While the free agent market and trading block are hardly grade-A this offseason, it isn't exactly dumpster-diving. But it could be for the Angels. A handcuffed payroll and limited flexibility are going to force the team to be creative--and that's what today's three players are all about.
Today we look at the guys who are likely Plan B or Plan C for us, guys that most teams probably aren't prioritizing. But these are guys DEFINITELY worth a look, like our first one who, even as recently as two years ago, was in the conversation of baseball's best. As recently as 2010, MLB Network named him baseball's best pitcher. Two seasons hassled and depleted by injury, however, have cast serious doubt on a guy that could've been in command of the pitching market this offseason. Instead, he looks to be a one-year-with-an-option flyer. Headed towards his age 37 season, he finds himself in an unfamiliar situation: having to prove he still has what it takes to pitch in the big leagues. He's won two Cy Youngs and finish top-5 five other times. He's the active leader in complete games and shutouts. The Angels need a rotation fix. Why not call a Doctor?
ROY HALLADAY (SP, TOR 1998-2009; PHI 2010-13)
It's not an unfamiliar thought, Roy Halladay as an Angel--the team offered up Erick Aybar, Mike Napoli and Joe Saunders for him after the 2009 season. The Blue Jays, however, were in search of minor league talent as opposed to major-league ready vets, and instead took the Phillies' offer of Kyle Drabek, Travis d'Arnaud and Michael Taylor. Halladay has a decent shot at the Hall of Fame at the end of his career, and the Angels could mark one of two things for him: a turnaround to his career, or an unheralded end. It's not a bad idea. The same logic can be applied here as to the hypotheticals of Tim Hudson, though Halladay may be easier to obtain because of his injury issues. A "prove-it" type deal, once again, could be in play, though on a larger scale than with Phil Hughes. He can be had fairly on a one-year, $8 million deal with incentives (for this, let's go with $100K for every 20 IP past 100, up to 200; $150K bonus for reaching 200 innings; $150K each for making and starting the All-Star Game; $150K for winning AL Comeback Player of the Year; $250K each for placing top-5 in AL Cy Young and for winning AL Cy Young) and a 2015 vesting option at $9 million (vests if Halladay is not on the disabled list at the end of the season; becomes club option if it does not vest). Maximum value of the deal: two years, $18.45 million. Let's see what 2014 looks like:
2014 SEASON WITH ANGELS
Again, going by the hypothetical contract framework I provided, Halladay would make $8.4 million (I would say $8.55 because I'd like to think these stats earn him Comeback honors, but I won't conjecture THAT far) and, given that missing 4 starts can just as easily be from wear and tear during the season (pitching 191 innings in just 28 starts, while in line with career averages, is still very much tiresome) and not from being on the DL, I assume his option for 2015 vests. These are reliable, good and solid numbers. And what's more, all his rate stats are in line with or exceed his career averages. But does the magic carry over to his age-38 season?
TWO YEAR CONTRACT WITH ANGELS
Basically? 2015 could grow ugly. Well, ugly in the world of Roy Halladay, average in the world of everyone else. A 3.86 ERA (the highest ERA he's ever had in a season of at least 28 starts is 3.71 in 2007), 1.296 WHIP (again, 2007 with a 1.243) and H/9 ratio of 9.6 (once more, 2007 with a 9.3) would set full-season worsts for Halladay as a starter. We had three pitchers in our rotation last year with those three stats ALL worse than what Halladay's 2015 stats would be. Even if Halladay regressed 10% further at age 38, he'd still be a better, more reliable option (if his injuries are behind him) in the rotation. Not only do I believe he'd be a good signing, I will go as far to say we would be stupid to not sign Roy Halladay. On a one-year deal with a vesting option, he is a VERY smart buy.
DOUG FISTER (SP, SEA 2009-11; DET 2011-13)
All juvenile jokes aside, Fister has emerged as one of baseball's more underrated arms. He and AL Cy Young winner Max Scherzer are both rumored to be available in trade. We'll cover Scherzer in a future edition, but as for right now we're considering the cheaper trade option. One innocent follower of Jon Morosi's on Twitter questioned the possibility of a Howie Kendrick/Doug Fister swap. Morosi was intrigued. I don't think we give up a trade chip like Howie for just one guy, though. Howie is more likely to go to a team rich in pitching prospects, so we can restock the farm. This has the potential to be one of baseball's most interesting trade stories, as the Tigers and Angels have baseball's two worst farm systems. With that in mind, although the Howie/Fister one-for-one makes sense, it doesn't make ENOUGH sense. I could see it being where the Angels flip two high-level guys, both of whom could surface for the Tigers within the coming year. I'm looking at Jarrett Grube and Taylor Lindsey. Both would probably go directly to Toledo, Lindsey possibly not for the entire year. Assuming Omar Infante leaves Detroit (again), second base would be trusted to either Brandon Douglas or Danny Worth, neither of whom would be reliable options. Lindsey shows much promise, but with Grant Green seeming to be the guy at second base if Howie leaves, and even further back on the depth chart if Howie doesn't, Lindsey appears to be blocked. Grube is a pitching prospect of ours who doesn't appear to get the same fanfare that other of our pitching prospects do (i.e. Shoemaker, Sappington), but could probably crack the starting five in Detroit with Fister gone and Scherzer poised for free agency after next season. Grube and Lindsey for two guaranteed years of Fister. What do WE get out of it?
2014 SEASON WITH ANGELS
Nails. Assuming that Fister would be the only starter acquired this offseason, we'd have ourselves a 2014 rotation of Weaver-Wilson-Fister-Richards-Blanton. It doesn't look a heap better than the 2013 rotation, but if Fister performs like this, it certainly hurts less. I love a good K/BB ratio above 3, and ABSOLUTELY love when a pitcher's K/BB ratio is higher than their ERA (even if only by a slight margin). The high H/9 is a bit alarming, but spot on with his career average, so I guess it just comes as a package deal. Any guy who can average between 6-6.1 innings pitched per outing and put up an ERA in the mid-3s is good with me--especially at the cost of just Grube and Lindsey. Oh, and we get a second year of that too! So what does the overall tenure look like before Fister walks?
TWO YEAR CONTRACT WITH ANGELS
Remember when we did the same two-year evaluation of David Price and it checked out to give him a monstrous walk year? Well Doug Fister's walk year wouldn't be a slouch either: 12-12, 3.19 ERA, 1.113 WHIP, 3.97 K/BB, 1.6 BB/9 and just 0.5 HR/9. The man would be a great presence in the rotation, and a nice change of pace from the reclamation projects we've grown accustomed to. We know what we're getting with Fister: a solid number three that I could hope to extend past 2015.
JHONNY PERALTA (SS/3B, CLE 2003-10; DET 2010-13)
Ja-Honny. The Wrongly Spelled One. Whatever name-related nickname you give him, his legacy up to this season's point will be remembered as one word: Biogenesis. It's unknown how long Jhonny was involved with them, or even if he was into steroids at any point BEFORE Biogenesis came along. One thing, however, is clear: He's going to be out to prove next season that he's plenty good without the steroids. Detroit has Jose Iglesias at shortstop, Miguel Cabrera at third, and presumably will give Andy Dirks the chance to play left field full time next season. Peralta is willing to switch positions in any way if it means being flexible and finding a place to play full-time. Peralta will NOT cost a draft pick (Detroit declined to even offer him $14.1 million for next season) to sign. He's met "in secret" with the Mets about possibly playing there, where he would likely uproot Ruben Tejada. Here, however, he could play third base, or make Erick Aybar available for young pitching. One of two things will happen for Peralta: He'll either get signed for one or two years on the cheap, or he'll find himself a solid four-year deal for a solid amount of money. I'm going to go ahead and call this one in the middle and predict 3 years, $30 million with a mutual option for 2017 at $12 million. Because of his apparent willingness to be flexible, I could see Peralta playing third, shortstop and/or second all regularly as an Angel (even though he has never played an inning of second base in his MLB career), and over the course of three years, he could be moved from third to short for Kaleb Cowart's sake (should he ever be ready for the majors), if that should be by the time Erick Aybar's contract is up or if he is traded for pitching. Anyway, can Peralta be good without the juice in 2014?
2014 SEASON WITH ANGELS
Very Howie-like, and I mean that in the best way possible. His slash of .284/.338/.461 is just about what we can count on from Howie every year (maybe a little less on the slugging end), and out of an infielder that isn't bad at all. And if you're wondering why the totals are substantially above his career averages of .268/.330/.425, it's because Peralta has quite a nice history here in Anaheim: in 130 at-bats, a slash of .323/.336/.554, 20 runs scored, 16 extra-base hits and 21 RBI. Those totals were certainly tamed a bit after being averaged against his career averages, but still we see a decent campaign from Peralta. Across four seasons (three guaranteed plus the option)? Let's see what the overall process yields us.
FOUR YEAR CONTRACT WITH ANGELS
It honestly doesn't look all that bad, to be honest. In 2013, the average Angels starting infielder put up a slash of .257/.318/.408, so Peralta's overall slash of .275/.329/.447 would be welcome. He's not the IDEAL solution to the third base problem at the moment--Peralta likely requires a longer-term commitment than someone such as, say, Eric Chavez--but Peralta's use across the four years would extend from third base to shortstop to even left field or designated hitter if need be. Basically he would be a super-utility man, which there's nothing wrong with. Is it worth the AAV of $10.5 million? Which would be better spent on a pitcher? Most likely. BUT, if we acquire our pitching through trade, Peralta wouldn't be a bad buy. Not a Plan A, but not a bad buy.
In our next edition, we'll take a look at the guy everyone on Halos Heaven wants for next season, a Cy Young winner supposedly on the trading block, and arguably the free agent of least use to the Angels, except to steal him from Texas.