With numerous delicate, land-mine shaped holes to fill this winter, you’ll be glad to know the Angels have gotten their shopping done early. A Justin Upton extension, Ian Kinsler trade, and a pair of crucial signings (Shohei Ohtani, Zack Cozart) is enough reason for one to forget that not only is the offseason not over, but also that most of the big names surprisingly find themselves without a home. In fact, just eighteen players out of fifty on MLBTradeRumors’ Top 50 free agents have been signed, a testament to the lack of firepower in this free agent class and the sudden tax-consciousness of the league’s historically biggest spenders.
With a more depressed market, it is a great possibility that panicking free agents settle for lesser guaranteed money than they otherwise would have received. With the Angels set to run an actual payroll of $184.5 million (a $173.6 million AAV) before the Rene Rivera signing, they are likely tapped out of significant acquisitions so as to not exceed the luxury tax threshold. Also recall that signing Ohtani required a $20M posting fee to Nippon Ham, Ohtani’s former team, which can be depreciated differently over time for tax purposes. Even so, owner Arte Moreno is in for nearly $205 million in overall commitments. If a player’s price drops drastically, as they did with Luis Valbuena last year, it’s possible for the Angels to be Epplertunistic despite their lack of glaring holes.
Another solid reliever
Truth be told, the Angels already have a promising bullpen. Between Parker, Bedrosian, and Middleton, the team has three quality relievers. Jim Johnson carries extensive closer experience and shows signs of a rebound; expect him to mirror the production of an average reliever. Bard, Diaz, Noe Ramirez, and Eduardo Paredes are all candidates to be multi-inning relievers with unspectacular Jose Alvarez as the left-handed option, not even including J.C. Ramirez or the odd starter out of the rotation. It’s no fifth best bullpen or anything, but I’d argue it is vastly underrated and will finish noticeably above average on the season even without any additions.
This is the main area where bargains are eventually likely to be found, but digging through those without a consistent track record is where the challenge lies. Addison Reed and Greg Holland are the two marquee options remaining, though they are likely to cost the same small fortune others have received this winter.
I had a solid two paragraphs written debating the merits of a defensive backup catcher versus Alex Avila at the time when Billy Eppler signed René Rivera. Billy Eppler doesn’t care about you and your darn articles. Lesson learned. Again.
This is the likeliest position to be added to between now and Opening Day. Despite the team’s budget being nearly maxed out, a fourth outfielder is an area where the team can’t afford to skimp in the unlikely event a starter (Upton, Trout, Calhoun) gets injured. Eric Young Jr. is strong depth but MLB GMs were not impressed with a .251 expected wOBA, identifying him as a prime candidate to regress compared to his actual .325 wOBA in 2017. The organization likely desires outfielder Michael Hermosillo to finish his development for the first two months of 2017, taking him out of the running for a fourth outfielder job to begin the year.
The team can’t offer much playing time, so higher-profile outfielders like Jarrod Dyson, Austin Jackson, or Cameron Maybin would not be options. As someone who could man center and runs well on the basepaths, Ben Revere could certainly find himself in Angels red come April. Other options include Rajai Davis, who at 36 years old is humming right along with 29 stolen bases, and Jayson Werth, who can’t play center well but has a slick beard.
As a frontline pitcher, an arm in free-fall, a former changeup king, and a durable #4 starter, Yu Darvish, Jake Arrieta, Alex Cobb, and Lance Lynn dominate the starting pitcher market. With the dearth of quality on the market and the excess of teams that need pitching, each of these players will be rewarded handsomely in the excess of $13-15M per year. Think of these guys as Sir Topham Hatt from Thomas & Friends. You don’t need him, but the sight of his jolly cheekbones (and hat) sure would bring a dashing smile to your face. Theoretically the Angels could acquire a Sir Topham Hatt, but only after his divorce and subsequent second bankruptcy brings the price down.
I’d hate to burst anyone’s bubble, but it is most likely not happening. Then again, this front office is so tight-lipped that nobody knows anything anymore.
It sounds like the rest of the offseason is going to be a low-profile, sign non-roster invitees-and-be-done-with-it type offseason, which is boring but remember, the front office has already delivered the content. Will they do anything else and if so, will it be any of these? Does this wish list align with their actual wish list? Discuss.