If you’ve been following Halos Heaven for the last couple of weeks, you’ve probably noticed that members of the staff have been playing the role of general manager, laying out the moves that they think would make the Angels best suited to contend in 2018.
There have already been over 600 comments left on the six posts combined, and we wanted to continue to foster respectful, intelligent debate and discussion, so we have one final post for our If I were Billy Eppler... series.
In this one, we’ve included a poll to allow the HH faithful to decide whose hypothetical offseason they think would put the Angels in the best position going forward. Below, you can find links to each part of the series just in case you missed any or want a refresher. In addition, each writer has provided a summary of their ideas to make one final plea for your vote.
After reading each of the provided arguments, you can vote in the poll and participate in the comment section to defend your choice. And if you think we’re all way off, you can write up your own Fanpost detailing the way you would approach this offseason. Anyway, be sure to place your vote below, and we hope you enjoyed this series as much as we did.
Jessica DeLine (Click here for Part I): My plan for a successful off season hinged around a couple of problem areas from 2017. You can’t fix every area unless you want a 250 million payroll so I chose to focus on second base, third base, shoring up the bullpen, and picking up an innings eater (AKA this year’s version of Ricky Nolasco).
For second base, I chose to target Cesar Hernandez. He’s got great value for the price and he can be the lead off hitter the Angels need. You have to give up some good prospects for him - probably a solid starter prospect and a major league ready guy like Skaggs or Heaney. With Hernandez we solve the lead off problem and the second base problem. My backup plan would be to target Jason Kipnis or Dee Gordon in a trade.
At Third base, I really like the idea of Zack Cozart if you can convince him to switch from SS and he can cover for Simmons on his days off. Cozart is coming off a career year so won’t come cheap, but provides a longer term (4 years give or take) solution with a guy who appears to be peaking. Mike Moustakas would be the backup plan but I’d not want too long of a contract and would prefer not to give up our second round pick if we can nab Cozart.
The bullpen needs some shoring up and the first order of business is to re-sign Yusmerio Petit and part ways with Blake Wood. I didn’t name anyone specific but after that, we need 1 or 2 middle inning relief guys in the 1-2 million each range.
Injuries happen to starters and they have happened A LOT to the Angels the past few years. Because of this, the Angels need a solid starter who can eat innings and pitch to a mid or high 4 ERA range. Assuming Andrew Cashner could be had in the 10-12 million range, that would be my target for a guy who can throw 170 innings and give you a 4 something ERA. Even a 4.8 with 18 home runs allowed is an upgrade over Nolasco and you get a guy who induces a lot of ground balls (top 15 in MLB last year) which is especially helpful if you upgrade defense at second and third to go along with our gold glove shortstop. If you can’t get Cashner for that kind of money, you keep it in your pocket and look for a guy in April/May like what happened with Parker Bridwell last year.
This plan fixes some key areas with good upgrades and leave you with 17 million of leftover payroll assuming you go with all the first choices list above.
Chad Stewart (Click here for Part II): The Angels have quite a bit of money to work with this offseason, but they also have quite a few holes to fill. With that in mind, I wanted to try to make my imaginary resources go as far as possible. To accomplish this, I concentrated them on a variety of potentially overlooked players.
To fix the perpetual second base problem, I made a deal with Miami for Dee Gordon, whose combination of contact hitting and speed is often undervalued in today’s power-focused game. For help at first, I inked Yonder Alonso to a short-term deal. His stock is down after a second-half decline in 2017, but his on-base ability and left-handed bat would complement the Angels lineup nicely. His first-half power resurfacing would only sweeten the deal.
My final infield addition, Eduardo Nunez, has a skill set similar to that of Gordon and would share third base duties with Luis Valbuena while doubling as a utility man. To beef up the backend of the bullpen, I targeted Juan Nicasio, who has quietly been one of baseball’s better relievers for the last few years and whose experience as a starter gives him the potential to be a multi-inning weapon.
Lastly, I rounded out the bench with veteran backstop Nick Hundley and speedy outfielder Ben Revere. The result is a faster, deeper, and more balanced lineup, an improved bullpen, and an even stronger up-the-middle defense. And it all comes with an affordable price tag.
Carlos Feliciano (Click here for Part III): I took the approach of blending high-impact players along with a few calculated risks. Carlos Santana is a difference-maker, the type of bat that would improve any line-up. Of all the proposed pick-ups in this series, I would argue he is the one guy you can drop into the top third of the line-up, pushing Albert Pujols further down the order.
Neil Walker, Martin Prado and Chris Iannetta would all be offensive upgrades over the players they would be replacing. All four of these position players have the added bonus of being average-to-very-good defenders, so they fit in the general team philosophy.
Speaking of good defense, Billy Burns is on board, in exchange for C.J. Cron. Capable of playing all three outfield spots, the former prospect brings speed to the bench and knows how to take a walk. Nolan Fontana and Kaleb Cowart can battle it out in spring training for the utility spot, rounding out the position player part of the roster.
I was not the only one enticing Tyler Chatwood to return to the Big A. Many have him hyped as one of the best breakout candidates in the pitching market. He still walks too many guys, but his fastball generates ground balls as well as any starter in the majors. He is the kind of guy who can excel in front of an elite defense.
Mike Minor is probably the longest shot on this list, since the real Billy Eppler prefers to dumpster dive for relievers. But with Huston Street off the books, maybe he has a change of heart and devotes a decent chunk of his budget to his bullpen. Why not invest in a dominant lefty capable of going more than one inning?
Chase Kimura (Click here for Part IV): I was probably the most conservative of the Halos Heaven writers, my goal was to keep the team comfortably underneath the luxury tax threshold in hopes for a run at Manny Machado, or Bryce Harper, next winter. While I got close-ish to the threshold, the contracts and deals I simulated usually ranged in the one-to-two year spectrum. I still wanted to upgrade second base and first base, while improving the overall depth on the 25-man and 40-man roster. I’m basically banking on guys like Garrett Richards, Andrew Heaney, Tyler Skaggs, Matt Shoemaker, Nick Tropeano, and JC Ramirez to stay healthy (much like the real Billy Eppler).
I figured Luis Valbuena would be the primary third baseman in 2018, so I didn’t bother trying to find a replacement when there isn’t exactly a plethora of third baseman available this winter. I used most of the resources on second base, Neil Walker, and first base in Logan Morrison. I did, however, get us a platoon partner with Valbuena and a pretty darn good utility infielder in the form of Miguel Rojas (while taking on a good chunk of Brad Ziegler’s contract for the payroll reducing Marlins). I also signed former Angel, Chris Iannetta, to beef up the offensive output from behind the plate. So the infield got most of my attention.
Ziegler wasn’t the only addition I made to the bullpen, I also signed lefty Mike Minor to fill a long-term need the Angels have had: a shutdown left-handed reliever. CJ Cron became redundant once I signed Morrison, so I flipped him to Tampa Bay for a cost-controlled, albeit not exciting, starting pitcher in Matt Andriese who also functions as a long reliever.
I topped it off by acquiring a speed/defensive threat in Paul Orlando for the fourth outfielder position. The Angels lost some of their speed in Cameron Maybin, Ben Revere, and Eric Young Jr., so I wanted to replace some of that for a minimal cost.
All-in-all, it wasn’t a very exciting offseason with me as Eppler, but I think if I landed Manny Machado next winter, most fans would forgive me for being rather mundane in 2017. All eyes are set on Machado next winter and giving Mike Trout a boatload of cash to stay an Angel for life. If that means the hot stove being room temperature this winter, so be it.
Rahul Setty (Click here for Part V): I took an opportunistic purview to the offseason, which also meant a willingness to embrace smart risks. That meant picking up Ian Kinsler on the cheap to bolster middle infield defense and an affordable first baseman (Logan Morrison) to hedge bets towards the juiced ball—important because this team didn’t have any swing-changers taking advantage of current trends. It also meant finding a versatile partner for Valbuena at third base in Howie Kendrick, a utility type that can be a platoon bat and still function as a platoon bat as well as provide insurance for Kinsler and Morrison at second and first.
On the pitching side of things, Tyler Chatwood is a fascinating upside play away from the thin Denver air and, at the very least, should provide some stability to an injury-ravaged staff while possessing well-documented mid-rotation upside. Jake McGee, Yusmeiro Petit, Jesse Chavez, and Chris Iannetta provide a host of ancillary benefits at good-to-great values, including a vaunted bullpen and a deeper bench. Defensive gains will come from the absence of Yunel Escobar (a combined -20 DRS over the last two seasons) and the addition of Ian Kinsler, another defensive stalwart up the middle.
Though this team is not exactly risk-averse, the inclusion of Kendrick should mitigate regression or injury concerns at several positions. While the excess of arms on paper could prove to be an awkward problem for starters and relievers alike, the situation should be expected to decide itself as the season unfolds, providing more-than ideal depth given the risk of the pitching profiles on the roster: my starting rotation is 12-deep, my bullpen is 16-deep.
While the bench may seem a concern, both Kaleb Cowart and David Fletcher have previous shortstop experience, which means the utility infielder can come from within the organization. Most are not thrilled with Shane Robinson on the Opening Day roster, but he can pinch run, steal, and play all three outfield positions competently, which is all that is needed for the first six weeks until Michael Hermosillo—a solid bench option—is ready. That’s two players who can pinch run, two who can pinch hit, and three of four bench pieces on the roster are capable of playing multiple positions at any time. If necessary, bench upgrades can be found at midseason at minimal cost.
A wealth of pitching depth and unblemished minor league system without sacrificing contention of the major league club? Yes please.
Jeff Joiner (Click here for Part VI): Let’s use the money we have available to sign a starting pitcher, I chose CC Sabathia, then trade a young starter, Parker Bridwell, plus prospects for Cesar Hernandez. We’re essentially buying a second baseman while keeping a decent rotation in tact. And this should keep most of our best position player prospects in the fold.
We really need a big bat and the only decent fit out there is Carlos Santana. Banking on Logan Morrison or Yonder Alonso to repeat career years is not a bet I want to make. Everyone in MLB hit career highs in HR last year, Santana has been consistent for years, however. We need an elite bat to take on the elite teams. Trout/Upton/Santana is an elite lineup.
Overall, this gives us two major impact bats in Upton and Santana, a great second baseman/leadoff man, a complete rotation, multiple long relievers, and MLB quality depth at every position on the field.
Who was the author of the offseason outline that you would most like the Angels front office to follow this winter?
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