Pitching is almost a requisite for the Angels this offseason, in any form that they can get it.
Judging by the coaching moves this offseason, however, it appears that Arte Moreno doesn't recognize that as the problem. So that's why I'm looking at players of all positions, because as I said in an earlier installment, the Arte wants what the Arte wants.
First, we'll look at a former Angel that is almost a guarantee to NOT come back to the team, due to two things: his price tag, and his draft pick compensation. It's understandable, in mere theory, to have given up draft picks for Albert Pujols and for Josh Hamilton. But not this guy. When he was an Angel, we were confounded by his consistent inconsistency. He managed to have a good season in 2013 once he was finally gone (though in hindsight, we vastly undersold him), and his agents are turning it into a Greinke comparison. So let's say Arte caves and hands him a 5-year, $112 million contract to apologize for the vast misdeed of trading him for a Tommy John recovery. Let's see what Black Magic spins us in his dark return...
ERVIN SANTANA (SP, LAA 2005-12, KCR 2013)
From Cy Young candidate and All-Star to midseason demotion to no-hitter pitcher to being traded for Brandon Sisk, Santana definitely provided us with a plethora of memories good and bad while he was here. The comparisons his agents are drawing to Zack Greinke are not far-fetched, in that both pitchers have had brilliant moments peppered into more common seasons of mediocrity and sometimes worse, with dependable seasons timed JUST right. We know what Ervin has done for us, so there's not a whole lot of fun to be had with this one. But for the sake of whatever, let's have a look.
2014 SEASON WITH ANGELS
Big surprise. Mediocrity across the board, eating up innings like crazy. Ervin's average amount of innings pitched per 32 starts is 200, so to assume 202 isn't much of a stretch. We know what to expect, and so we know that $22.4 million as an AAV for him is absolutely ludicrous. Whoever signs Ervin would be much better served by giving him C.J. Wilson-type money (5/77.5), or maybe even a Buehrle deal (4/58). Regardless of that, let's see what we can squeak out of Ervin across his five oldest years.
FIVE YEAR CONTRACT WITH ANGELS
Ugh. Confirming what we'd all already know, Ervin would be headed nowhere good here. It'd give him 13 years pitching for the Angels, which would put him among the longest-served pitchers in Anaheim, but the stats wouldn't match up with his company. He's going to be best served in an environment historically conducive to good pitching, with a STRONG pitching coach. Best of luck to him finding his wunderkind contract. He ain't getting it here.
JACOBY ELLSBURY (OF, BOS 2007-13)
Another guy we don't need, so of course, another guy management will kick the tires on. Ellsbury's struggles have ALL been with injuries, and he's headed towards his age-30 season. When he's healthy, he is one of baseball's best--but he's dealt with injuries in half of his major league seasons. Boston is not likely to keep him, with Jackie Bradley, Jr. raring to go. So where does he go? Seattle's taking a hard look at him, but other than that, many teams are far too concerned with his medicals. A Jayson Werth contract (7/126) is not to be unexpected. Scott Boras can work magic on Ellsbury. Do the astronomical odds go to naught and have Ellsbury land in Anaheim? If so, let's see what 2014 yields.
2014 SEASON WITH ANGELS
You may have forgotten that he's fast. VERY fast. If the three-spot is Trout's future, then Ellsbury would certainly be a decent candidate to lead off or bat second. It'd be very interesting to see if Ellsbury failed to find a long-term deal on the open market, and was forced to take a one-year deal with a vesting option based on active roster days to prove his health. If he could be had at that, he'd be a steal anywhere. But let's assume, again, he gets his seven-year deal. Taking his health into consideration, it's still generous to assume Ellsbury misses only 31 games (excluding his partial 2007 season in which he was in the minors most of the year, he averages at 114 games). So the following seven-year layout is based on the highly optimistic and unlikely possibility that Ellsbury stays healthy all seven years of his contract. Here goes.
SEVEN YEAR CONTRACT WITH ANGELS
Doing the math out, you'll see that Ellsbury would average out around 124 games a year, which is still optimistic, but it isn't too far off from the 114 mentioned above. Also, it's not as if Ellsbury plays 124 games each season; just as with Boston, it could wind up that Ellsbury would be completely healthy (anywhere between 145-162 games) in a few seasons, and completely depleted (less than half the season) in others. In any case, he averages out at decent production, but nothing worth paying $18-22 million per season for. His best bet? Going somewhere where the ball will FLY. I wouldn't be surprised to see the Yankees make a run if they can't land Choo or Beltran, and teams like the Phillies and Rangers make sense by that logic as well. The Mariners are known suitors for him, and as seen last offseason with their pursuit of Josh Hamilton, they won't shy down from throwing money at him. One place he probably (hopefully) WON'T land? Anaheim.
PHIL HUGHES (SP/RP, NYY 2007-13)
He's come straight out and said that he'll take any offer which basically requires him to "prove it." Seven seasons with the Yankees that saw up and down in every definition of the phrase will culminate in that sort of a deal. Hughes is headed towards his age-28 season, which means that, under the right tutelage and with the perfectly timed health, he has a chance to be a HUGE bargain. By "prove-it" I would assume a one-year deal, low-base salary, lots of incentives and a vesting option based on season totals. I'd start by using Ryan Madson's flop deal with the Angels as a model in terms of a low-base salary ($3.25 million) with an opportunity to earn much more in incentives. For this model, I'll say there's an opportunity to earn up to $1.625 million more in incentives ($50K for every 10 innings past 100, up to 200; $25K for every 5 strikeouts past 125, up to 200; $100K for an All-Star nod, another $150K if he starts the All-Star Game, $250K for top-5 Cy Young finish, $250K bonus on previous incentive for winning Cy Young) and a vesting option based on days on the active roster for $4 million for 2015 (this option becomes a club option if it does not vest). Total maximum value of the deal with all incentives and options is $8.875 million across two years. Let's see where it goes for 2014 alone.
2014 SEASON WITH ANGELS
By the terms of my hypothetical deal above, Hughes would make $3.55 million before considering any of the accolade-based incentives. But with a stat line like that, it's doubtful Hughes makes or starts the All-Star Game (unless his season reflects C.J. Wilson's 2012), and almost laughable that he would even place in Cy Young voting anywhere. What I do think would happen, regardless of days on the active roster, is that the team would pick up his 2015 option if it didn't vest. The ERA is average at best, the WHIP is nothing to blow you away, but the K/BB ratio, the BB/9 ratio and the H/9 are head-turners for Hughes. His career averages (as a starter) are, respectively, 2.58, 2.8 and 9.3. If his respective rates as an Angel were to be 3.09, 2.5 and 7.8 as suggested above, it's definitely a signal that Hughes is healthy and worth the gamble in 2015. 2012, his healthiest season, saw him equal or better the K/BB and BB/9 totals, and 2007 and 2010 were his best seasons as a starter where he came close to 7.8 H/9. He can do it if he's healthy and given a consistent opportunity. Let's see if it holds across the second year.
TWO YEAR CONTRACT WITH ANGELS
One thing we ought to bear in mind here is that Anaheim will play out much more favorably for any pitcher than Yankee Stadium would; in fact, about 7.44% more favorably going by pitching park factors. So it isn't AS crazy to assume Hughes can perform on a more friendly level with the Angels. Also he would be just 29 in 2015, when he'd post such stats as a 3.97 ERA, a 7.7 H/9 ratio and a 12-11 record, and it wouldn't be foolish to extend him from there; as pitching starved as the 2015-16 free agent market would project to be (the "jewels" project to be Tim Lincecum, Kyle Kendrick, Jaime Garcia, Trevor Cahill and Rick Porcello), he could fetch a 4-year deal quite easily if he weren't extended post-2015. If we sign Phil Hughes, we'd best make it worth his while, because while he wouldn't be spectacular, he'd be RELIABLE--and Lord knows we need that.
In the next edition, we'll call a doctor for the starting rotation, explore another starting pitcher trade, and provide potential post-steroid redemption.