not named Mike Trout but a bigger reason is that shedding his salary gives the Angels more flexibility under the luxury tax to sign Mike Trout to an extension this winter or next. It is also fairly certain that Kendrick will return a high quality young arm since he was almost trade for Zach Lee and more at the deadline. Once the Robinson Cano situation settles, the Angels should be able to find a new home for Howie in LA (for Lee), KC (for Ventura maybe) or Toronto (for Sanchez, Stroman or Nolin). Those are just the obvious suitors. The Yankees, Orioles and Nationals could all work their way into the conversation as well. For the purposes of this exercise, let's assume the LA teams consummate the rumored Kendrick for Zach Lee and Chris Withrow deal.
That leaves Grant Green as the starting second baseman. He seems like he should be good enough to hold that position down with his bat, but the glove is more of a concern, so as a corollary to the Kendrick trade, the Angels need to pursue a more reliable veteran back-up infielder. No more of this Brendan Harris crap. That's why I would pursue Willie Bloomquist. He is no defense wizard either, but he can play the entire infield and has shown that he can handle the bat well enough to not be a liability.
Trade Peter Bourjos
This was the toughest decision of them all. The Angels are going to have to trade either Bourjos or Trumbo. Their needs are too great to hold onto them both. Trumbo clearly has more value than Bourjos due to his proven power. Bourjos might've had more value than Trumbo not so long ago, but his rash of injuries have killed much of that. That would mean trading low on Bourjos though, which is obviously less than ideal. Alas, having just unloaded Kendrick, I'm worried about the lineup. Trumbo might be an OBP risk, but his power is essential, especially if Pujols can't get healthy. Bourjos is expendable since Trout can provide comparable defense in center. Additionally, I'm mildly concerned that keeping Bourjos and sticking Trout in left field isn't going to help the cause of keeping Trout in Anaheim for the next decade. Sorry, Petey, you have to go.
Trading Bourjos won't be easy though. While he was coveted a few years ago, the number of teams desperate for a center fielder of his ilk has dwindled rapidly. Fortunately, the Mets still exist. So long as they don't sign Jacoby Ellsbury, they should be overjoyed to get Bourjos. A package involving Vic Black and maybe Zach Lutz as part of the throw poop against the wall to see what sticks strategy of filling the third base hole.
Sign a bench bat
We're close to done, but not quite there. I have one active roster spot left to fill and no, it isn't third base. I am gravely concerned about Albert Pujols being able to stay healthy, Josh Hamilton sucking again, Trumbo staying in his second half slump and Kole Calhoun getting overexposed to lefties. What I want is a right-handed bat with some pop off the bench. Unless Mike Morse is willing to sign a cheap one-year deal, that likely means trolling the non-tender market. Nolan Reimold, Gaby Sanchez, Mark Reynolds and so on. None of them have much upside, but at least they are depth which this team needs because of their lousy farm system. If Casey McGehee is willing to come back from Japan at a reasonable price, he might be worth a gamble since could also help at third base.
Oh, right, third base, huh?
So, yeah, I pretty much am going to punt on third base. For now, anyway. Internally, I've got Willie Bloomquist as the ultimate fallback option, but I'm willing to give the first shot to Luis Jimenez. He may not hit, but he can field the position well and given how bad the Halo defense was last season, I have to prioritize fielding somewhere. I'm not about to hand him the position though. I'll be casting a wide net after the non-tenders come in. Justin Turner, Luis Valbuena and Emilio Bonifacio are all guys who could hit the market and I'll be ready to pounce.
None of these guys are any better than holdovers though. Hopefully that will be good enough to make it to the trade deadline. If the Angels are in contention at that point, there are a number of impending free agent third baseman that they could trade for: Jed Lowrie, Aramis Ramirez, Chase Headley, Pablo Sandoval and so on.
Filling out the bullpen
As big of a problem as the bullpen has been, I'm not too worried about it. The Angels will be getting Sean Burnett back (or at least they should be) and I've acquired a big arm in Vic Black. That leaves two spots to fill out. I'm more than fine doing that from within. Mike Morin and R.J. Alvarez are guys who could be ready come Opening Day and both could have big impacts. They can compete with Michael Kohn and WIthrow or whoever else the Angels acquire in trade. Withrow should win that spot in a walk if that is the deal actually happens. The other spot, I'll open up to all the lefties in the organization. Hopefully Nick Maronde steps up and wins it, but maybe the Halos have to let Michael Roth or Buddy Boshers hold down the fort for a bit. It really doesn't matter, that final bullpen spot is likely to turnover quite a bit anyway.
There you have it, a roster that isn't exactly getting a huge makeover, but it is younger, has better pitching, is only marginally more expensive and primed to return to contention if there big money veterans can rebound. That has always been the case for the 2014 Angels. There is no big, giant move they can make that will transform the franchise any more than Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton regaining at least a large percentage of their old forms. If they don't at least this roster has some more youth to build around going forward.
C - Iannetta
1B - Pujols
2B - Green
3B - Jimenez
SS - Aybar
LF - Hamilton
CF - Trout
RF - Calhoun
DH - Trumbo
Bench C - Conger
Bench IF - Bloomquist
Bench OF - Shuck
Bench UT - G. Sanchez
SP - Weaver
SP - WIlson
SP - Tanaka
SP - Richards
SP - Lee (or whoever they get for Kendrick)
CL - Frieri
RHP - De La Rosa
RHP - Black
LHP - Burnett
LHP - Maronde/Roth/Sisk/Taylor/Boshers
RHP - Withrow/Kohn/Alvarez/Morin/etc.
LONG - Blanton
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I like your plan and agree for the most part. Would it be worth it to try take a chance and pick up a cheap 1 year deal for a starter like Josh Johnson, Lincecum or even Bartolo Colon? Then sign up a starter to a longer deal once the Vernon Wells salary has cleared in a years time?
Like your idea of picking up Mark Reynolds and Bonifacio relatively cheaply to give additional options at 2B and 3B, Bonifacio in particular would fit into the old Angels style with his base running, and Reynolds can add some pop if we lose Trumbo.
Nice plan. Absolutely agree that we need to land Tanaka. Angels need high upside pitching in the worst way, so signing guys like Vargas with no upside for good money would be a huge mistake. In that vein, I would look at trading a bat to the Orioles for Brian Matusz and Tommy Hunter. Their trade value is low right now, both being basically situational relievers. But they both have a lot of upside and could end up being helpful starters, though with Butcher being brought back, it is less likely. At worst, you have two good pen arms. Or a trade which nets Yordano Ventura and a solid reliever would be ideal, but Royals probably not moving Ventura. I'd love to land Greg Holland somehow, Frieri anchoring the pen is still a recipe for disaster.
I agree with just about everything just, just not who the Angels acquire I should say. I'd like the Angels to sign Eric Chavez, Jeff Baker, or a Kelly Johnson to solidify the bench a little bit. Bench would look like Romine, Chavez/Baker (preferably Chavez), Conger, and Shuck. Tanaka's a must in my opinion as are at least 2-3 young pitchers to fill out other holes in the pitching staff and create more depth. I'd like the Angels to go out and sign a veteran relief pitcher though; Javier Lopez and JP Howell come to mind.
I like it! but I would add a couple of things. First of all (though it was inherent in your hypothetical signings) the GM should give an order to stay away from free agents tied to a draft pick. We need that first round draft pick as much as we need help with the MLB club. Second, I would listen to offers for Trumbo and if we could snag a prospect like Jameson Taillon, Noah Syndegaard, Dylan Bundy or Archie Bradley (even one of Seattle's magic three, although if this happens I know Trumbo will makes us pay ala Napoli) I say we go for it (some have even suggested a Trumbo-Zach Wheeler trade, I'm not sold on that but it could work). Third (actually more of a 2 1/2 as I'm not sure it is possible) Can the Halos just extend Vargas instead before he files for free agency or extending a qualifying offer? That way we would have (keeping the trades you suggested) Weaver, Wilson, Tanaka, Vargas, Richards, with Zach Lee (and possibly one of the aces in the making if a Trumbo deal is done) on the minors getting acquainted with the organization.
What about trading both Bourjos and Trumbo (as opposed to just one)? We need as much pitching help as possible, and the combo of calhoun and shuck (as much as I hate admitting it) could get us by just fine in that LF spot.
Not to mention we could give Cron a try in the bigs - since he's about the same production value as Trumbo.
Not bad. Concerned about 3 1B on the roster, but Trumbo could play LF and RF against lefties. I would like to see a reliable veteran in the bullpen, someone who could take over temporarily as closer during Frieri's slumps.
@scioscialite Yeah, Ventura might be a reach, but I am not about to assume that Dayton Moore won't overpay for a player he covets. Let's just say he has a bit of a reputation. That being said, I think Holland is even more off limits.
@ChaseKimura Honestly, I gave a lot of thought to Chavez. I like him a great deal and was trying to shoehorn him in there. The problem is he is left-handed and the Angels have a lot of exposure to lefties right now as it is. I wouldn't object to Johnson, but Baker is a one-year wonder, IMO.
As for a second veteran lefty, that scares me a bit. Scioscia fell a little too in love with playing the platoon advantage with the bullpen. I'd be more than OK if Burnett was the only southpaw. If Maronde makes the team, great, but that is less because of his left-handedness and more because he could be a great reliever in general if he reaches his potential.
@EthanJoeyPrager There should still be interest, but his value is definitely depressed by his injuries. Like I said, they are selling low. The one thing they have going for them on that front is that most of Peter's injuries have been of the freak variety. It isn't like he has a bad shoulder that he keeps re-aggravating or something. He hurt his thumb sliding into a base and hurt his wrist getting hit by a pitch. These are out of his control but also unlikely to recur.
@ManuelGutierrez1 more pitching depth is always good, but signing Vargas to an extension and signing Tanaka adds up. It would be very difficult to do that and still have luxury tax space to extend Trout this winter or next.
@nr21714 The only reason I am opposed to trading Trumbo is because of what might happen with Pujols. If he has more foot/knee problems, they have no first baseman and no right-handed power if Trumbo is gone too. Cron is probably another year away from being ready (if ever, I am not at all a believer in his ability).
@nr21714 i agree if we get a nice offer for Trumbo we should take it we are very thin in the bullpen and lacking a great starter after weaver and wilson
@BobCalPoly91 I'm not locked in to Sanchez as the final bench piece, any number of players would do. I really only landed on him because he can at least fake it at 3B if the need arises.
You can't trade Trumbo...second half slide or not. As lousy as he was, Hamilton was healthy all year. What are the chances of that happening again in 2014. If Albert continues his slide and you trade Trumbo, you're back to Scioscia ball...and the team won't be able to score. Even if they improve the pitching and get into the playoffs, they'll get slammed by somebody early because they won't be able to score (Witness every Angels post season appearance after Scioscia started putting the roster together...2004 and on...and Tampa Bay in the playoffs...can't score, can't win.
The Angels had no competition in their division those years. A"s were too poor. Mariners were too dumb. Rangers were too poor and dumb. And the Angels squeaked by (and would get crushed in the playoffs playing Scioscia ball). As soon as the Rangers brought in Nolan Ryan (and got recapitalized) they got good, the Angels stopped winning titles.