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A Looming Angels Fire Sale? Part I

The horrid start in April could have the front office thinking that the big name, big money era is over in Anaheim. If a fire sale is the answer, there's a way to do it that could turn rebuilding into reloading.

"Fist bumps for those of us getting out of here!"
"Fist bumps for those of us getting out of here!"
Stephen Dunn

Kind of a scary thought, isn't it?

The Angels could very well have built themselves a $150 million cellar door. And there's some players on this team that, being the shiny brass hinges of the door, are locked in. Others are rough-and-tumble youngsters trying to bust the door down. They stay too. There are, I believe, ten non-rookie players that are to be deemed untouchable in any fire sale, for those two reasons. They are:

Albert Pujols

Mike Trout

Mark Trumbo

Josh Hamilton

Jered Weaver

C.J. Wilson

Ernesto Frieri

Peter Bourjos

Erick Aybar

Sean Burnett

Some of those players are locked in due to no-trade clauses and/or expensive contracts. Others are untouchable due to the young presence and fire they bring. There's two starting pitchers, two relievers, our entire starting outfield, both of our first basemen and our starting shortstop. Around these ten, we rebuild Castillo de Moreno, and we rebuild it strong and new.

The first step to this, I believe, will be firing the ENTIRE coaching staff. Well, maybe not the entire staff. Tom Gregorio and Dino Ebel can stay. Ideally speaking, though, the coaching staff would be rebuilt of Omar Vizquel as the manager, Darin Erstad as the hitting coach, Troy Percival as the pitching coach, Dino Ebel as the bench coach, Scot Shields as the bullpen coach, and then Tim Bogar and Tim Salmon manning first and third bases. Vizquel and Erstad could, however, be interchangeable.

Now, for the trades.

Our biggest attractions are going to be Howie Kendrick, Chris Iannetta, Alberto Callaspo, and any pitcher with more than two full years of service. Jason Vargas and Scott Downs will be stellar deadline rental pieces. Pitching-hungry teams will grovel and overpay, and Dipoto will jump all over it.

Focusing on those five mentioned names (plus a filler piece here and there as package deals), let's see where it leads.

Howie Kendrick can be marketed as the cheap, cost-controlled alternative to Robinson Cano, minus some power in the bat. In a hitter-friendly environment (i.e. Colorado, New York, Philadelphia), you could probably count on Howie as a .300 hitter with 20+ HR per year. Even in a neutral environment, his offense could slightly increase (getting out of marine layer hell here in Anaheim).

To the right team, Howie can net us three prospects. This would be to a team starving for consistency at second base, with flashes of brilliance on occasion defensively. Most hitter-friendly teams are already set at second base, or have guys on the cusp of free agency that would still be upgrades if kept. However, neutral environments such as the Marlins, Twins and Orioles would love Howie's relatively cheap cost.

I sense the Orioles, at this point, as the most likely of the three; Brian Roberts is injured all too often, and Ryan O'Flaherty isn't exactly an offensive presence. Baltimore acquiring Kendrick would be a moderate boost to the lineup, and they could depend on a .280 average and decent pop out of him. We could EASILY get two prospects for him, MAYBE three. Assuming Dipoto pushes it whilst including a close-to-ready pitcher that we've not yet promoted, I see a trade where the Angels get a close-to-ready pitcher, plus two guys that can still develop in A-ball. Like so:

Orioles acquire 2B Howie Kendrick and RHP Matt Shoemaker in exchange for RHP Parker Bridwell, C Michael Ohlman and RHP Michael Belfiore.

Bridwell and Ohlman are in A-ball right now, and could both be MLB-ready come 2015. Belfiore is in AAA Norfolk right now, and is a possible candidate as a September callup this year. As for replacing Kendrick immediately, the Angels do have Brendan Harris for the short-term, until Andrew Romine can develop with the bat. Romine would likely man second base until Alex Yarbrough is major-league ready. Why not have Callaspo man second? Because...he's next.

Alberto Callaspo is...a very unique third baseman. Therefore, he will command a unique trade market. Assuming he's moved within the season, he'd have around one and a half years at a cheap and controlled rate. He's not a power hitting corner guy, and he's not even a speedy, Figgins 2009 type. He's an OBP boost to any lineup, a relatively patient eye that, in the right environment, can even hit for average (see 2009 in Kansas City). A return to KC is never going to happen, however, with the Royals firmly committed to Mike Moustakas. Who would want Callaspo? Well, a team that will be in need of someone that won't ring up triple-digits in strikeouts, and moreover, a team that has somewhere to put him. I'm thinking the Phillies, whose commitment to Michael Young ends in October. Young is still remarkably capable with the bat and will price himself right out of Philadelphia, who is likely waiting on Cody Asche, their top 3B prospect, to be MLB-ready, which will likely be about the same time as our Kaleb Cowart. Therefore, Callaspo makes a great one-year stopgap while Asche learns to improve upon his patience at the plate (his .330 OBP in AAA at the moment is not terrible, but translates to sub-.300 in the majors). They also have a young 3B prospect in Maikel Franco, who would be a backup should Asche not pan out.

Callaspo would probably net us one decent prospect, or two low prospects (like those received in the Vernon Wells trade). Being optimistic, I'd wonder if Philadelphia would be willing to part with right-handed pitching prospect Mitch Gueller. He's likely to start in the GCL this season, as he was one of Philly's top picks in 2012. Scouts love his fastball, which current sits consistently at 93. The concern is for whether or not he can build a secondary pitch. If he can, he has the potential to develop not just into a stellar pitcher, but likely one that could be good enough to replace C.J. Wilson as soon as his contract expires. Dipoto got a pitcher from them for free already; let's see if one more favor isn't out of reach.

Phillies acquire INF Alberto Callaspo in exchange for RHP Mitch Gueller.

Chris Iannetta's current contract is one that Jerry Dipoto constructed very smartly. He didn't short Iannetta any as far as money goes, but he also didn't overpay; three years at $15.55 million is a light enough contract to be completely assumed in any trade with a team not based in Houston or Miami. Offensive-minded catching isn't easy to come by; Iannetta, in the right environment, has 20-HR pop across a full season, and puts up respectable OBPs year in and year out. A team that seems to CONSTANTLY be looking for answers behind the plate, and also has a rich arsenal of talented minor league pitching, is Tampa Bay.

We haven't done any major deal with Tampa Bay since the Kazmir massacre (save for the Geltz/DLR swap, which I'll call a wash for the time being), and with a smarter GM in place, Dipoto would not let Iannetta go for less than every penny he's worth. It's likely he'd demand at least ONE top-20 prospect from Tampa Bay, and a likely candidate is RHP Jeff Ames. Already a three-pitch pitcher in A-ball, he possesses a sweet fastball alongside a slider and changeup that, with development, will become, at the very least, serviceable in the majors (serviceable being better than Joe Blanton). Iannetta would not be a Callaspo-type deal; Iannetta would likely net either another piece alongside Ames, of his caliber, or two other lower pieces. Parker Markel is another right-handed piece that could accompany Ames, similar in talent but with inconsistent control. Tossing in a low-level pitching piece--a halfway decent one, mind you--to venture to Florida with Iannetta will likely net us a third prospect. Throw in low-level prospect Spencer Edwards at shortstop, and we could have us a deal.

Rays acquire C Chris Iannetta and RHP Eric Cendejas in exchange for RHP Jeff Ames, RHP Parker Markel and SS Spencer Edwards.

Next on the list is Jason Vargas, who, if the Angels continue down the current road and DON'T do the fire sale, will probably still be dangled as a rental for a playoff contender anyway. That list of teams is likely longer than the ones aforementioned. But not that much larger--don't expect a team like the Nationals, Reds or Tigers to jump on Vargas. Look to a team that has made marginal trade deals in past deadline moves--nothing to grab headlines, but something to at least help them out a bit. Or, also look at teams typically inactive at the deadline, be it by choice or by bad luck. I'm looking right now at the Pirates and Yankees. The Pirates, at the past two deadlines, have made deals that have not shown a particular risk being taken, not a giant leap of any kind that would scare division rivals. Case in point? Derrek Lee, Gaby Sanchez and Ryan Ludwick have been their past deadline acquisitions as buyers. Not bad players, by any means. These are guys, though, who weren't exactly topping people's wish lists in their deadline years. Lee and Ludwick both were rentals, showing that the Pirates, in the right season and with the right position, will go win-now. Vargas is going into a free-agency year--any team he goes to that subsequently makes the playoffs has a much better shot at signing him long-term. He will NOT be a cheap sign this offseason if he hits the open market. Likewise, he will not be a cheap trade.

Not many pitchers figure to be dangled at the deadline. I could predict a Doug Fister-like haul for the Angels, should Vargas be among the top three available starting pitchers come July. We can demand the moon and quite possibly get it. Fister, formerly Vargas' Seattle cellmate teammate, went to Detroit in 2011 with reliever David Pauley (briefly an Angel thereafter) and netted four prospects. If Vargas is in the same situation, he and a reliever could easily get us three decent guys and a PTBNL (as was the exact case for Fister).

What team, though, is that desperate for pitching AND that desperate to win? Pittsburgh would surely LOVE to be in the playoffs after getting buttercupped in 2011 and 2012, but are they willing to part with four players to get a guy that may or may not help them get there, plus a tagalong bullpen piece? The Yankees certainly would love pitching help with their 5-man emergency room of a rotation, and prospects are no object with them, but can Dipoto call in another favor with them after the Wells miracle?

At this point, my money would be on neither of those teams, but rather the Mets. Vargas was very briefly a Met, but at that point in time, Omar Minaya was still the team's general manager, and foolishly traded him to the Mariners in the J.J. Putz deal, choosing to give up on him after his brief time in Flushing was uninspiring. Vargas is a much different pitcher now, and could be a solid addition amongst the likes of Jonathon Niese, Dillon Gee and Matt Harvey. Should the Mets ride the stellar arm of Harvey towards a decent fight in the NL East, they could be in a buying position--and they definitely have the pieces to float a monstrously sweet deal.

Mets acquire LHP Jason Vargas and RHP Jarrett Grube in exchange for RHP Cory Mazzoni, C Kevin Plawecki, LHP Josh Edgin and a player to be named later.

Mazzoni could have the potential to become a mid-rotation starter for us within the next two seasons, with an above-average fastball with low-to-mid-90s zip, plus a late-breaking slider and an average-functioning splitter (which is his offspeed pitch of choice). Likewise, Kevin Plawecki could be an immediate Iannetta replacement, if we don't have enough faith in the likes of Hank Conger or Jett Bandy. Edgin is already a bullpen piece with the Mets, though he frequents the shuttle back to Buffalo. He could wind up directly in our bullpen, or as MLB-ready depth in Salt Lake. The Mets, meanwhile get Vargas and Grube, a solid righty with Harvey-like stats for AA Arkansas, giving them help in the short-term and the long-term.

Finally, we come upon Scott Downs. Downs is another rental piece, whose potential trade I could base off of the Mike Adams deal...if I were that optimistic. Downs would probably only net us one prospect, but one young arm in the minors is better than none. Most teams are always hungry for veteran bullpen help, and one team that can't get enough help in the bullpen, especially right now, is the Cardinals. Fans and reporters alike seem to be going insane with the repetitive use of Mitchell Boggs up in St. Louis. GM John Mozeliak would be fond of any help he could find. ANY help he could find. And we, in return, would probably get a rookie-ball arm that would toil in our system for a few years and maybe wind up in our bullpen. Basically, it's like getting rid of Justin Speier, except with something in return other than peace of mind.

The Cardinals have SEVERAL nice minor league arms, though we wouldn't be getting any of their top five pitching prospects without a little something sweeter. And if we already traded Kendrick, Iannetta, Callaspo and Vargas, no chance the Cardinals get anything other than Downs. A one-for-one here is certainly respectable. The Cards have a young gun in rookie-level Johnson City with one of the most fun last names EVER: Samuel Tuivailala. Drafted a shortstop, he converted to pitching after two hideous offensive years. After his move to the mound, he put up a K/9 rate of 15.9. His fastball touches 97 at the moment, and could possibly even gain velocity as he rises through the system. His curveball and changeup are good enough to get by, but would need definite work if he aims to be anything other than a one-trick bullpen pony. He'd have about 3-4 years of work to put in before winding up in Anaheim--this, of course, depending on our pitching depth at the time. If this is the only move the Angels make, he may be our closer in 2014, which is more an insult to ourselves than a compliment to him.

Cardinals acquire LHP Scott Downs in exchange for RHP Samuel Tuivailala.

With just these five players moved, let's see the haul overall:

SEVEN right-handed pitchers, TWO catchers, ONE left-handed pitcher, ONE shortstop and ONE player to be named later.

My own speculation is that the PTBNL would be a left-handed pitcher or a second baseman, but Jerry does as Jerry wants, really.

This is just my own construction of a fire sale in my own realistic it is, you tell me. But should the Angels get that far...could this be a general idea of what's to come?