The end of the season is fast approaching, and many fans are beginning to draw up convoluted trades and extravagant signings that will bring their team into contention for 2018.
Of course, with a less-than-ideal minor league system, trades will probably be limited in Anaheim. Therefore, we look toward a rather bland free agent class to improve upon the chronically .500 team we have endured to this point in the season.
It seems, then, that most of the labor of drawing up the offseason has already been laid out for the front office. The positional locks and decisions that should, with some degree of certainty, be made are as follows.
There are four position players who we will see filling the same roles they have been this year, no matter what: Mike Trout, Kole Calhoun, Andrelton Simmons, and Albert Pujols.
Yes, some people will cry, "But Calhoun had a bad year and we could trade him for prospects or another right fielder or...," but Eppler will probably refrain from this. Calhoun has had a much longer track record of success with the Angels for a very low price tag and a rebound in 2018 is what many people expect, including other teams. They would more than likely love to pounce on Kole Calhoun's bad April and May as a buy-low opportunity, but Eppler should not sell him for such a price. Until this season, he was steadily providing all-star level production for the preceding 3 years.
Trout, Simmons, and Pujols are all givens.
The Speedy Left Field
Left field has been a plague unto our Halos since the twenty-teens began. At one point, we even ran a thing called a Ji-Man out there in an attempt to cork the hole that had been bleeding our seasons.
This year, however, the team received reasonably okay to good-ish production out of the baseball career graveyard that stretches behind Simmons and Escobar. Ben Revere, Cameron Maybin, and Eric Young, Jr. (and Shane Robinson, I guess) have combined their efforts to make the Angels left field 8th in the AL in wins above replacement, smack dab in the middle.
This "success" is due almost entirely to the insane stolen base totals coming out of the position. Angels left fielders have stolen 48 bases. The next highest would be the Rays left fielders' 26. That means that more than half of the Angels' majors-leading 92 stolen bases came out of a single position. If they can't slug, I'll take extra bases out of them.
Thus, a lack of power-hitting left fielders would leave us with these speed demon options for the offseason. We could re-sign one or two of Maybin, Revere, or Young, or we could sign Jarrod Dyson.
Many of us were hoping for a Dyson trade that we knew we didn't have the resources for, and when Seattle acquired him, they benefited from his speed and defense to the tune of a 2.1 WAR according to Fangraphs.
These would appear to be the ideal candidates for the position.
Mike Moustakas, Defensive Shuffling, and Kaleb Cowart
Since Rosenthal's speculation back in February about his final landing place over the 2018 offseason, Halos Heaven staffer Chase C. Kimura has been a champion of Mike Moustakas. Maybe even before. Just go ahead and ask him. It's for good reason too.
The prime infielder on the market will be Moose, a third baseman who, barring an incredibly unlikely extension with the Royals, will still be on the right side of thirty. He is a slugger who has provided a lot of value to the Royals' playoff runs.
As Yunel Escobar goes lazily and with a half-jog into that good night, we will need a 3rd baseman who can provide offensive value in similar spades, while also providing exemplary defense. Moustakas would fit this bill. This would make one of Valbuena or Cron the first baseman and set up a trade for the odd man out, or just continue the current platoon.
Alternatively, Eppler may decide to save cash or not get into a bidding war with a team who needs a third baseman. Of course, outside of the Royals, there won't be too many of those teams, but it is possible. If this is the case, Eppler may just have Valbuena become the full-time third baseman and Cron man first.
A third improbable move could be moving Kaleb Cowart to third and acquiring a free agent second baseman. However, the second base market is headlined by an increasingly old Howie and an even older Ian Kinsler. I am not a fan.
Pending the remainder of this season, Cowart should get his shot at second next year. He has earned it. As I said earlier, there are few players available at second over the offseason outside of a trade that will even perk your ears up. Let the guy play until he shows he can't.
Investing into Pitching
This is where the money that's freed up should be going. We have two pitchers that you can politely refer to as glass cannons and two others who have been sidelined most of the time they've been in Anaheim (meaning they can't have played enough to have earned the distinction of glass cannon yet). There are several interesting upcoming free agents and Eppler should be interested.
Vargas, Lynn, Garcia, Darvish, Chatwood, Cahill, Arietta are just a few of the starters and there are many more relievers available. This is the time to fix the depth problems and with the open salary, we should be in much better shape for 2018.
You would think that there would be more to say, but all that can be said is, "SPEND HERE!"
Just keep the guy through his arbitration*; I don't feel comfortable when he's not catching. Alex Avila is the only interesting option but he's more of a DH or first baseman and he's absolutely abysmal behind the plate.
It seems as though it's pretty clear cut. However, Billy has surprised us all before. Too many times, he's left fans scratching their heads in the moment and singing his praises a couple weeks later for the exact same move. If he doesn't follow this roadmap, I'm going to go ahead and give him the benefit of he doubt. I just don't see how he can't.
*changed to reflect that he is arbitration-eligible next year