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If I were Billy Eppler..., Part II

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Go big or trade Mike Trout?

MLB: Oakland Athletics at Los Angeles Angels Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to the 2nd installment of the If I were Billy Eppler series, where HH writers explicate the transactions for their desired Angels offseason. Previous editions by various authors can be found here:

In order to rosterbate responsibly, guidelines for the series are as follows.

For the luxury tax payroll, the $145 million calculated by Cot’s contracts is the amount of present obligations for the 2019 season (use the Tax Tracker tab). Cot’s is chosen as it is the most reliable, publicly available source.

The luxury tax threshold, which owner Arte Moreno has indicated as the spending limit in years past, is $206 million for 2019, leaving almost $61 million to be played with. Or does it? Read Rahul’s post here to see how he came up with the $28.5M number that we all try to stick to for these scenarios.

As for proposed offseason moves, MLB Trade Rumors’ free-agent predictions and FanGraphs’ crowdsourced contract estimates are to be used as baselines for any free-agent signings.

Trades must be as realistic as possible. One popular tactic among baseball fans on the internet is offering a bunch of players you don’t like in exchange for some you do. In reality, that’s not how trades actually work, so that’s off limits.

Finally, if an arbitration-eligible player is to be involved in a transaction, MLB TR’s arbitration projections are to be used to calculate the player’s luxury tax implications since final arbitration numbers are not yet in.

Got it? Let’s go.


My offseason priorities

1. Pitching, pitching pitching

2. First base/Utility

3. Lead off hitter who can get on base

First we need to tackle pitching because it was a glaring hole in 2018. Our current rotation leaves A LOT to be desired when it comes to turning into a playoff team. In fact, if I were honest, I’d say we are 6-7 pieces away from turning this team into a solid post season contender.

Those pieces would be two solid starters, catcher, bullpen help, another outfielder, backup at first for Pujols and a good utility bat. Sounds daunting doesn’t it? It is. Staying within budget constraints was a challenge for this article because to get where we need to be - we’d be well over the tax threshold.

Billy certainly has his work cut out for him. It’s a good thing he has a whole team helping him find the right guys he can shoehorn into a semi-tight budget!


Starting Pitcher - Charlie Morton

2 years, $30 million [$15M AAV]

The Angels need starters in a bad way and Morton could be a good stop gap for a few years. Based on his 2018 stats, he would have thrown the second most innings (behind Heaney) and would have led the team in ERA and WHIP. Even a slightly downturn year in 2019 would put him near or at this top of this rotation.

Other pitching Options:

These aren’t included in my calculations but are potential backup plans. The problem? Cost. Staying with a 30 million cushion is pretty difficult if you want to add a guy like Patrick Corbin ($20M AAV) and the trade cost is potentially too high to add someone like James Paxton. Both of these guys would be a huge asset to the team. In a perfect word, I’d break the bank because in my mind - GO BIG or TRADE Trout. If Mike Trout really won’t stay unless this team can prove to be winners - then we need to spend and not be cheap about it. But alas...

Bullpen - Joe Kelly

3 years, $21 million [$7M AAV]

Going into this plan, I had through the Angels would need more than 1 bullpen piece to improve from last year. But - as you will see below, a Joe Kelly addition to the pen might be all that as needed - especially with Keynan Middleton due back around mid year. There are a lot of bullpen pieces out there but they are either expensive or risky and I’m not a fan of spending 10-15 million on a bullpen guy when the Angels have bigger holes - and you can often find serviceable bullpen arms without breaking the bank.

Second Base - Cesar Hernandez

2019 estimated arbitration salary $8.9M AAV (2 more years of control)

The Angels had a huge on base problem in 2018 - especially in front of Mike Trout. Herandez had a .356 OBP in 2018 and has a .357 OBP over his 6 year career. That OBP would put him 3rd on the team behind Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani and would GREATLY improve OBP from second base where the Angels were 12th in the AL last year at .294. Want a 50+ increase in OBP from one position? Of course you do.

Trade Proposal:
Brandon Marsh & Jose Soriano go to the Phillies

First Base / OF - Marwin Gonzalez

3 years, $30 million [$10M AAV]

As I said before, we can’t fix all the problems on this team with one swipe and Marwin fixes the problem at first base AND can back up and or play right field if Kole Calhoun struggles. Gonzalez played mainly left field but he logged 73 games in the outfield, 39 at SS, 32 at 2B, and 24 at 1B. Let’s face it, Albert Pujols isn’t going to play 120+ games in 2019 (and maybe much fewer than that), so having a good bat who can play first is key. Gonzalez didn’t have a groundbreaking OBP in 2018 (.324) but last year the Angels only had a .280 OBP out of first base and .277 in right field.

Non Tender:

Matt Shoemaker $4.3M AAV
JC Ramirez $1.9M AAV


Offseason in review:

The total offseason expenditure is 41 million - 6.2 million, landing me about 6 million over the target (oops!). No pain no gain! The total offseason expenditure of $34.8 million. This would bring the team’s Opening Day payroll to $181.1 million for luxury tax calculations, not including benefits.

The addition of Marwin Gonzalez to the team is key since he can help in several areas. He can play OF if Calhoun is struggling. He can play 1B when Pujols needs time off. This gives you the option of playing with Pujols/Gonzalez/Calhoun/Ohtani vs. who is in the lineup on a given day. Gonzales and Hernandez also help tremendously with the getting on base problem as well as the Angels really poor performance against lefties in 2018.

I don’t think this team construction gets the Angels far in the playoffs, but DOES improve them from 2018 for whatever that is worth. It has potential if all goes well, but those are famous last words around here.

I’d like to see Eppler get a big more aggressive with trades and free agent signings this off season so we’ll see how that all plays out. Realistically, the best we can hope for is a wildcards spot because this is not a roster that matches up great with the Astros, Red Sox, or Yankees.

We are going to need a healthy pitching staff this year for sure - and hopefully the return of Keynan Middleton before too long. Middleton, Buttrey, Parker, and Kelly can all duke it out for closer while we keep Bedrosian as far away from the 8th or 9th inning as possible.

Here are the team’s depth charts:

Projected lineup (no Ohtani):

  1. 2B Cesar Hernandez S
  2. 1B Marwin Gonzalez S
  3. CF Mike Trout R
  4. LF Justin Upton R
  5. SS Andrelton Simmons R
  6. RF Kole Calhoun L
  7. DH Albert Pujols R
  8. C Kevan Smith/Jose Briceno R
  9. 3B Zack Cozart / David Fletcher R

Projected lineup (w/ Ohtani):

  1. 2B Cesar Hernandez S
  2. RF Marwin Gonzalez S
  3. CF Mike Trout R
  4. DH Shohei Ohtani L
  5. LF Justin Upton R
  6. SS Andrelton Simmons R
  7. 1B Albert Pujols R
  8. C Kevan Smith/Jose Briceno R
  9. 3B Zack Cozart / David Fletcher R

Bench:

  • C Jose Briceno/Kevan Smith R
  • IF Zack Cozart / David Fletcher S
  • OF Michael Hermosillo / Jared Walsh R / L
  • IF Luis Rengifo / Matt Thaiss S / L

Starting rotation (debatable):

  • Andrew Heaney L
  • Charlie Morton R
  • Tyler Skaggs L
  • Felix Pena R
  • Jaime Barria R

Bullpen:

  • Ty Buttrey R
  • Blake Parker R
  • Justin Anderson R
  • Cam Bedrosian R
  • Hansel Robles R
  • Jose Alvarez L
  • Taylor Cole R
  • Joe Kelly R

DL:

  • Shohei Ohtani L
  • Alex Meyer R
  • Keynan Middleton R