Just when you thought things were getting slow.
Before this week, few major moves had been made. Now, in just this week, the Boston Red Sox have signed both Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval (and are supposedly shopping Yoenis Cespedes and courting Jon Lester), the Diamondbacks stepped in and grabbed Yasmany Tomas on a six-year, $68.5 million deal, and now...the Athletics shipped their perennial MVP candidate to the beefing-up Blue Jays, in exchange for Brett "The Human Disabled List" Lawrie and three prospects.
Ladies and gentlemen, it appears the Athletics are in rebuilding mode.
Before the Donaldson news went down, it was looking very much like Jeff Samardzija would be the first out the door. And while the Shark still is being shopped (and the Angels could very well be interested later on), the Donaldson news, as reported by Ken Rosenthal, absolutely STUNNED the baseball world. Teammate Josh Reddick tells Slusser that this is a clear signal of a rebuild. And I believe we're to listen to him.
So who's gone next? More importantly, could the Angels, with Jerry Dipoto's propensity for intra-division trades (he has already made at least one with each of our AL West rivals since being hired), wind up phoning in their inquiries at some time?
Now, every deal that Dipoto has made with a division rival has, in all fairness, been much smaller scale. His trade with the Athletics was Alberto Callaspo for Grant Green; his Seattle deal was Kendrys Morales for Jason Vargas; his Texas deal was the most recent, acquiring outfielder Dan Robertson in exchange for a PTBNL or cash; and his Houston deal was sending Hank Conger in exchange for studly minor-league righty Nick Tropeano and catcher Carlos Perez.
But Dipoto is no stranger to the deals of larger variety. Though this didn't come as the Angels' GM, it did still involve the Angels, as Dipoto masterminded the Diamondbacks through the Dan Haren trade, acquiring beloved lefty Joe Saunders, reliever Rafael Rodriguez, and then minor-leaguers Tyler Skaggs and Patrick Corbin. When he hopped over to our side, he proceeded to deal Jean Segura, Ariel Pena and Johnny Hellweg to Milwaukee for Zack Greinke (arguably Dipoto's most fruitless trade). Not to be forgotten is Dipoto's biggest Halo blockbuster, the three-teamer last winter that sent Mark Trumbo and A.J. Schugel to Arizona in exchange for Tyler Skaggs and Hector Santiago (via the White Sox, who sent Santiago to Arizona for outfielder Adam Eaton).
Beyond the wall of text, let's get to the fun stuff.
Josh Donaldson was supposedly untouchable. The one guy that the free-wheeling-and-dealing Athletics would never trade. But even so, after a season in which they went from certain AL West winners to barely eking out a wild card spot, then promptly losing their seven-inning lead in the Wild Card game (and then the game itself in the 13th), Billy Beane is sounding the trumpets for MLB's other 29 teams to hear.
Are the Angels listening?
It's safe to say, then, that nobody on the Athletics is untouchable at this point. This opens up guys like Brandon Moss, Sonny Gray, Drew Pomeranz, John Jaso, Eric Sogard, Coco Crisp, Nate Freiman, Derek Norris, Sean Doolittle, and of course, Jeff Samardzija (among others) to be dealt. Billy Beane is going to rake in some prospects, as well as a few MLB-ready pieces.
So, do the Angels have what it takes to partake of this rebuilding within their division? Or will they sit out?
Something tells me that Trader Jerry would love to jump in this pool. But I also don't believe he'd blow what little the Angels have left in prospect value, on one piece. So, I'll look at a few guys that make sense for the Angels, and see what fits best. Starting with...
JOHN JASO, CATCHER/DESIGNATED HITTER If you are an Angels fan--a true one--then you know for danged certain who exactly John Jaso is. Jaso, an Angels killer whether he played in Tampa Bay, Seattle or Oakland, is an OBP-machine who still is enough of a threat with the bat to be taken seriously. In his career, he has yet to hold a consistent starting job, being a platoon player at every stop of his career. However, he's put up a .259 average with a respectable (especially in context) on-base percentage of .359. In 94 career plate appearances in Angel Stadium, Jaso has raked: a slash of .337/.409/.578 (equating to a 159 OPS+), 6 home runs, 23 runs batted in, and 14 runs scored. The most CONSISTENT amount of damage in his career? Well, the leadoff spot, cleanup spot, and five-hole all appear promising:
Obviously, we ought to beware of small sample size when it comes to batting Jaso fifth. However, if the Angels acquired him and knew full well how he performs in Anaheim on a consistent basis, why not take the chance? He could be a super-utility type--though atypical--rotating between DH and catcher, and slotting in fifth would be ideal in a lineup such as this:
Or like this:
Basically, Jaso would be quite the get for the Halos. What would it take to land him? Probably not a whole ton, though if we can gauge Donaldson's return as any sort of indicator, then even Jaso won't run cheap. My thought is that a major league reliever and a minor-league infielder would be the ideal return. So:
ANGELS ACQUIRE: John Jaso, C/DH
ATHLETICS ACQUIRE: Kevin Jepsen, RHP; Eric Stamets, SS
Stamets will likely not slot in as a regular player in Anaheim at any point, and his name is constantly dropped by fans like us as trade bait at some eventual point, so why not now? As far as salary we would likely wind up adding a net amount of ~$600K, as Jaso will probably earn north of $3 million in arbitration this offseason, while Jepsen is projected at $2.6 million. The one issue: Jaso is only under club control for one more season. However, the Angels took a similar chance when acquiring Chris Iannetta, sending five years of control in Tyler Chatwood away. However, Iannetta managed to pay off, and the Angels promptly extended him for three more seasons after 2012 came to a close. Could the risk pay off similarly with Jaso?
STEPHEN VOGT, UTILITY MAN This one might be a little harder to pry away from Oakland, considering he has one more season of salary control left before his three arb years. However, Vogt is useful at first base, right field, catcher and even left field (all positions he played with Oakland in 2014). Last season was something of a "breakout" year for Vogt, who batted .279/.321/.431 with 9 dingers and 35 RBI in just 84 games (287 plate appearances) last season. He's a relatively cheap bench option with versatility to back up Albert Pujols, C.J. Cron, Chris Iannetta, Kole Calhoun AND Josh Hamilton. We could pay him just above league minimum next season and still have him under club control via arbitration after next season. Because of those four years of control, though, it'll take a bit of creativity to convince Oakland to let him go.
So what is Dipoto to do? Well, even though Vogt is still under very much club control, he is going into his age-30 season, which is something he could use to his advantage. The A's will likely want all prospects in exchange for Vogt, and it'll probably take two of them to get him. So who's up? I have an idea I'd like to propose, if I won't be lynched after proposing it.
ANGELS ACQUIRE: Stephen Vogt, UTIL
ATHLETICS ACQUIRE: Kaleb Cowart, 3B; Kyle McGowin, RHP
We all know about Cowart. Unprotected for the Rule V draft, next-big-thing turned "maybe we should pitch him". The A's seem like the kind of team that would take a chance and probably convert him to a pitcher without giving the notion a second thought. If the Angels won't do it, I'd love to see if it works with Oakland. As for McGowin, the Angels picked him in the 5th round of the 2013 draft, and he shined in his 10 appearances with Inland Empire, all as a starter: 2.93 ERA, 7.4 K/9, 1.149 WHIP. However, his single exposure to AA Arkansas resulted in 5 innings of proof that he needs more seasoning. Together, Cowart and McGowin could wind up representing two near-future additions to Oakland's rotation--and the Angels get four years of an atypical but quite helpful utility player coming off the bench.
DREW POMERANZ, STARTING AND/OR RELIEF PITCHER For approximately 13 months, Pomeranz was supposed to be the not-so-distant prize of the Cleveland Indians' future rotation. Then, they shipped him to the Colorado Rockies in the ill-fated Ubaldo Jimenez trade. Pomeranz spent three toilsome years in Colorado, never adjusting to the hitter-friendly confines. The A's acquired him before the 2014 season in exchange for Brett Anderson (who is now a free agent), and in 20 appearances (10 starts), he fared pretty well, sporting a 2.35 ERA, 1.116 WHIP, just 6.7 H/9, and 8.3 K/9 in 69 innings pitched. Pomeranz is headed into his age-26 season, and is a year away from arbitration. His somewhat-small-sample-size-success (say that five times fast) could net him decent dough from Oakland in a hearing, which could be an avoidant matter with the supposedly-rebuilding Oakland. He is of the rare "bats right, throws left" variety (a la Randy Johnson)--and a lefty like Pomeranz in our rotation would be a treat, especially in the absence of Tyler Skaggs. Even upon Skaggs' return, Pomeranz could slot nicely into the bullpen as a swingman, or either be traded elsewhere for quality minor league pieces, or be good enough to force someone ELSE to be traded elsewhere for quality minor league pieces.
The problem: Pomeranz is young and not projected to be a free agent until the 2019 season. Unlike with Vogt, who will be 34 upon free agency, Pomeranz would become a free agent at 30, and if he blossoms well, he could become quite pricy.
What would it take to land Drew Pomeranz?
We would likely have to give up a young piece of our pitching staff. And while we don't have any starters that fit that bill that we would ever give up, we do have a glut of relievers. Jepsen, as aforementioned, fits that bill, but doesn't work in a Pomeranz deal because it requires the A's to take money on. Fernando Salas could fit that description, as he would be cheaper in arbitration than Jepsen by about $1 million, but still is questionable. This means we have to tap into younger, more cost-effective pitching. Pomeranz may not cost much in terms of volume, but in terms of quality things could get ugly on our end.
ANGELS ACQUIRE: Drew Pomeranz, LHP
ATHLETICS ACQUIRE: Mike Morin, RHP; Jose Alvarez, LHP
Cost-controlled pitching in any trade will come at the cost of MORE cost-controlled young pitching. And while the relative cheapness of Pomeranz makes it less likely that HE would be traded, I would imagine that Billy Beane is listening on just about anybody. And with an offer like Morin--who debuted this year with a VERY unsung quality season--and Alvarez, former Tigers standout prospect acquired for Andrew Romine, it would be hard to say no, especially with the knowledge that Drew Pomeranz, in a pitcher-friendly environment, can and will thrive. If it helps, picture it like this:
|SP||Tyler Skaggs/Matt Shoemaker|
|SP||C.J. Wilson/Hector Santiago|
JEFF SAMARDZIJA, STARTING PITCHER I am very knowledgeable that this is the LEAST likely of all players for the Angels to acquire, but I'm including him for the giggles. It's no secret that the Shark is available in trade. The A's are desperately seeking prospects, as well as major-league middle infielders and outfielders. While the Angels aren't the richest in prospects, they do have middle infielders whose names are no strangers to the trading block. I won't even give much of a prelude to this, I'll do my talking after my proposal.
ANGELS ACQUIRE: Jeff Samardzija, RHP
ATHLETICS ACQUIRE: Howie Kendrick, 2B; Grant Green, IF; Cory Rasmus, RHP
This stings, but not as much as you think. Green and Rasmus make good throw-ins for the sake of depth on the bench and in the rotation/bullpen, respectively. Rasmus' spot on the depth chart becomes tighter and tighter with every pitcher the Angels acquire (i.e. Ramos, Tropeano, McBryde, etc.), and his unknown status between being either a reliever or a starter could be well answered in Oakland (in this case, he likely starts in Oakland's rotation). Green goes back to his original team as infield depth with the "almost-face of MLB" Eric Sogard, and possibly even starts at shorstop with Jed Lowrie a free agent; Kendrick, however, is Oakland's prize of the deal. With one year left on his contract, the A's, and just about every other team with underwhelming infield depth and/or performance, greatly covet Kendrick. Dipoto has stated that he does not look to actively shop Kendrick--but the A's weren't actively shopping Donaldson. If Kendrick gets the Angels Samardzija--whose projected salary could equal or slightly best that of Kendrick in 2015--it's worth it. Samardzija, like Kendrick, is a year from free agency, and could very likely net the Angels a draft pick if he chooses to leave in free agency after next season (I find it hard to imagine the Angels DON'T extend him a qualifying offer). Look at these for any help you might need in being convinced:
Doesn't this sound like a fun train to jump on while it's coming through our tracks?