When Arte Moreno told us fans, via comments to Angels beat writers last December, that the Angels were "probably out" on getting a big ticket LF signing, it was taken as an unnecessary and foolish punch to our collective guts. Left field was already known to fans, both hardcore and casual, as being a prime weak spot for the club.
But there was help on the way, right? A free agent class that saw a handful of known LF commodities were right there for the taking, all of whom we were sure could immediately help the Angels. Yet, the Angels were "out", and instead, new GM Billy Eppler cobbled together some MLB detritus, like Craig Gentry and Daniel Nava, and decided to go the cheap, seat-of-your-pants route.
Most of us, in our reactions, ranged from frustrated to downright livid. But now that we’re heading towards the end of August, and therefore the end of the season, it’s sort of fun to look back at what could have been. As of right now, the only conclusion you can make is that Eppler, Moreno and the Angels may have dodged some expensive bullets.
Let’s take a look at how some of those highly coveted names are doing in their 2016 campaigns (per Dave Cameron of Fangraphs):
Yoenis Cespedes: 0.289 AVG 0.362 OBP 0.548 SLG 143 wRC+ 2.3 WAR
Jason Heyward: 0.225 AVG 0.304 OBP 0.313 SLG 68 wRC+ 1.2 WAR
Alex Gordon: 0.219 AVG 0.321 OBP 0.361 SLG 85 wRC+ 0.6 WAR
Justin Upton: 0.226 AVG 0.281 OBP 0.371 SLG 71 wRC+ -1.0 WAR
If you want to play along at home, the Angels have currently put seven guys out in their left field spot in 2016, so far for a combined WAR of -0.6. Look at all that money spent up there, and all of that poor return. Cespedes is the clear big dog, and those would be a definite improvement over what they Halos have right now. The rest?
Well, for all the money they required to sign, you can keep your Heyward and Gordon and Upton. Maybe they’re just finding footing in their new deals, but those are some pretty atrocious lines coming from those guys. I was one of the people who had a huge desire to see Heyward in an Angels uniform, but now? Not so much. I would have eventually settled for Gordon or Upton, too, but now those are looking like the only thing we missed out on was just another free agent signing to be groaning about.
When you lay this stuff out like this, it becomes apparent that the front office may have played it conservative, but that seems to be paying off right now. Although, I wouldn’t completely take them off the hook; they DID still miss out on going after Dexter Fowler (but then again, so did every other team).
Dexter Fowler is quietly the jewel of that LF class, as he currently has 3.1 WAR for his nice, productive 2016 season. He came at a price of $8 million in salary for 2016, with a $9 million option and $5 million buyout for 2017. Pretty good deal for the Cubs, would have been a steal for the Halos (although Fowler may have just wanted to stay with the Cubs from the beginning, making any push from the Halos a moot point).
Take comfort, Angels fans...at least for now. The team may have stood pat against what we thought was a stellar LF free agent class, to our utter dismay and disbelief, but as things stand at this very moment, that was probably the smart move.
The front office showed some restraint, and it may be a big positive for the team? Drink that in deep, might not come around ever again.