Note: This is a series that each of the HH writers will be contributing to with their own unique plans. In the end, you can decide who’s plan you like best and/or who has the craziest ideas, etc. Enjoy!
Billy Eppler easily has one of the coolest and most difficult jobs in all of baseball. You are the one the assembles the team. You are the one that has to comb the wavier wire, know players that may be trade targets, keep track of value, deal with the likes of Scott Boras (has to be the worst part of the job), and basically never have an off day.
Pretending to be GM is pretty fun too even though it’s a bit more difficult without a team of scouts and analytics experts to back you up. With that in mind, and like the rest of the writing staff here, I present to you my off-season targets if I were running the show.
First, we are going with the number of 38 million available to spend or about 159 in committed payroll (this includes 7 million for the 2018 draft and 10 million for trade deadline wiggle room). The luxury tax threshold for 2018 is 197 million. All the salary numbers below are estimates based on internet rumors and already published arbitration estimates on MLB Trade Rumors.
- Upgrade at second base
- Upgrade at third base
- Solidify the bullpen
- Bring in an innings eating starter
My first choice here is Cesar Hernandez. He comes at a great value of only 4.7 million and the dude can get on base. Hernandez is also younger at age 27 so he could be a longer term solution. Hernandez is a switch hitter so he brings that left handed bat and has a career .357 OBP. My targets for the not as payroll friendly guys would be Jason Kipnis and Dee Gordon but only if Hernandez isn’t available. There are a lot of moving pieces so which guy you target depends on who you put at third base. Ie., if you put a right handed bat at third, you go after Kipnis. If you get a left handed bat at third, you target the speedy Dee Gordon.
Cost: 4.7 - 10 million (AAV)
If you read my previous articles, you know I’m a fan of upgraded third base and using Cron and Valbuena at first. My top choice here is Zack Cozart. Cozart is a shortstop by trade but the Angels can get him to play third it’s a big win. Cozart may cost 12-15 million and he can back up Simmons on his days off (Valbuena would play third). Some say he may cost even more but he did only make 5 million last year and it depends on how you structure the contract to bring down the AAV.
Up next after Cozart would be Mike Moustakas who can bring some left handed thump to the lineup. He may cost around 17-18 million and may require a 5 year deal, but the Angels don’t have any near term options at the hot corner and Moustakas is one of the youngest options available. Moustakas has the added bonus of not costing any prospects but he WOULD cost a second round pick in 2018 which is not ideal.
Cost: 12 - 18 million (AAV)
Yusmeiro Petit + ?
Yusmeiro Petit has to be one of the first guys you lock down here. Assuming you lock down Petit for around 3.5 million or so, your depth chart looks like: Cam Bedrosian, Keynan Middleton, Yusemeiro Petit, Blake Parker, Eduardo Paredes, Blake Wood, Noe Ramirez, Troy Scribner, and Jose Alvarez.
The Angels should part ways with Wood (and use that 1.8 million on new bullpen pieces), Scribner may end up in AAA and Alvarez doesn’t instill much confidence though I would keep him around for now at 1.1 million. I don’t have other specific names, but the plan would be to go out and find one or two middle innings kind of guys at a cost of around 2-4 million total. You are saving 2 million from Wood so the added pieces cost a net value of 0-2 million + Petit’s new salary.
Cost: 3.5 - 5.5 million (AAV)
When Cashner was available last year, I was hoping the Angels would jump but now we have that chance to do it again for around 10-12 million. The current rotation has lots of potential but lots of question marks. Sound familiar? The Angels rotation currently looks like this: Garrett Richards (can he stay healthy?), Matt Shoemaker (is he okay now?), Tyler Skaggs & Andrew Heaney (both were not great in 2017), JC Ramirez (will he heal?), and Parker Bridwell (can he repeat his huge 2017?).
Cashner logged 166.2 innings in 2017, 132 in 2016 (neck and hamstring strains), and 184.2 in 2015. He had a huge rebound season in 2017 but even if he can’t match that he should be able to toss 150+ innings with a sub 4.5 ERA and less than 20 HR allowed. There are other guys like Cashner we could go after if he doesn’t pan out like a reunion with Jason Vargas now that he appears to be healed from his TJ surgery and he threw 179.2 innings in 2017.
The core here has lots of potential, so there is no need to go for a guy like Arrieta, Darvish, Cobb, etc. That money is much better spent on offense.
Cost: 10-12 million (AAV)
Starting with the 159 million dollar opening day payroll which includes a 10 million trade deadline buffer. I’ll use the 149 million number and show left over money for trades below.
Total cost for preferred targets: Approximately 31 million
Total payroll with preferred targets: Approximately 180 million
Leftover payroll = 17 million (for in-season trades, etc.)
High estimate: 46 million
High estimate payroll: 195 million
Leftover payroll = 2 million (no trade deadline buffer without paying a luxury tax)
Note: On the high end you save money by signing a lower cost starter or scrap that position altogether and hope the current staff holds together. In this scenario you keep you eye on available starters as the season gets closer in case you need to make a change after spring training or at the start of the season (see Parker Bridwell in 2017).