Midway through the Winter Meetings, Angels GM Billy Eppler stated that he could score several field goals at that time “but why not go for a touchdown?” That comment got the fan base excited for a big move that still has not come, but I’m calling my shot: there will be a big move and it will happen in the first half of January.
Why? Let’s take a look.
Not long after that comment was made, here’s what we’ve found out:
- The Angels were in on Patrick Corbin until he inked a 6 year, $140 million deal with the Nationals.
- The Angels were a finalist for Nathan Eovaldi until he returned to Boston on a 4 year, $68 million deal
- The Angels offered Wilson Ramos an identical 2 year, $19 million contract that he ultimately signed with the Mets.
- The Angels offered J.A. Happ a competitive contract that the Yankees [read: MFY] upped by $3 million per year.
Those would all be considered “touchdown” moves and Billy was in the hunt to a notable degree on all of them. Not long after that group moved on, Eppler secured his field goals in the forms of Justin Bour, Matt Harvey and Trevor Cahill.
There’s still a touchdown to be scored. Why am I so confident? Taking a look at Eppler’s typical offseason, he adds one core piece then rounds out the roster with stop gaps.
- His first year he added Andrelton Simmons to the core, solidifying shortstop for six years, then rounded out the roster with waiver claim relievers and Danny Espinosa.
- The following year he filled the perpetual hole in left field with Justin Upton, then snagged Ian Kinsler and Zack Cozart.
Ohtani was a godsend and a bonus, there’s no way he went into the offseason counting on winning that sweepstakes. But thankfully, he did.
In short, his general pattern has been one touchdown and a few hopeful field goals.
Now for timing. Why am I confident the touchdown will be scored quickly? We can look to the market and the new Japanese posting rules.
Left-handed pitcher Yusei Kikuchi has been posted and is on the open market. Unlike most Scott Boras clients, however, Kikuchi is on a deadline and must choose his team by January 2nd or return to Japan (meaning Boras would make no money). Conveniently, January 2nd is just days away.
Kikuchi would add some youth and upside to the Angels rotation and be a potential piece of the next sustained Angels competitive window. He could sign here for all of the same reasons Ohtani did: location, large Japanese community, customized work and training regime to mimic his time in Japan. Only this year, the Angels also have the selling point of playing with Ohtani.
Signing Kikuchi would pair two Japanese stars on one team and likely make the Angels the unofficial team of Japan. The marketing opportunities alone likely make this signing beneficial to Arte’s bottom line.
But...there’s no guarantee he’ll choose the Angels. Just a guarantee that his choice will be made within the week, allowing the Angels to move to another target if need be.
And there’s a perfect backup target: Yasmani Grandal.
As Chase pointed out, the Angels offense has a chance to be one of the better units in baseball if the team is able to add a significant bat at a position of need. In that case, Grandal would be a perfect fit, immediately upgrading the worst offensive position on the team to one of the best in all of the game.
Grandal’s market has seemingly vanished on him. The Nationals and Astros secured catching help quickly. The Mets signed his free agent competition. His previous club, the Dodgers, seem intent on signing a short term deal so their young catching prospects are not blocked.
So here’s my prediction: The Angels will have one of these two in the fold by January 15th.
Yes, I’m setting myself up to look foolish if it doesn’t happen. No, there’s no reason or inside information leading me to make this prediction. [Ed. Note: Suuuure, I believe you. wink] There’s just that eerie silence that seems to always preclude a move by the Angels, the deadline on Kikuchi’s side, and the obvious fit between the Angels and Grandal that make me think one of these is happening.
I’m honestly not sure which of these two I’d rather have. The fact of the matter is that the Angels really need both.
What do you think? Am I a pie-eyed optimist who has lost touch with reality, begging for a self-inflicted Buttercup, or might I be on to something?