What do we want? And what do we need? Over these next four days, Angels officials will attempt to sift through the differences of the two and figure out what to do.
Rumors fly like nobody's business at this point in the offseason. The Angels are said to pretty much be kicking tires on anyone with the word "pitcher" in their description, and for good reason. With only three pitchers in next year's starting rotation, an extreme hesitance to let Joe Blanton back in the rotation, and the poor decision of letting Jerome Williams walk, coupled with a $15 million budget to
protect Arte Moreno's pride keep the team from going over the luxury tax, we're going to get to see a different side of the Angels that we rarely ever see: the creative side.
It's a lovely thing, the Angels being all but forced into making moves austere in comparison to the big splashes of offseasons past. It used to be that our trade chips played in Arkansas and Salt Lake, but now they play in Anaheim and can fetch us stronger pieces for Arkansas and Salt Lake. It's safe to say our lower levels (Inland Empire, Burlington and Orem) are stocked and, in given time, can make our farm system at least middle-of-the-pack again. But there's no time to wait for that to happen with our upper levels crippled by terrible decision-making and shortsighted trading with no intent to make good with the pieces acquired. So what do we do?
1. Sign Matt Garza. And I say this with the utmost stress. Two starting pitchers are the priority, and from there, maybe solidifying the bullpen even further. The free agent market looks bleak beyond the likes of Matt Garza, who looks like the only ideal free agent fit for the Angels. He doesn't cost a draft pick, he's representative of the #3 arm the Angels direly need, and with the contract he's in the market for in terms of length, he'd be a long-term fix. The one issue will be the cost. Garza comes in looking like the second-most expensive pitcher on the free agent market after former Angel Ervin Santana (laughably seeking $112 million over 5 years). The gap between supply and demand in this free agent market has been demonstrated quite formidably by other clubs; Ricky Nolasco was said to be seeking $80 million over five years and instead received $49 million over four from the Twins; Robinson Cano was known to want $310 million over ten years and instead received $240 million from the Mariners. Garza can likely be had for anywhere between 65% and 75% of his demands.
MLB Trade Rumors projects an AAV of $16 million to be what he seeks (in specific, a 4-year, $64 million contract), and it doesn't seem too unreasonable. I think that, if I'm Jerry Dipoto, I offer Garza 4 guaranteed years with a vesting 5th year option (vests with either 800 innings pitched over the life of the contract or 0 DL stints over the life of the contract), which becomes a mutual option if it doesn't vest. And I give him Mark Buehrle money on the guaranteed contract: $58 million, with the 5th year at an additional $15 million. Final Offer: 4 years, $58 million (vesting/mutual option for 2018 at $15 million)
2. Trade Kendrick AND Trumbo for pitching of any and all kinds. Our draft classes of 2012 and 2013 are doing a nice job at the rookie and Class-A levels, but our upper levels are knowingly weak, including the majors. So what do we do? Well, Howie Kendrick and Mark Trumbo both look to fetch a pretty nice return for themselves. They're being matched to Kansas City and Arizona, respectively, as the Royals seek a second baseman and the Diamondbacks specifically want Mark Trumbo. So what do we do? Now that Cano has signed, Howie and Brandon Phillips are two very appealing trade targets for second base. Phillips comes with longer control, but higher cost, while Howie comes with lower cost, but only two years. The Royals were matched to Kendrick at the trade deadline in July (as well as the Dodgers and Blue Jays) but nothing could be reached. So, again, if I'm Jerry Dipoto, I offer Kendrick and Kevin Jepsen to the Royals, and in return ask for one of Danny Duffy and Yordano Ventura, plus prospects Jason Adam and Sam Selman. Duffy is coming off of Tommy John surgery, but with terrific upside, while Ventura offers comparisons to Pedro Martinez, but trouble with his changeup and command. At this point, if the Angels sign Garza, then Duffy would be of little use (and you'll see why as I go on). Ventura projects as either a starter OR a reliever, so his flexibility makes him a plus. Final Offer to KC: 2B Howie Kendrick and RHP Kevin Jepsen for RHP Yordano Ventura, LHP Sam Selman and RHP Jason Adam.
As far as Trumbo is concerned, the Diamondbacks are said to be willing to give up a starting pitcher for him. Beyond that, however, is unknown. Trading Trumbo comes with the collateral damage in Anaheim of who replaces him. That problem doesn't exist for Kendrick, who can simply be replaced by Grant Green. As far as Trumbo, however, trading him banks on either the confidence that Albert Pujols is completely healthy, or by knowing that Kole Calhoun can step up to play both first base and right field, which would, at any time Kole plays first, slot J.B. Shuck right back into a starting spot. We have to know that our return for Trumbo is good enough to be willing to replace him with a platoon act. Wade Miley is likely out of play unless we send a second piece to Arizona. Brandon McCarthy's injury history makes him a huge question mark, just as he did last year as a free agent. Tyler Skaggs isn't going anywhere unless the Angels toss in prospects that they just don't have. The possibility of Trevor Cahill has been floated, and it's an interesting thing to consider: Cahill has two years of club control remaining, and two team options for 2016 and 2017. He had an All-Star season in 2010 with Oakland, going 18-8 with a 2.97 ERA and a shiny 7.1 H/9. Beyond that, though, he's looked average. Taking his 2010 season out of his career stats, his career ERA is 4.14 (it's 3.89 with it). He's a pitcher that will undoubtedly give the Angels innings they desperately need, and a return to a pitching-friendly environment would surely be welcome for him (his career ERA pitching at Chase Field is 4.32; at Angel Stadium it's 2.25). Oh, and that contract coming with him? Guaranteed 2 years and $19.7 million, with the two team options at $13 million and $13.5 million, respectively. 4 years, $46.2 million. And he's just 26 right now, at a point in his career where he could still very well be coming into his prime. It's worth it as a one-for-one. Final Offer to ARZ: 1B/OF Mark Trumbo for SP Trevor Cahill.
3. Sign a veteran bench bat. This isn't NEARLY as much of a pressing need as the two above are, but I will definitely say that if Trumbo goes and we have the prospect of J.B. Shuck starting again, it's best to avoid that at all costs. Our bench with the above deals done would project to be Hank Conger, Andrew Romine, J.B. Shuck and Luis Jimenez. Basically? The offensive production, with the possible exception of Conger, is deeply lacking. Going off of AAV for Garza's contract, and with all above moves taken into consideration, the Angels' payroll would sit at about $185 million for 2014. That's $4 million of wiggle room, so we're talking very likely a guy that can be had for $3 million or less. There is one guy who's made salaries of $1.1 million in 2012 and $2.75 million in 2013, and put up, in those two years combined, a slash of .241/.307/.471, 48 HR, 127 RBI and 104 runs scored in 838 at-bats. He can likely be had on a one-year deal for $3 million. Who is it? Raul Ibanez. And I see no reason to not sign him if it means J.B. Shuck rides pine more consistently, and especially if Trumbo is gone and he can provide two purposes: firstly, a good bat to come off the bench late in the game to pinch-hit (9-for-29 in PH opportunities since 2012), and secondly, a reliable DH, and a guy who can play outfield for when Albert needs a day off (a .282 hitter since 2012 as a DH, career fielding percentage of .990 playing right field and .987 in the outfield overall). Plus, with Ibanez on a one-year deal, he serves as a potential stopgap for C.J. Cron, who could hopefully be ready for the bigs come 2015 to serve as a DH. Final Offer: 1 year, $3 million.
4. Release Joe Blanton or trade him. I could care less if we have to pay the guy his full salary just to keep him off the roster. We're paying Vernon Wells $18.6 million to not play for us, so paying Joe Blanton $7.5 million to stay away is certainly nothing new. I've been saying for months that he can be traded a la Jeff Weaver in 2006 for a middling prospect. Remember that? After he completely flopped in 2006, we traded Weaver the Older to St. Louis (where he kept on sucking until the postseason) for minor league outfielder Terry Evans (remember him?), who would stretch his 21 plate appearances in his career across 3 seasons for the Angels, including his first one, in which he hit a home run. The problem I see is that after a season in which he posted an ERA above 6, I have no clue what team would want to take him. The Yankees are the only team as pitching-starved as the Angels are, and are said to be searching for "400 innings" to put in their rotation. The want two innings-eaters, and we have one that perpetually sucked. Sending him to a hitter-friendly bandbox like Yankee Stadium would pretty much be us flipping him the bird as he boarded his plane out, but the Yankees would like to not spend unbelievable money on pitching. We could cover some of his salary (which the Yankees may or may not take us up on), but for argument's sake, let's say we cover exactly half his 2014 salary ($3.75 million). In return, I'd really not be looking for a whole lot. A Terry Evans type, honestly. Someone who's dwelled in the Yankees system for a long time, never reaching the top (or reaching the top briefly). I'm looking at 26-year-old AA right-hander Graham Stoneburner, who (along with having one of the coolest names EVER) is basically a mediocre, replacement level pitcher. He reached AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre for the first time last season as a starter and posted a 4.57 ERA in 67 innings. He'd fit in as great filler in Salt Lake with A.J. Schugel, Matt Shoemaker and the gang, and he could possibly get himself a September callup if our pitching still gets Butchered beyond recognition. Final Offer to NYY: RHP Joe Blanton and cash for minor league RHP Graham Stoneburner.
If all of these moves were to be made in conjunction with each other, the Angels' payroll would sit (with arbitration projections taken into account) at approximately $184.3 million--just below the luxury tax that Arte Moreno so direly does not want to exceed. And our roster? Well, let's take a look.
|RP||Dane De La Rosa|
You could interchange Ventura and Richards if you want; the point is, one of those two winds up a swingman in this rotation, while the other solidifes what looks like a beefy bullpen. The lineup looks a little less powerful without Trumbo, but still formidable nonetheless. And what a rotation that could be. Remember how awesome our rotation looked on paper after the 2012 trade deadline (Weaver/Wilson/Greinke/Haren/Santana)? Well, this looks just about as awesome, if not MORE awesome. Plus, no more Blanton!
Could dreams come true? Let's see.