NOTE: This article is an actual plan, and not to be confused with my snarky article I wrote at the end of June :)
The Angels have made it pretty clear where they stand on "rebuilding" the team and how their goal is to remain competitive year after year. This means no great sell-off. No trashing of our current roster to start over again. No fire sale. Hell, we may not trade ANYONE before the deadline hits, though I'm sure Billy Eppler would entertain offers for the right price on the likes of Joe Smith or even Yunel Escobar.
How can the Angels be competitive again in 2017 with the roster we have, and all the pitching injuries that have plagued us in 2016? If you put on your Billy Eppler and Arte Moreno hats - who want a competitive team in 2017 (and 2016), then you can start looking at things differently. The free agent class is not great this year but there are some good players to be found.
First step, is looking at what money is coming off the books at the end of the season.
|After 2016 these salaries are gone:|
|Arbitration Eligible (don't offer)|
|More money off the books|
After you factor in the increased salaries of some players (like Mike Trout), as well as arbitration eligible peeps you should keep - like Tyler Skaggs, Matt Shoemaker, Hector Santiago, and Kole Calhoun, you have somewhere in the neighborhood of 45 million (give or take 5 mil) to spend on free agents and shore up the team. You dig up another 6+ million if you bank on Caleb Cowart or Jefry Marte next year at third, and move Yunel Escobar by August 1st. You could even free up another 8 million if you want to try and move Huston Street and bank on Bedrock for closing duties, but I don't think that's likely to happen. The Angels NEED to spend that money if they want a post season run in 2017.
In regards to Johhny G - yes there are better second basemen out there (like most of them), but there really aren't a lot of good free agent second basemen options who will be available. Johnny G has the worst OBP of all second baseman in 2016 and an upgrade there would be great - if we had some good options. I think you bring you him back, don't overpay him and keep a sharp eye on Sherman Johnson to maybe take his spot some time in 2017.
The other three areas where the Angels could benefit most, and probably more wisely spend their money are: Starting pitchers, relief pitchers, and a left fielder. Who's out there?
Partial list of pitching free agents:
|Brett Anderson||15.8 million||28|
|Edinson Volquez||9.5 million||33|
|Doug Fister||7 million||33|
|Colby Lewis||6 million||36|
|Rich Hill||6 million||36|
|Andrew Cashner||7 million||29|
|Jeremy Hellickson||7 million||29|
Brett Anderson is coming off back surgery, but depending on how the rest of his 2016 goes, he may be an option and is one of the youngest free agent pitchers available going into 2017 (he should also be cheaper than his current salary). Jeremy Helickson has had a mediocre year in 2016 but has a career 3.95 ERA. Andrew Cashner has had a rough 2016 but was good while with the Padres, and could pitch well for the Angels. Perhaps he could have a bounce back year in 2017 and he can't demand a super high salary as of now.
Rich Hill, Colby Lewis, and Doug Fister are some of the better pitchers that will be available. Aside from Fister, the other two are possibly in the twilight of their career, but could be good for a one year contract (remember we should/could be getting 3 pitchers back in 2018). Edison Volquez is another guy but he has been trending worse the last few years and may not be worth the risk.
In short, the Angels have some options here, but not great ones. They need to sign 2 free agent pitchers and don't really need them for a long term contract either. But I calculate the Angels can/should spend about 15 million on starters going into 2017. They could also bring back Weaver on a modest 1-3 year deal. In addition to the free agent signings, you give spring training invites and a chance to make the roster to Nate Smith and Kyle McGowin (and maybe a few other minor leaguers).
The free agent market for relievers is actually pretty great this year. You've got a range from budget guys like Fernando Rodney (if you think he'll still have it next year at age 40), all the way to fireballer Aroldis Chapman. The Angels can almost certainly find some decent bullpen help, and if they spend 10-15 million on the pen, we could get 2-3 decent arms.
Partial list of relief pitching free agents:
|Fernadno Rodney||1.6 million||39|
|Sergio Romo||9 million||33|
|Kenley Jansen||10.5 million||28|
|Mark Melancon||9.6 million||31|
|Aroldis Champan||11.3 million||28|
|Scott Feldman||8 million||33|
|Tracvis Wood||6 million||29|
|Neftali Feliz||3.9 million||28|
|Trevor Cahill||4.2 million||27|
Joe Smith will likely be gone but Huston Street looks to be here to stay. That's not to say the Angels couldn't sign a superstar closer and bump Street to a 7th or 8th inning guy. Who cares if he doesn't like it - business is business. You get a strong pitcher and that guy plus Street and Bedrosian are your 7-9 guys. Pick up another middle inning eater for 2-4 million and you are pretty well set in the bullpen. In addition to signing a free agent or two, you give spring training invites and roster spot shots to Greg Mahle, Mike Morin, Jose Valedz, Alan Busintiz (who moved up from AA to AAA this year), and even Tyler DeLoach who is having a great year in AA.
This leaves you with the dreaded hole in left field. The upcoming outfielder free agent class is not nearly as good as last year, but there are some guys who could help us out and provide a .700+ OPS out of left field. This is assuming they can get over the platoon crap and revolving door that's been going on for the past 3-4 years. You could also give Cal Towey or Rafeal Ortega a shot here - or at the very least bring them in as a 4th outfielder.
Partial list of outfield free agents:
|Mark Trumbo||9.1 million||28|
|Ian Desmond||8 million||30|
|Jon Jay||6.8 million||31|
|Josh Reddick||6.5 million||29|
|Angel Pagan||10 million||35|
Trumbo will probably cost too much in 2017, plus we already tried that. Desmond is another one who's value may skyrocket too much. Jay, Reddick, and Pagan are all options, though not sure any of them will blow us away. They do all have a history of providing a .700+ OPS year after year. Unfortunately, the left field spot may prove to be our toughest to fill again in 2017, but I don't see why we could get a .700+ OPS there with the right move.
This is how the roster shapes up to compete in 2017:
|Free agent signing||??||SP||$10,000,000.00|
|Free agent signing||??||RP||$10,000,000.00|
|Free agent signing||??||RP||$4,000,000.00|
|Free agent signing||RP||$2,000,000.00|
|Dude from AAA||RP||$500,000.00|
|Dude from AAA||RP||$500,000.00|
|Free agent signing||??||LF||$10,000,000.00|
Some of the salaries above are just an approximation. Ie., hard to know how much Weaver would make if they bring him back. I don't think a 3-year 12 million deal is unrealistic for him, but I wouldn't want to pay him for than 5 million per year and a 1 or 2 year deal would be even better.
Obviously there are 7 starters listed above and you figure out who your five are in spring training and stash the other two in AAA on the 40-man roster.
Pennington is signed through 2017 so he's probably sticking around. He potentially ends up bumping Petit who is stashed in AAA for infield depth.
The other issue here is no backup outfielder. You either turn Choi or Marte into that guy, or maybe Choi or Marte lose their spot to a call-up like Rafael Ortega or Cal Towey. There is definitely some flexibility there depending on how the rest of 2016 shapes up and how they look next spring.
What are your thoughts? The Angels aren't going to rebuild and we all want to see a winning team in 2017. With the money coming off the books, we have a chance to help reshape the team to be BETTER next year. What would you do with that money?