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Angels search for a second baseman just got a whole lot harder

MLB: New York Mets at Arizona Diamondbacks Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Any of you, myself included, who wanted 2B Neil Walker to fill the Angels biggest hole now have to accept the reality that he’s no longer an option. He accepted the one-year, newly valued $17.2 million dollar Qualifying Offer and will play in the Queens for one more season. Can’t say I blame him, but it still bites since he looked like the only real upgrade within the realm of possibility. The Angels don’t have anything to trade, but they do have some cash to spend, most of their upgrades will have to come through free agency, it’s basically imperative. This made that tough task, even tougher.

So what options are you left with and how much money are we talking? Well, if you wanted to look at the free agent list, you wouldn’t really see any awe-inspiring stuff. Chase Utley, Sean Rodriguez, Gordon Beckham, Daniel Descalso, Stephen Drew, and former fan-favorite Johnny Giavotella are probably the “big” names if you’re too GA to click the link. So it doesn’t really look like the solution is in the free agent market. This post will be a two-parter: to look at the current payroll situation with a rough estimate, along with what possible options are available. So without further ado...

Here’s my rough estimate for the Angels payroll this year, now remember, the luxury tax threshold is calculated on the average annual value of a contract, not what the player is due to make that year (unless it’s obviously on a one-year deal). The Angels shed a significant chunk with Weaver, Wilson, Smith, Salas, Lincecum, Soto, and Chacin coming off the books and are not entirely sitting pretty until Josh Hamilton’s $25 million expires after the 2017 season. But there’s still maneuverability for Eppler to make a few moves, even after the trade for Cameron Maybin and signings of Andrew Bailey and Jesse Chavez.

Guaranteed Contracts:

Albert Pujols: 10-years/$240 million

Mike Trout: 6-years/$144.5 million

Andrelton Simmons: 7-years/$58 million

Ricky Nolasco: 4-years/$49 million with a 2018 option ($4 million of his 2017 $12 million salary being paid for by the Minnesota Twins as part of the Hector Santiago trade)

Huston Street: 2-years/$18 million with a 2018 option

Cameron Maybin: $9 million dollar club option picked up after the deal with the Detroit Tigers

Yunel Escobar: $7 million dollar club option exercised by the team last week

Jesse Chavez: 1-year/5.75 million with $2.5 million in incentives based on games started

Cliff Pennington: 2-years/$3.75 million

Andrew Bailey: 1-year/$1 million with incentives (which haven’t been reported yet)

Average Annual Value of Guaranteed Contracts (rounded to the nearest hundredth): $98.3 million, and we’ll even play it safe and say there’s about $3-$4 million that can be on the books because of incentives, so $101-$102 million give or take a few hundred thousand

Arbitration Eligible:

The Angels only have three arbitration eligible players now that Brett Oberholtzer, Cory Rasmus, and Shane Robinson have been designated for assignment (saving them roughly $800,000 in raises): Garrett Richards, Kole Calhoun, and Matt Shoemaker. Using MLBTradeRumors.com’s annual ‘Projected Arbitration Salaries’ series, we can get an even better idea since they’re almost always spot-on with their projections every year.

Garrett Richards: $7 million

Kole Calhoun: $6.9 million

Matt Shoemaker: $3.8 million

Average Annual Value of Arbitration Eligible Contracts: $17.7 million, barring an unlikely extension, that’s still great value for those three players if they’re healthy.

40-Man Roster:

The rest of the payroll is calculated by players on the 40-man roster who will make the major league minimum of an estimated $508,000 (again, give or take a few tens-to-houndreds of thousands). The remaining players on the 40-man roster include Jose Alvarez, Cam Bedrosian, Vincente Campos, Abel De Los Santos, Cody Ege, Deolis Guerra, Andrew Heaney, Greg Mahle, Alex Meyer, Mike Morin, Blake Parker, JC Ramirez, Tyler Skaggs, Ashur Tolliver, Nick Tropeano, Jose Valdez, Daniel Wright, Kirby Yates, Jett Bandy, Juan Graterol, Carlos Perez, Ji-Man Choi, Kaleb Cowart, CJ Cron, Jefry Marte, Rey Navarro, and Gregorio Petit.

Think of this as the other 27 guys without guaranteed contracts/arbitration salaries getting paid the league minimum. Unless the Angels don’t add a contract above the league minimum, which is highly unlikely, that’s roughly (rounded to the nearest hundredth again) $13.7 million.

The total? $132.4-$133.4 million, well below the luxury tax threshold of $189 million. But before you get too excited, you have to add Josh Hamilton’s average annual value of $25 million, so you’re really looking at $157.4-158.4 million. Still, that’s around $30 million in wiggle room, even after the Maybin, Chavez, and Bailey deals.

Really, they should have no worries when it comes to how a second baseman affects payroll, most of the reasonable/realisitc options shouldn’t put a dent in it. Unless the Angels did something A) HUGE and signed Ian Desmond to play second or B) something really dumb and take on Brandon Phillips’ contract. Chase Utley probably makes the most sense out of the free agents, “meh” option in my opinion, Sean Rodriguez isn’t an everyday player and will likely cost a pretty penny after a big year.

So what about trades? Well, we all know the Angels don’t have much to give in a potential trade, so with limited assets (very limited), who’s an actual possibility? I think the list would consist of Derek Dietrich, Yangervis Solarte, Brock Holt, Brett Lawrie, Scooter Gennett, Greg Garcia, Zack Cozart, and Rob Refsnyder. Based on recent reports/tweets from Jeff Fletcher, it sounds like Eppler’s preference is to get a good glove at second base and their bat might be an afterthought.

So if I were to put money on it, I’ll put some money on Cozart from the Cincinnati Reds being the second baseman come Spring Training. Traditionally a shortstop, I think him and Simmons would make for a ridiculous middle infield duo defensively, would be a lot of fun to watch. Even with how frustrating the lack of thump might be.

I think with Walker off the board, the Angels don’t have to shoot for the moon and sign a guy like Walker to a long-term deal. Instead, they can just focus on improving second base (my preference is still Dietrich or Cozart now), and allocate the rest of the payroll flexibility on pitching, pitching, and more pitching. There’s a bevy of intriguing bullpen arms on the market, and I think there’s a chance they could snag a starting pitcher late and move Chavez to the pen, having those options moving forward is a nice luxury the “cash-strapped” Angels haven’t had in recent years.

Hopefully Eppler uses a good chunk of that money to get as much pitching as possible, but my money’s on a trade for a second baseman now that Walker’s no longer an option. Keep that payroll flexibility around for next years offseason when Hamilton’s contract is off the books.

What do you think? Who will the Angels starting second baseman be in 2017? Comment below with your two cents.