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WeekEnd HaloLinks: Time to go big!

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Billy Eppler has given us the signal that he has the go-ahead to get ahead over the next week. The players are out there and The Gathering begins in 72 hours. The next week could be huge for the 2016 outlook.

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The great mystery of the LA Angels has long been about the MLB luxury-tax threshold, and how that applies to the decision-making that goes on in Anaheim. For some time, it has felt as if the guy who owns the wallet (Arte Moreno) doesn't care about ramping the payroll right up to that threshold when it comes to acquiring Big Toys. But then he cares very much when the people who have a job to do with whatever he leaves left in his budget dare to get even close to that same threshold.

Well, that approach hasn't worked. The passage from Gary Matthews, Jr. to Vernon Wells to Josh Hamilton has been a death spiral. It has been like creating a soggy bonfire out of dollar bills only to watch it smoke and smolder all night. The heat never comes, and the money disappeared all the same. At least the Wilson and Pujols contracts have seen us gain value over cost to date, but we can still safely fear the future of that Pujols liability. Hopefully, a new CBA bails us out a little bit there.

Which brings us to the NOW. The on-field product is deteriorating fast in multiple positions and the farm system is an even bigger black hole than the MLB bench. It's going to take a multi-faceted approach in order to in extending our window of competitive opportunity. We need to invest in the farm system: more and better scouts, restore International breadth, and gain much better player selections in the drafts after Round 2. Of course, we need to keep pace with the analytics and analysis ongoing among the other teams: knowledge is power, and knowledge is only fed by information, and information should be embraced. And we need to take emergency measures to bridge the talent gap between where we are today and where we should hope to be in 5 years: we need to pay the toll and buy our way over the chasm we have created. This last one is going to cost money. Arte's money.

Which makes the latest comments coming from Billy Eppler rather encouraging. Maybe, just maybe, he has the authority to execute aggressively on that last need with far less fear of economic restrictions and retributions. The next week may tell. In the meantime, dig yourself an absolute ton of Wear Brown Shoes Day Links:

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Angels Baseball

Ears to the Ground: Eppler dropped a clue late yesterday, indicating that he is primed to do something over the next week. I am assuming that by this he means something substantial, and not another couple of bench depth pickups...........We also learned from Billy that the luxury-tax threshold is more what you call "guidelines" than an actual rule..........

Calhoun: This is cute. Kole Calhoun is open to making the move from right field to left field. I love you, Kole, but if the Halos sign Jason Heyward your ass is moving over to left field whether you are open to it or not..........

They can't afford me: If I were much younger, and back when I was paid a mere fraction of what I make now, I would throw my hat into this ring. It's right up my alley. Based on what I have read from several of you regulars, you are fully qualified to take on a significant role within the Angels organization and be a part of the solution. They are looking for an IT Systems person familiar with the architecting, implementing and managing of their data analytics infrastructure. Smells like SAS to me, drawing on Data Lake sources and supporting a BYOD user community. If you want a leg up in your employment application, PM me and I will give you an inside tip on how to avoid that ETL process they are talking about, saving serious money on storage capacity needs and serious time on nightly batch processing. ETL issues are so 5 years ago..........

Bees' Knees: Congratulations to the Salt Lake City Bees, named the Minor League AAA Franchise of the Year for 2015 by Baseball America. It's a good thing the award focuses on "excellence in operation", considering that the product on the field ended up tied for the worst record in all of domestic AAA ball. (Broncos de Tamaulipas of the Mexican League actually was the very worst, finishing with a .389 winning percentage against the Bees' .403).........

Gears Churning: Alden Gonzalez makes a good point. Since the end of the 2013 season, Halo farm products Peter Bourjos, Hank Conger and Mark Trumbo have combined to be listed on the rosters of 8 different franchises. That's a lot of evangelizing on behalf of the LAA farm system. Do they get to carry pamphlets and everything?..............

Skaggs In this Eppler interview concerning the pitching staff, we learn that Tyler Skaggs is hitting 90mph off the mound, which is pretty much WARP 2 (twice the Weaver Average Release Propulsion). And, as well, C.J. Wilson will be unrestricted by the time we get to ST. Oh, and Garrett Richards is an Eppler "ace". Nice news all the way around............

ST: Just in time for stuffing of the stockings, LAA Spring Training tickets go on sale next Wednesday, December 9th..........

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Elsewhere In Baseball

Peace In Our Time: Hmm. Maybe the next CBA bargaining go-round won't be as contentious as I had been anticipating. The current MLBPA leader, Tony Clark, seems just clueless enough to get rolled by the owner reps fairly quickly. For example, Clark dismisses the idea that player share of revenue is way down, and his version of math claims that player share is as close to 50-50 as it has been in a long time.  This is intriguing, since Clark is supposed to be repping the interest of the players as his constituency, and Fangraphs (people who do know more than a little about math) plumbed this topic just a few months back and demonstrated quite the opposite. In fact, FanGraphs showed that the share hovered right at the 50% mark between 1995 and 2000, jumped to a high of about 56% around 2003, and has been plummeting ever since - currently closer to 37% and falling. And Clark's public stance only reinforces the closing point that FanGraphs makes: "But based on the data above, in the most important respect – protecting the earning power of its members – the MLBPA is arguably performing worse than the unions in the NFL and NBA. Unfortunately for baseball players, reversing this trend may prove to be the most difficult challenge the union has faced in the free agency era." The problem, however, doesn't appear to have its roots with overcoming any burden with the owners as the FanGraphs article was fearing. It appears to be more about overcoming the burden with the players' own leadership............

The Cowgill Effect: No sooner does Collin Cowgill get traded to the Cleveland Indians but Ross Atkins, Player Personnel Director of those same Cleveland Indians, races off to Toronto to become a General Manager. C'mon, Ross, Collin isn't anywhere near that bad. Actually, he kinda grows on you..........

Baby Steps: MLB is growing their StatCast coverage during the 2016 season, which is great news for everybody. Viewers will have more fun understanding athletic accomplishments during replays, and statheads will get access to more empirical data in the ongoing effort to improve metrics for things like defense and baserunning. At this rate, perhaps in my own lifetime we will get those right..........

Change-u-ccino: Up in Seattle, the Jerry Dipoto free-for-all has been identified for what it is. Dipoto is building to the ballpark. Safeco is death for power hitters, which only makes the decisions of previous GM Jack Zduriencik rather mindboggling. Z went for power, which is akin to building a boat hull out of sugar cubes. Dipoto has commenced his rebuild by prioritizing defense. This, IMHO, shows some range with JD in terms of effort when one contrasts what he tried to do in Anaheim in 2013. Back then Dipoto was working to win via overwhelming offense (also in a pitcher's park FWIW). Monochromatic didn't work then, so we should watch to see how well Dipoto learned from such an approach............

Housecleaning: Bill Dwyre, one of the Southern California MSM scions, has officially closed the cover on his typewriter. He may have chosen his own exit, but the LAT sports department is currently undergoing a massive implosion all around him anyway. We here in the blogosphere care about this, especially we LA Angels fans, because it represents major information progress...........

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Hot Stove Season

Conga Line: Hank Conger has been moved to Florida, being traded away from the Astros and to the Tampa Bay Rays..........

Gordon: Most certainly, Alex Gordon would be a major addition. As I scour the Interwebs on behalf of you all, I don't see near enough chatter about him in relation to his rankings among available Free Agents............

Heyward: Sure, it's the obvious thing. The one contending team that is deepest in need of filling that huge outfield hole created by Josh Hamilton's personal implosion nearly a year ago is the Angels. So, yeah, Jason Heyward to the Angels makes more sense than Heyward to anywhere else. But, for those same reasons we could also say this about Alex Gordon and Chris Davis and Justin Upton and Yoenis Cespedes and Dexter Fowler and on and on down the list. But the question is not which team makes the most sense for any Free Agent outfielder, which is the question the author is answering, but which Free Agent outfielder makes the most sense for the Angels? My take starts with the reality that some of those candidates cost us what is now one of our most precious resources: our next first round draft slot. And some of those candidates most definitely do not. That is a cost not to be under-estimated........

Alvarez: Ooh. Bright and shiny! I am sure more than one of you saw the non-tender of Florida Marlins pitcher Henderson Alvarez and went "Hmmm...". After all, this is a kid who has been an All-Star, with an ERA+ of 140 in 2014, and has thrown one no-hitter. Before you need to wipe all that saliva off your chin, remember that Alvarez blew out his shoulder earlier this year and although his recovery is supposedly coming along well, somebody is going to be paying about $4 million for a shoulder that might not ever be the same, attached to a player who won't take the field until at least June...........

Utley: Those of you who once wished hard for Chase Utley years ago might finally get your wish. Just about 6 years and 15 bWAR too late. Utley comes in way down there at #62 in the Yahoo! Ultimate Free Agent Tracker............

Maddening: Ryan Madson, the "Feel Good Story" that never was for the Angels when he tragically broke down at the tail end of his comeback while in Spring Training with the Angels, ended up pitching in relief for the Royals this season, and pitching very well. He appeared in 68 games, bringing home a WHIP of 0.963, an ERA of 2.37, an ERA+ of 195 , and a World Series Championship ring. It's totally probable that had we had that Madson in our bullpen in 2015 we make the playoffs, and from there who knows? Well, it gets worse. Madson may, indeed, return to the AL West, but not to our side. To Oakland's.............

Buckets of Bolts: Shane Victorino has declared that he has found a way to improve his fitness (just in time to benefit some team not named the Angels). His secret? Go back to switch-hitting, something he abandoned back in March because, well, abandoning switch-hitting was good for his fitness..........Cliff Lee - yeah, that Cliff Lee - wants to pitch in 2016. Lee hasn't pitched since July of 2014. This isn't the Ryan Madson comeback story. This is a guy who is 37 years old with more than 2100 innings on that arm. Good luck with that.........

OT: The World's Stupidest Criminals just got the news that they have a new member in their family..........

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This Date In Baseball History: 1943 - William Cox, owner of the Phillies, is suspended from baseball for life by Commissioner Landis after testimony reveals that he was betting on games that involved his very own team............1957 - MLB owners eliminate the bonus rule, which had required new players who signed a contract for more than $4000 to remain with the same club - and on the major league roster - for 2 full seasons. The rule (which was originally enabled in 1947) had pissed off established veterans, denied newbies a chance to develop at their own pace, and inhibited roster flexibility for the GM's. After this, the owners will implement a quasi-draft system, a predecessor to the REAL draft system coming later............1964 - MLB owners vote to use a free agent draft system, allowing teams to select players in inverse order of their finish the previous season. The main reason for the draft was to shut down the escalating signing bonuses when Gene Autry shocked the owners by inking Rick Reichardt to a $205,000 bonus, But the other reason was to block the Yankees from using their wealth to constantly lock up all the best talent year after year. Previously, the Yankees had been using the Kansas City Athletics to circumvent the bonus rule by having the A's park the player for those first two years before being traded to New York.........1995 - The home ball that Cal Ripken hit on the night he tied Lou Gehrig's consecutive games played streak is sold at auction for $41,736. The seller had offered to give it back to Ripken but never received the courtesy of a reply..........2007 -The Tigers acquire Miguel Cabrera and Dontrelle Willis from the Marlins in exchange for 6 Detroit prospects, mostly because the Angels refused to add pieces such as Jeff Mathis, Brandon Wood and Reggie Willits to a package that already had Howie Kendrick and Nick Adenhart (and possibly Joe Saunders)..........2009 - Dick Enberg, away from calling baseball games for more than 20 years (mostly as the announcer for the Angels), is signed to a 3-year contract to do play-by-play for the Padres............2011 - 8 months after "retiring" from baseball rather than face a 100-game suspension for failing a drug test (the kind of thing that propelled the Red Sox to their World Series titles), Manny Ramirez applies for reinstatement. He is told that he will still have to sit out 50 games beginning from the 1st game he is eligible. He will end up playing 5 games for the Rays.

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