Cano. McCann. Hudson. Price. Choo. The Beard.
The overwhelming sentiment--rightfully so, thus far--is that the arms are much needed above all else. Hopefully Arte Moreno sees things the same way...but hopefully not enough so to where he burns another nine-figure deal on someone else. Like our first player featured today, who, at almost every stop and with every move forward in his development, has proven himself to be a number-three, or maybe even a number-two pitcher. Not worth $100 million, but if he could be had for C.J. Wilson length and money, it'd be pretty nice. I'll go on a limb and say if the Angels were to sign him, it'd be 5 years and $82.5 million--exactly the contracts that both A.J. Burnett and John Lackey got when THEY hit free agency in successive offseasons (2008 and 2009). Here he is.
MATT GARZA (SP, MIN 2006-07; TBR 2008-10; CHC 2011-13; TEX 2013)
Three times, Garza has been a desirable trade piece. Minnesota flipped him to Tampa Bay with a couple of others to bring Delmon Young to the Twins. The Rays sent him to the Cubs to bring back a quintet of prospects. And then the Cubs, desperate to continue to restock their system, sent him to the Rangers for four other players. He's worth a lot in prospects, which means, inevitably so, he'll be worth a lot in dollars. As I mentioned, I could see, sensibly speaking, 5 years and $82.5 million being offered to him. And that's low-balling it. Some team could throw 6 years and $120 million at him and he'd be a fool to leave it on the table. As for the Angels, however, I'm sticking to my guns. Here's how a 2014 Garza would look in Anaheim:
2014 SEASON WITH ANGELS
I'll be honest, that isn't all that bad. At an AAV of $16.5 million I'm not too sure it's worth it, but Garza wouldn't exactly be a bust. He'd slide right in as a reliable number-three in our rotation, and could find himself as our number-two guy if Wilson slips next year. A WHIP of 1.126 is pretty nice as well--not stunning or league-leading by any means, but reliable. But again, the question is...is $82.5 million too much for "reliable"? What does it yield over five years?
FIVE YEAR CONTRACT WITH ANGELS
If he seriously only posts a SLIGHT overall regression across five years, that'd be something crazy. This, of course, accounts for him having stellar seasons (he's going into his age 30 season, so it's not unfair to assume he might hit one or even two All-Star caliber seasons as he ages) and some down years (the contract would end after he turns 34, which is an age by when most pitchers have already begun to decline). For example, his age 32 season--2016--would set up to be his best in the contract: 13-10, 205 IP, 3.12 ERA, 8.4 K/9, and a stunning 0.980 WHIP, to rattle a few stats off. His worst, however, would come in his walk year at age 34: in 180.2 IP (still a solid amount of innings), he goes 8-11 with a 4.33 ERA, a 1.367 WHIP and a contract-worst 3.1 BB/9. Overall, though, it's a decent thought to kick around.
JARROD SALTALAMACCHIA (C, ATL 2007; TEX 2007-10; BOS 2010-13)
The longest last name in baseball history is a free agent. And with all these rumors of trading Chris Iannetta, why not go from one Italian backstop to another? Scioscia would approve on heritage alone, let alone his "grit" and "sheer heartitude." Aside from the gushy intangibles, he could actually bring something decent to the table. Initially gaining fame as part of the Rangers' legendary haul for Mark Teixeira, Salty went on to be plagued by inconsistent playing time in Texas before being traded himself for an impressive pack of prospects to Boston, where he got the lion's share of time behind the plate post-Varitek. Though he often struggled with putting the bat on the ball, he seemed to figure things out this season, putting up a slash of .273/.338/.466, yielding a career-high .804 OPS and 118 OPS+. As the second-ranking catcher on the free agent market behind McCann, Salty could cater to many hitter-friendly environments and fetch something along the lines of 3 years and $40 million with ease. Does the word "hitter-friendly" automatically deter him from Anaheim? Not necessarily. Take a look.
2014 SEASON WITH ANGELS
Hmm...not terrible, not great. Bringing the hit total up by about 10-20 would be ideal (puts him anywhere between .288 and .313), but I'm not going to get picky with his average. You're not going to find many catchers hitting over .280 consistently anymore, so to have Salty bat .262 isn't anything to scoff about. Encouraging in that is that he still puts up an average OBP with a .262 average. Give him 10 more hits (the .288 batting average) and that OBP goes from .334 to .357. He'd basically be on the cusp of looking like a free agent bargain--at least during one season. How does a three-year contract look with him?
THREE YEAR CONTRACT WITH ANGELS
Well that certainly looks better. One thing to keep in mind here: Salty is heading into just his age-29 season. Even considering that catchers tend to age quicker due to wear and tear from the position, he's got room to progress and improve even yet, and on a three-year contract, we would be riding that right into his peak age of 31, when we could still possibly be able to re-sign him to a two-year deal or another three-year deal, unless we should have some young catching phenom chomping at the bit in Salt Lake by then. This would be the kind of deal that would either drive up his price in free agency and prep him to be the Brian McCann on the 2016-17 free agent market, or mark the end of a once-promising career. And judging by the above, I'm going with the former. Is he a necessary buy? Not quite. But if we trade Iannetta and don't feel confidence enough to (finally) trust Conger with the position, I wouldn't think we could go wrong with Jarrod Saltalamacchia.
GRANT BALFOUR (RP, MIN 2001-04; MIL 2007; TBR 2007-10; OAK 2011-13)
Can't spell BALL FOUR without BALFOUR. (Sorry, I cannot pass that joke up anytime his name is mentioned.) Somehow this guy has managed to transform himself into one of baseball's forefront relief pitchers through a combination of lucky pitching, escaping high walk rates, yelling profusely and passionately at inanimate objects, and scaring the opposition with all three. The Angels have confirmed interest in him already, so consider this one possible outcome in the crystal ball. Balfour's age might prevent him from getting a multi-year deal, but nothing is off-limits with the Angels. Dipoto could be tempted at the thought of a one-year deal with a vesting option based upon his walk rate at season's end. Let's look at Balfour's 2014 in Anaheim.
2014 SEASON WITH ANGELS
The man just baffles me. He fits right into the Four-and-a-Halfer Club that is our bullpen's walk rate, yet still manages a respectably average WHIP and posts a sparkly hits-per-nine ratio, all with a mediocre ERA and 24 games finished due to Scioscia's love for shiny veterany-ness. He fills the hole that Rich Thompson (remember him?) left as our resident Aussie, but not in the most effective way. I'm not quite sure what to make of his 2014--but wait, let's assume the option for 2015 vests, for the sake of argument, or it doesn't vest and the club exercises it. What does his overall tenure look like?
TWO YEAR CONTRACT WITH ANGELS
And still he manages to work the magic with his hit rate and walk rate. Black magic. I cannot comprehend how a man can do this. He's like the reverse Joe Blanton in that sense. His 2015 figures to be at a slightly better looking line of stats, such as a 3.69 ERA and a 2.20 K/BB ratio, but not heads above his 2014. If he can be had on the cheap, it's not the worst signing we could make. Certainly would hope he's not our Plan A in the bullpen--if we should feel the need to sign ANY more bullpen arms, I'd rather it be either Brian Wilson or perhaps even Joe Nathan if possible. In any case, Balfour would seem to be a perfect fit in the Angels' bullpen, and I say that with the most sardonic venom possible.
In the next edition, we'll feature what could potentially be two more nine-figure deals--one a potential five-tooler from the east coast, one a former Angel--and a pitcher who's invited teams to tell him to prove it.